Learning from the Masters

After Bierstadt's California Spring, oil on canvas, 60x60cms
After Bierstadt’s California Spring, oil on canvas, 60x60cms

Just at present I am investigating paintings of the sky for the current study unit of the Fine Arts degree course I am struggling with. Although the thrust of the educational program is unremittingly “contemporary” (with all the overtones that word seems to have picked up when applied to art), I still could not go past Albert Beirstadt as a mentor and guide. Beirstadt was a German born painter who revealed and romanticised the American West in the 1850-1870s. Dramatic skies always play an important role in his paintings.

In this work I have tried to get into his headspace a little. Unfortunately, working from low resolution reproductions found on the internet, I have not been able to really see the details of his brushwork or get an accurate fix on his colours. I’ve tried to be pretty faithful to the original, but I do note that his oak tree seems to have morphed into an Australian gum tree. And his cow seems to have turned into a horse. It’s pretty rough and ready, having been painted in two sessions, and needing some time to be spent on refinement.

Painting copies of master works is a time honored tradition in art studies, and I can appreciate why this is so. As you paint you have time to appreciate how the artist has solved many problems of composition, value and colour.

Below is the original Bierstadt work. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Bierstadt_Albert_California_Spring_1875

Before the Storm

Before the Storm, oil on canvas, 40 x 80 cms
Before the Storm, oil on canvas, 40 x 80 cms

I have been working on a series of paintings of sky and clouds for my current studies. A friend sent me a couple of his photographs as a challenge.

Approaching storm reference
Approaching storm reference

What began as an attempt at a literal rendering of the photograph gradually morphed into something completely different, through the liberal use of artistic license.