In college, my painting professor gave us an awesome assignment:
1. Recreate a master painting.
2. Create your own painting based on what you learned from the master.
I chose one of my all-time favorites: Edouard Manet's Bar at the Folies-Bergere. I reproduced the original the best I could - from a poster print that I ordered from the Courtauld Gallery, onto canvas I stretched to the same size as the original (37.8 × 51.2 in - pretty huge!). Here is my reproduction:
I'm pretty proud of it. I really love this thing. It's really fun, actually, to trace its presence in all of my dwellings since college...
The second part of the assignment was a lot trickier.
I decided to imitate Manet's style and composition, but replace the bartender (and bar) with a modern vignette that all UVa students know and love: the bar at the Virginian. I got a tired redheaded bartender to give me a similar pose to the one Suzon made famous in 1882.
I must confess that I was the queen of all-nighters in the college art studio. I spent days, even weeks, sitting in front of a blank canvas, looking at inspiration images, doodling in my sketchbook, but NOT doing assignments. Maybe someday I'll post the paintings of my now-husband, passed out in the art studio, while I pulled an all-nighter painting him...
Anyway, I took the photos for the Virginian painting right before Christmas (AKA during finals) and photographed using FLASH - duh, that was a huge no-no. It looks terrible when you try to paint a person with flash lighting on them. It's so fake.
Case in point:
Let's begin to count the problems with this, shall we?
You can tell I did this in a night or two. Lots of mistakes.
This poor painting lives at my parents' house, unframed, propped in the basement. It needed its chance to shine! So I finally took a paintbrush to it while I was home over the holidays.
I didn't have any of my original source photos, so I sort of made up a face, and got my mom to model the arms… thanks, Mom!
And finally, here is a comparison of the overall college assignment - parts 1 and 2:
I still think the modern-day painting could use some objects in the foreground, and maybe more color near the top… but it's a heck of a lot better than it was before!
That's the beauty of paint… it's so forgiving, and there's always room to improve.