Sunday, November 10, 2013

Cheddar Cliffs

Cheddar Cliffs
(after Tennant)

18" x 24"
Oil on Canvas

John F. Tennant painted this scene about 150 years ago in Great Britain.
I appreciate the technical aspects and composition of this painting, so I decided to paint a master copy.
Artists have traditionally learned by copying great paintings. This is different than painting the same scene as another artist. In this instance one is trying to reproduce the brush work, hues, values, edges  and unity of the original.

It was very difficult however I felt that I learned a great deal. The painting is more complex than I appreciated when first studying it. I painted it essentially the same size as Tennant [40 x 58 cm].
The transparent oxide red in the rocks is also repeated in the soil and then very faintly in the clouds. And similarly the grey in the clouds repeats in the rocks in the foreground. I like how he brought the thin clouds right down into the distant hills.
I used a phthalo green for intensity in limited areas while he probably used viridian or even verdegris. 
Because the painting is quite dark it is very subject to photographic change depending upon the monitor setting and the viewing angle.

There are two very small figures in the center of the painting. The right hand one appears to be sitting on a large rock. What the heck they are doing there and why he is sitting on the rock really puzzle me. I almost decided to paint the right hand figure erect and walking but in the end I just complied to Tennant's decision. Interestingly he put them where only the top of the left individual is positioned to get a portion of full sunlight.

They are 'there' but not as strong as the elements. 

An additional issue is that Tennant painted this scene more than once with varied values. Since I don't have the original the photographs of the 1868 painting that I used as reference also vary in their rendition. The original is also heavily varnished on the upper right side.
The name of the painting naturally leads to the question of the origins of cheddar cheese. I learned that it was nearby.
'Probably the most consumed cheese in the world, Cheddar orginated from Somerset around the late 12th Century and took its name from the nearby gorge and caves in the town of Cheddar'