Friday, December 13, 2013


[after Thomas Kennington]
28" x 21"
Oil on Sandeply Panel
[click on the image to enlarge]

I decided to try painting another master copy. I struggled with Tennant's landscape but learned a good deal, so I wanted to try a portrait. I wanted to work on the face and skin qualities.
Thomas Benjamin Kennington painted Orphans in 1885. It hangs in the Tate in London, perhaps Morgan saw it.

Skin tones are always a challenge and this was doubly so. Both boys, but especially the right hand figure, have a strong yellow ochre hue. I don't know if this was deliberately done and part of their poverty depiction or if the medium or varnish has yellowed. The effect is somewhat lessened by contrast in that the background has yellow chroma and that makes the skin look less yellow

Additionally they are dirty, especially the feet, so one is trying to paint a reasonable skin tone and then make it looked 'dirty'. Well you usually get dirty, dull paint when you try mixing too many colors, so I was constantly checking to see if the skin was looking soiled or just muddy dull pigment.

I enjoyed working on the clothes, the background and ragged blanket.

The little boy looks directly out at us. However he does NOT expect us to be helpful or caring. He doesn't move or show any facial recognition. Truly his hands 'hang down'

I did take a small liberty with the broken dish in front of them, it is slightly altered from Kennington's original.

 The painting has a shifting perspective, or seems to, and the shelf in the upper right has a similar problem. The only viewpoint that makes any sense would be for the observer to be far to the right of the front of this scene [which also works better for the platform] but the rest of the setup doesn't fit that. Or the shelf must not be square but much wider in front than in the back otherwise we would see the face of the left edge - however it does work as an element which points towards the figures.

Similarly all the legs and arms lead one generally towards the small boy's face. And the larger boy's arms circle and touch the little one's face. It provides a great focus point and Kennington painted that face about two levels above my results. Perhaps that is why his is hanging in the Tate and mine is not.

The original is 40" x 30" [mine is 70% that size] so I console myself that Kennington could get more detail because he was working on a larger canvas - at least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
I also realized from one of Brad Teare's comments that the only artist's paintings that I want to copy have been painted in a style similar to my own. I admire other great paintings but I don't want to paint them - at least not in a 'foreign' style. I would include in that group the current hyper-realistic or high-definition paintings.

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