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  • Sadie Valeri

Master Copy: Van Dyck's Portrait of Margareta de Vos


Continuing my interest in Baroque portraiture, I made a study of Van Dyck's Portrait of Margareta de Vos, c. 1620

Working on a double-primed surface of warm gray over burnt umber, I sketch the basic shapes with raw umber, using thin paint and a fairly dry brush. I'm using linseed oil mixed with a little bit of stand oil and mineral spirits for my medium, just enough to make the paint flow.

I use a second brush like an eraser to edit and adjust the drawing stage of the painting. In the same session, while the raw umber underpainting is still wet, I apply a very thin wash of opaque color to the light areas, trying to match the "local color" of the skin. "Local color" is the color of a surface where it is not in shadow, and not in the lightest light, but the middle values. I'm using lead white, burnt umber, and raw sienna to mix my flesh tones. This is the first layer of paint:

The first layer is thin enough that I can apply a second layer without waiting for it to dry. If I use a light touch I can apply the second layer like cake frosting, with a light enough touch that I'm not disturbing the first layer. In this second layer I am increasing the value range. I work for a while in the light areas, and then I switch brushes and work for a while in the dark areas.

At this stage I allow the painting to dry and I return to the painting on another day. To bring the painting to a finish I refine the features and details in a complete pass over the whole surface of the study.

The final painting:

Every copy I do of a master painting teaches me more about painting. This painting was filmed and the recording will be available soon in my online atelier. To be notified when this and other videos are released, you can sign up for my mailing list.


Nov. 27, 2020 UPDATE:

My new portrait painting video course is now available to download and to members of my online atelier.

@2019-20 SJNV Creative Associates and Sadie Valeri Atelier | San Francisco, California, United States