This is the second post of “Module 0: Getting Ready” for participants of my online program, “The making of a great painting: Learning how to learn from masters”. This series can be also be helpful if you intend to make a painting study of a masterpiece on your own.
I suggest a basic palette of colors in my post on oil painting set-up — you might want to check them out even if you will be using another medium.
But just as it’s better to work with the medium you are familiar with, there are advantages to using your familiar palette of colors. It may happen that you will want or need to add some new colors to your palette, depending on the masterpiece you have chosen to study. This is one of the first questions we will address in the program. You need not worry about this in advance because you won’t start this final painting right away: there will be a lot of preparatory studies in the first three weeks.
Ideally, the size of your final painting ought to be close to (or identical with) the size of the original you are studying. This will probably be impossible for really large paintings, but for medium-sized paintings (anywhere less than 24”x30”) I recommend that you keep as close to the original as possible. I know that smaller sizes may seem less intimidating and “easier” to handle if you are in the beginning of your painting studies, but this is a false impression.
If you downsize, please pay attention to the format of the painting (that is, the ratio between its height and width). The format of your study should match the format of the original as closely as possible.
Unless you build your own canvas or canvas panel (or use paper), it may be impossible to match the format of the original precisely, since you will have to choose one of the “standard” formats (4×5, 3×4, etc.). That’s not a problem: there are several effective ways to deal with the differences in format (including custom framing). Just choose the standard format closest to the original (for example, if the size of the original is something like 202 x 158 cm, it’s closest to 5 x 4 ratio, so your best choice would be, for example, a 20″x16″ canvas or canvas panel).
You won’t need this “final” canvas (or panel) till the third or fourth week of the program, so we’ll have plenty of time to discuss the details, but don’t hesitate to write to me if you have trouble choosing the right size for your painting.
Sketching, journaling, preliminary studies
I would love you to start a sketchbook for this program, where you can both draw and make written notes — not too small, but not too large either. If you are using watercolors or acrylics, it makes sense to get a sketchbook suitable for using these paints, so you can do color studies in the same sketchbook. If you are using oils, it’s better to get some canvas paper for color studies. You will also need some paper for larger preliminary drawings (in can be Newsprint), and a couple of soft pencils and/or soft vine charcoal to draw with.
In order to get my feedback, you will need to send me some photos of your work-in-progress. Unless you are a photographer yourself (and know much better than I do how to make good photographs), it’s best to take these photos in natural lighting conditions (but not in direct sunlight). Do you best to avoid distorting the shape of the painting (it should look more like a rectangle than a trapezoid), and use some simple photo-editing program (Google Picasa is enough) to crop the photo (so that it shows only your painting, not the background).