Coppélia

stlukesguild

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After three paintings that evolved and were completed quite rapidly without many problems, I began what would become something of a nightmare. I wanted to continue working with the clothed figure. I was thinking of and looking at Degas a good deal. I had long admired Degas' comment on his ballet dancers. He dismissed the notion that there was some deep meaning or fetish involved in his series of ballet dancers. "I just enjoy painting beautiful girls in pretty clothes in motion." I was thinking of something in a similar vein... a Can-Can dancer...

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or 1950s pinup:

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I was thinking of the raised skirt as sexy... but not overly revealing.

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I began to rapidly develop the drawing.

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I quickly developed the background and began work on the color. I was thinking a more subdued "pastel" color harmony and began with this Baby Blue.

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Against this I employed black & white and the tessellations in Teal and Periwinkle. At this time, my studio mate... the one who later went crazy... thought he should tell me that he thought this was my worst painting and that no one used symmetry today. He always made such sweeping statements and so I knew to just ignore him.

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At this point, the painting was coming together as fast or even faster than the 3 prior paintings. And then the BIG FUCK UP!

I was taking an independent study drawing class at a local college for the continuing credits required to maintain my teaching license. I took the painting to school one Saturday to show the work in progress. When I returned home, it was a torrential downpour and so I decided to leave the painting in the car trunk until a dry day when I could take it back to the studio. It continued to rain all weekend so I decided to leave it until the following weekend. During the week I needed to place something in the trunk and I found that my brother had placed a heavy car jack on top of the rolled-up painting flattening it out. Rushing it to the studio and unrolling it, I discovered that there were major creases in the paper and cracks in the acrylic paint. I spent the next couple of days on the internet reading up on techniques for getting creases and cracks out of paintings and works on paper. I went into the studio Saturday and tried them all: layers of new acrylic, sanding, using an iron or a blow-drier. Nothing worked at all. My beloved studio partner suggested that it was for the best as the painting was one of my worst. I knew he was full of shit and I was not willing to give up so easily.
 
I picked up a roll of tracing paper and traced the figure. I measured the placement of all the background elements as well as the placement of the figure. I then colored the back of the tracing paper with a reddish pastel and then transferred the copy of the original in a manner like carbon paper... the manner used to transfer cartoons or sketches onto the plaster when making frescoes.

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I was surprised at how accurate the copy turned out to be.

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I think I was running on pure adrenaline... being absolutely pissed off at the loss of the original painting after having invested so many hours of labor. I wanted to push on to the point where I was at with the previous painting. By the end of the weekend, I had gridded off the tessellations and begun work on the gold leaf trim.

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I even had the black & white checkerboard in the central halo and the Teal and Periwinkle pastel at the top completed by late Sunday.

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Next Saturday I rapidly completed the bottom of the painting and then primed over the reddish-brown with a pale off-white in preparation for the Baby Blue.

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On Sunday, I began drawing the floral designs in the halo.

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I really pushed to at least partially complete the gold leaf so that I could have some notion as to how the painting would look with the halo.

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It was another week before I completed the gold leaf. At this point, I had already passed the point where the original painting was ruined and all that was left was to render the decorative background floral elements and the figure.

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The small halo behind the woman's head was based on the design behind the figure of Aphrodite or Athena in a classical Greek sculpture.

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I ended up employing a contrasting Green (Bluish-Green) and Red in the plants with Teal and Lavender (as used in the tessellations) in the serpent.

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I decided to go with reddish hair to pick up and echo the reds in the floral elements as well as the reddish primer which peaks through throughout the painting. I initially went with green... then blue eyes... before I settled on a lavender that makes her gaze hypnotic in the real painting.

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Initially, I had her in a black dress before I changed it to an animal pattern. Originally, it was more saturated... rather like this earlier painting:

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That didn't work at all... and so I went with a dark brown subdued pattern...

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... and a reddish-brown skirt to pick up on all the other reds throughout the painting.

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I had yet to have a title at this point, but I kept thinking of dancers in literature... in folk tales and faerie tales. I remembered the tale of the dancer in the red shoes:

The Red Shoes

Hans Christina Andersen's Red Shoes was not exactly what I had in mind thematically. I actually did try red... really red shoes... and they looked ridiculously out of place. I ended up going with a reddish-brown similar to some of that in the woman's hair.

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I ended up going with the title Coppélia alluding to a ballet of the same name:

Coppélia

This ballet has elements suggestive of Pygmalion and Galatea a Greek myth in which the artist (Pygmalion) falls in love with his creation, a sculpture of Galatea. In Coppélia, a youth named Franz falls in love with a life-sized mechanical dancing doll and abandons his real-life love for it. I had long wanted to make a painting on the Pygmalion and Galatea theme and this struck me as the perfect time. Ironically, one of the female students in the art class I was taking when I began this painting asked me during class if I had ever fallen in love with one of the girls in my paintings. :oops: :p:LOL:
 
I agree with Sno. Your progress is amazing and you are so FAST! I guess after years of doing this it's no surprise. Excellent work. :)
 
Having to do it twice was likely a good thing. It is one of your best.

Well... I wouldn't call it a "good" thing :unsure: but it was a real learning lesson. I used to agree with the suggestion that making a forgery was just as difficult or more so than making the original work of art. I now realize that isn't so at all. Bringing the second painting back to the same stage as the original took no time at all... because it didn't involve a lot of thinking... sitting down and staring at the work in process and wondering what you should do with the background and what colors you should use. No erasing and no changing or slightly adjusting the colors 10 times. I also learned not to leave my paintings rolled up in the trunk of my car! 🤬 Titian and other old masters often made multiple copies of paintings that were the most admired. I have to wonder what one might learn from doing such.
 
What a masterful and enjoyable presentation; a stunning painting !

Thanks. It remains one of my favorite paintings. It's one of the two I have hanging on the wall in my little studio:

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I agree with Sno. Your progress is amazing and you are so FAST! I guess after years of doing this it's no surprise. Excellent work.

Thanks! 😊 I can get a lot done when I have the time. Last year I got very little completed due to the constant drama and interruptions by my studio mate. This year I spent most of May and June relocating all the stuff in my studio and setting up a work space at home. Once I started back to school, I was spending endless hours learning the platforms and other things needed for online teaching. I'll be back in the studio today in a short while.
 
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