Figurative Paintings Mastercopies

The Denial of Saint Peter: Woman, Life, Freedom – Week 8

This was my last painting session at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It has been incredible eight weeks of copying a painting by Caravaggio.

Thank you The Met, Thank You to those running the Met Copyist Program, and Thank You all the Met Staff and Met Security for this opportunity to copy and learn from Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. THANK YOU.

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art – November 28, 2022

So much has happened while participating in the Copyist Program at the Met—continuing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, intensifying inflation concerns, escalating Iranian Protests, and much more.

From all the news, though, the events that had been in my mind the most is the worldwide protests that have begun following the death of Mahsa Amini in September.

To capture and to remember this time in history, I titled my version of my mastercopy as follows:

The Denial of Saint Peter: Woman, Life, Freedom

Leading up to starting the copyist program, I had finished a portrait of an Iranian Woman who informed me of the protests there because of the way wearing hijab is enforced by the ‘morality’ police.

  • Coincidentally, I had already selected to copy the Denial of Saint Peter, which includes a lady with a head covering
  • And, when the protests made use of the words ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’, it reminded me of three times that Peter denied Jesus, and how that is represented in this painting.
Oil on Canvas – Completed Painting – The Denial of Saint Peter: Woman, Life, Freedom

The Final Push

It is incredible how fast 3 hours passes by when painting. For the first half of the session, I worked on refining the portrait of Peter and the lady—this time paying special attention to the light hitting the original compared to my copy.

The second half was spent on placing lightest highlights throughout the painting, ending with the highlights on the soldier’s armor.

And just like that, I finished mastercopying at the Met.

Thank you for reading my stories, following and sending me encouragement via Instagram (@jesoundkeepers). I hope you have enjoyed reading my weekly updates. I hope my stories and experience at the Met has perhaps inspired some of you to join the copyist program at the Met, or simply take a leap of faith to pick up a paint brush and paint.

This is me, the day that I decided to copy this painting by Caravaggio

The Art of the Copyist

Je was honored to be selected to painting with Jazz and 8 other artists after The Met reopened the Copyist program as Covid restriction was lifted.
Figurative Paintings Mastercopies

Mastercopying Caravaggio at the Met – Week 7

With only 2 days left in the copyist program, today is the day to make any major changes. There are still a lot more to do, but I decided to prioritize my attention to the Woman and Peter.

Matching Colors when master copying at the Met was one of main challenge. For those of you taking on mastercopying at museums in the future, here is my advise: Try matching colors near the original—the lights hitting your canvas might be completely different than the one on the original. I only came to realize this when lights abruptly changed in week 5. Fact: The new lighting in much of the European Wing at the Met has been completely redone during the pandemic.

In today’s session, I mixed up a few major color tones in front of the original, and painted with those colors instead of the colors that I actually see on my canvas. Result was warming up of skin tones. I pushed this as far as I can take it. After that, I had to rework Peter’s hands and other areas that needed at least one final layer of paint.

Mastercopying the Denial of Saint Peter after session #7

Then it was time to go after carefully measuring and making the best use of 3 hours.

And, in preparation for the final session, I painted a small head study from another painting by Caravaggio…

Figurative Paintings Mastercopies

Painting the soldier’s helmet – Week 6

Today was dedicated to painting the soldier’s helmet.

My initial plan for copying this painting by Caravaggio–just so you know–didn’t include the soldier. I had planned on painting the woman and Peter. But when I stood in front of the painting with a blank canvas, I decided to copy the entire painting.

What I didn’t realize at the time was the effort that I had to put into painting the helmet. Unlike other items in the painting, the helmet includes insane depth to it. I am convinced that the painting wouldn’t look complete–I am only referring to visually aspect of the painting here–without the helmet.

Close up image of the helmet

To develop the deep colors of the helmet, I had to work up to it using layers of paint, which I had built up over the course of several weeks. Caravaggio executed the details of helmet with the bare minimum essential brush strokes and colors.

After about 3 hours of continuous painting, I was satisfied with the outcome. Like it or not, I will have to move onto completing the painting after today’s session.

Figurative Paintings Mastercopies

The Met: Gallery 601 – Week 5

Today turned out to be hands and fabric day. I think it could have easily been a day to work on the soldier, but that will have to wait. 

I rushed to get to the Met, and I began painting shortly after 12 pm. To my surprise, I was able to get little closer to the painting than the other days, which was very nice.

Because there are so many visitors coming and going I have been setting up my Easel pretty far away from the original painting. It’s really hard to get at all the little details, but I decided that will paint what I can see. Besides, when really necessary, I can walk up to the painting and see what I need to see.

Mastercopy – The Denial of Saint Peter – This image was taken after session #5

Reworking the hands took some time because the positions of them are slightly different the original. I also made some modification to Peter’s cloth to compensate for all the little changes that I have introduced.

I also realized that the lights in the gallery 601 are changing constantly. I noticed this when the entire room lit up. While the change was shocking, I was able to see much better. Some colors will need to be adjusted once again…

Figurative Paintings Mastercopies

Mastercopy: Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio – Week 4

Today marks the 4 of 8 sessions of copying Caravaggio’s painting. It’s an important day because today is the day to prepare the painting for following 4 sessions. If any major change or decision needs to be made, today is the day.

Step 1 – I began the painting session by adding another layer of paint on the background, adding a good quantity of paint over the initial thin paint layer.

Step 2 – Position of all five hands were repositioned. This was one of the major decision that I had to make today. I liked the size of all the heads, but all five hands had to be adjusted very slightly so they all look good.

Step 3 – The majority of today’s session at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was spent on Peter’s head, and painting his wardrobe. I know I have to dedicate at least one session just on Peter, so this would be a preparation step for another day. I am hoping I would be able to get to him on week 7.

Cropped Image – Portrait of Saint Peter

Step 4 – The remaining time today was spent on the woman’s face, focusing on colors under shaded areas. I might be able to get at this by glazing, but I decided stick to the direct painting method for now. Some likeness from the original was lost today, but I ran out of time.

Cropped Image – Portrait of the woman

In conclusion, all major tasks for today was completed as planned.

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Figurative Paintings Mastercopies

Painting at the Metropolitan Museum – Week 3

Painting at the Met has been such a unique experience. Some of the most memorable moment thus far has been possible by the visitors that have come to talk with me. One of the best conversation was with a visitor who stopped to tell me that she began painting, too. I was so happy to hear the excitement in her voice—we definitely need more painters using oil in this digital era. 

My goal for continuing to copy the Denial of Saint Peter this week was to cover the entire canvas with paint. I have also made some decision to cover light areas with blighter colors than the original painting for now. I haven’t decided whether to match the color exactly, or to adjust it to make it look as it might have looked 400 hundred years ago—I have been researching on painting restoration on the side. 

One of the major challenge when copying this painting—in my humble opinion—is not so much to paint what most of see, but what we can only see up close. While the photographs of the work doesn’t reveal this, there are a wide-range of colors and shapes that make up the darker areas of this painting. It’s quiet beautiful to see all the shades of colors, for example, on women’s face. I have decided that I will begin tackle that in the week 4, but began working on sample from a live three week pose. Below is the color study where I am studying skin colors under shadow.

Color study – Oil on Cavas, 12” x 9” inches

And, the following post from my Instagram shows the bigger version of my latest project. This is still work in progress..:

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Figurative Paintings Mastercopies

Copying Caravaggio – Week 2

After a long debate about how to approach copying Caravaggio’s painting at the Met, I decided to paint the way that makes the most sense to me. There are online videos and documentation on how Caravaggio might have painted, but they don’t seem all that reliable. During the week, I practiced painting techniques that I would use to execute the copy by painting live models. Here is a sample:

Oil on Canvas, 12″ x 9″ inches

This was a special week for painting at the Met because I had my friends and family visiting me. Luckily, my visitors all arrived after I got around to paint for two hours. My main goal for this week’s session was to complete the entire drawing by blocking in some major areas and to introduce color to set the base layer.

Je’s copy of Caravaggio – Work in progress

Because I am not looking at the painting from an angle, measuring exact proportion has been an issue. I think that’s okay, though—I don’t have to copy the painting exactly. I ended at a pretty good stop point at the end of the session.

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Information Mastercopies

The Met Copyist Program – Week 1

I began copying The Denial of Saint Peter by Caravaggio at The Metropolitan Museum of Art earlier this week. The Met Copyist Program reopened once again after being closed for two and a half years due to the pandemic—I am honored to be one of the ten participating artists. I have copied many paintings there in the past, but this will be my first time copying a painting with oil paints.

I will be posting my update, so please come back to check out my progress.

So why choose Caravaggio? There are many answers to that question, and perhaps I do not fully understand it now, either, but it made good sense for me to choose the painting because all the other choices didn’t make sense to me at the moment. As I read about Caravaggio and get to know his works, I feel as though I have made the right choice. I may tell you all other reasons later, but let me tell you one reason now—I have been learning and copying some works by Velasquez and that led me to Caravaggio. 

Step 1 – Setup camp

Setup the easel pretty far back from the original so the visitors can view the painting.

Step 2 – Decide on a composition

After some thinking, I toned the canvas using red umber and began drawing exclusively using raw umber.

Position each figure into appropriate placement on the Canvas. Peter looks weird here!

Step 3 – Keep drawing before time is up

Working rather quickly, I drew the woman, the soldier, and then Peter. I intentionally drew the woman bit smaller.

The image shows the painting in progress, just before I worked on Peter
Oil Sketch after the first painting session at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

My first painting day at the Metropolitan Museum was a lot of fun, and I got around to speak with really nice visitors from all of the world.

Sending special thanks to the copyist program for this exceptional opportunity to learn from the masters. THANK YOU!

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