On our latest trip to the AGO in Toronto, my son Frederic asked if I could reproduce his favourite painting of the Canadian Group of Seven, Lawren Harris. I thought this was a wonderful opportunity for great learning and have been working on it since Ian's workshop - what a way to immerse into shapes! It is nearly finished, still some tweeks, and here is what I have discovered:
1. First drew in the shapes freehand, it looked perfect, and yet I have managed to get my own sizing in there, which only shows up at the very end - like today! Some good grid work next time. Which brings to mind,
2. How close can I manage to reproduce anyway? Even repeating my own paintings is never quite the same. Besides my drawing errors, there are variables that I don't know like...
3. what blue did he use for the sky? At the gallery, I did not think it was ultramarine. I checked and rechecked colours, of course from books and reprints which aren't fully reliable. I first painted the sky in phthalo blue, let it dry, then decided it must be cobalt blue, painted over only to get closer to the mountains and realized, it can't be cobalt. Maybe he had used several blues...? And to keep colour harmony, it would have to be one that mixes the lovely lilac for the shadows, so not phthalo.....so....
4. wouldn't it be awesome to paint in front of the original, to see it live, even if behind plate glass. I think copying masterpieces were a strong learning method in the past.
5. And then there is the overwhelming feeling of walking in someone's footsteps. I actually felt honoured to be copying Lawren Harris' work, and mused on what he was thinking, what inspired him, what he was translating onto canvas, how he did his brushstrokes etc. I found the whole experience very inspiring and exhilirating.
Of interest, the original is large and imposing and last sold for $2.2 million. The owner Ken Thomson bequethed it and his whole massive art collection to the Art Gallery of Ontario.