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Salon International 2012

Painting by Thomas Kenneth ConwayMy painting ‘Trompe L’oeil with Caravaggio’s Sleeping Cupid’ will be included in the Salon International Exhibition, a project of the International Museum of Contemporary Masters, hosted by the Greenhouse Gallery in San Antonio Texas.

2012 Exhibit Opening Reception:
Saturday, April 14, 10 am – 8pm

Exhibit Dates: April 14 – May 4, 2012

Gallery Opening Tonight and Tomorrow

Preview Reception: Oct. 5, 5:30-7:30PM
Public Opening, First Thursday: Oct. 6, 6:00-8:00PM

New Paintings by Thomas K. ConwayPulliam Gallery
929 NW Flanders St.
Portland, OR 97209.

I posted images on my website as well. Though a couple of them need updating– There’s a terrible glare on the Vermeer in that photo and the anatomy lesson is unevenly lit (bottom right is too dark). So come see them in person!

I’ll post detail shots soon.

Vermeer in Progress

This is a photo taken while working on The Last Judgement painting in the background of Vermeer’s Woman Holding a Balance. (And please keep in mind that everything in my painting is still very much in progress at this point.) As I’ve mentioned previously, working from reproductions is difficult because you don’t know which one is accurate. Vermeer's Lady Holding a Balance, trompe l'oeil in progress by Thomas ConwayWhen I started this series I decided to simply pick whichever version I thought looked best. Since I haven’t seen these paintings in person, that was really the only option.

A helpful trick, I’ve found, is to use a few different reproductions, each with varying contrast. Some pictures being lighter than others gives me the most information possible. I figure, if the reproduction can pick up details in one version which are absent in another– clearly, those details are present in the painting. Though they may exist only subtly in my finished painting, I feel that their presence lends a sort of authenticity which would otherwise be missed.


Caravaggio's Cupid: Trompe L'oeil by Thomas Conway

Cupid is just about finished. A few refinements are needed in the torso but the end is very near.
(A proper photo will follow.)

This trompe l’oeil series of master copies is very informative, as expected, but also a lot of fun. Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Vermeer are included. While I hesitate to pick favorites, Caravaggio has been particularly eye opening. (Vermeer, unfortunately, is proving the least forgiving.) I intend to collect my observations and share them here afterward.

…Back to work.

Cupid, in progress

Trompe L'oeil in progress by Thomas ConwayThis is a small 12 x 12″ trompe l’oeil of Caravaggio’s ‘Sleeping Cupid.’ These pictures were taken on two consecutive days. The first picture (with the full painting and the reference photo above), shows the warm base color for the flesh. Once dry, abbreviated lights are laid, as seen in the second picture. The next session will be glazing (correcting color) and restating the lights. A few corrections remain (I forgot the bellybutton) but that’s the gist of the technique I’ve been using for the Caravaggio paintings. I find it to be pretty effective at capturing something close to the luminous effect of the originals.

Trompe L'oeil painting (in progress) by Thomas Kenneth ConwaySpeaking of the original painting… When I was searching for a good reproduction I came across this painting (link) from the Indianapolis Museum of Art. At first I thought it to be a clearer photograph of the other, housed in the Pitti Palace (in Florence), but upon closer inspection it’s a completely different painting. A lot of the differences are subtle (likely to be overlooked if only casually viewing), but the big changes such as the lower hand and the contour of the upper wing obviously can’t be attributed to different lighting. Plus, if you have any experience with Caravaggio, the paint handling just doesn’t feel right. But– I don’t pretend to know better than the museum housing it (they attribute it to Caravaggio and date it about ten years before the other one). It’s a curiosity. For what it’s worth, I think the location solves the mystery; I don’t mean to be unpatriotic but seeing that one is housed in Italy, and the other in Indiana, the Italian version somehow seems authentic by default.

Trompe L’oeil with Caravaggio

Here’s a look at the finished Caravaggio Trompe L’oeil painting. (I’ll update with a better image once it’s varnished.) You can read more about this painting in previous posts here and here. This is the first in a series of work and as such I learned a lot while painting which will benefit the rest of the series. There are some discrepancies in the copy, and a couple issues relating to value compression, but overall I think it’s a fine painting and I’m happy with it. Hopefully those discrepancies are only apparent while making a direct comparison to the original.

The remaining work in this series, including a large Rembrandt print of The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp use measured drawings to ensure a more accurate copy.

Caravaggio Copy (cont.)

I have reached a point in this painting where I’ve started to kick myself for the hasty drawing I did initially. Or more precisely, I’m kicking myself for not correcting that drawing. Errors in figure placement and proportion are pretty evident by now. Reluctantly, I resolve to work around these errors rather than take several steps backward to fix them. I talked myself into this position for a few reasons, most notably that this is not a master-copy painting; this is a trompe l’oeil painting (or, will be). A master-copy painting, in my opinion, should be done as faithfully as possible. This goes, of course, for the appearance of the thing but also for the technique. My painting, as you can see by the progress image below, is far from faithful on both accounts.

In a way, compromising as I have is kind of a blessing. While I’m still after the gist of Caravaggio’s picture, I’m moving the figures around a little and changing their poses a bit as needed. Blasphemous as this may seem, it helps me to overcome perhaps the greatest obstacle in my painting: its size. My painting is quite small. I mentioned previously that the original by Caravaggio is rather large; to be specific: Caravaggio’s painting measures 56.75 x 76.75 inches and the corresponding image in mine measures 8.25 x 11.25 inches. This means that moving something a couple inches in the original corresponds to a few millimeters in mine. For the sake of my sanity and the prospect of finishing this painting in a reasonable time-frame, I’m OK with these shortcuts.

That is… I’m OK with these shortcuts, with the condition that I make a faithful master-copy (with a measured drawing) at some point soon.

Caravaggio Copy

Judith Beheading Holofernes (detail, in progress)

Slow progress on the Caravaggio copy. It should be noted that my copy is quite small… the head in my painting is about the size of a quarter. Caravaggio’s was about life sized. Also, for those not familiar with the original (and I’ll take a moment to say ‘Shame on you!’), wikipedia has a good reproduction. The painting is called Judith Beheading Holofernes and it’s quite beautiful. (Politely, I ask not to compare mine to the original too closely, especially at this point.)

Speaking of the reproductions- Take a look at the variety in color according to the various images.

Google Search: Judith Beheading Holofernes by Caravaggio

Obviously, this is an issue of some importance when attempting a copy. My solution was simply to pick one that I thought looked the best. Sadly, having never seen the painting in person, I had to make that decision based on the versions I’ve seen in various books, and my own best guess.

Then, there’s the issue of printer and monitor calibration. The image on my screen may look different on your screen, may print differently on my printer or yours, and so on. I just eyeballed it and opted to live with what I got.

Officially, if one were making a forgery caliber copy (and couldn’t do it at the museum in front of the original–which, with the changing policies on museum copying is becoming more and more rare), the best bet would probably be to order a print from the museum which housed the painting. This is, by no means, a guarantee of accuracy, but one could assume that the closer the printer is to the original painting, somebody is making the necessary adjustments.