I just picked up my copy of Beatrice Townsend by John Singer Sargent. I am pretty happy with it and wanted to recap the process.
As a Copyist at the National Gallery of Art I applied for permission...the piece has to be in a gallery that is approved for copyists and since only one copyist can be in a gallery at a time, I have to make sure there is a day available for me to work. When I got the green light from the Registrars office I began my research...I had requested the Sargent piece and was thrilled that it was available for me to copy on Fridays. First I looked up anything I could find on Beatrice Townsend but found precious little. I then researched Sargent and found a lot of good information including his palette. It was explained and the author added colors I could use today since I was not familiar with some of the colors on the list. I got this from Aaron Miller's blog and found it most informative.
After reading a bit and researching I was itching to get started and I began sketching. I usually sketch the piece two or three times just to see how everything lines up...where everything is on the canvas. I like to have a good idea before I go to the gallery. I also print out a small 8 x 10 copy of the piece to use for reference. Once I feel comfortable with the sketches I head to the National Gallery of Art to begin.
I brought a blank canvas and started at the very beginning. Once I completed the sketching and made sure everything was in the right place I started placing in colors. I worked on matching brush strokes, especially with the little dog. Those strokes were very definite and defining.
Here are some pictures of me working a the gallery.
It is very common to have people stop and watch. Solitude is the norm for my workday...so this sudden influx of interest in what I am doing takes some getting used to. I am surprised at how well I am able to tune people out and just concentrate on the task at hand. Having said that I try to be helpful and pleasant to anyone who has a comment or question for me.
It was a challenge but great fun and I cannot wait to start my next piece.