‘Jeunesse’ by William Bouguereau is a beautiful painting which depicts a fantasy scene. It features a central female model (one the artist used many times), with a cherub to either side. One of these cupid figures offers her a rose. When I saw this painting in a book I recently purchased about how to handle colour I was struck by the glow the picture seemed to have. Often when I look at the works of the great masters what is clear is their strong understanding of light and their ability to glaze colour in such a way that it takes on an almost luminescent quality.
I attempted to copy the painting, first via a sketch which I then scanned and painted over digitally. I did consider painting but I am not confident with oils and I don’t think I have the skill with acrylics to render such a detailed subject. Of course, my copy is a very, very poor facsimile of the exquisite original but I certainly learned a lot during the process. When I paint I either use flat colours as a base for more detailed shading or I use the grisaille method.
This is where the painting is first rendered in greyscale and then glazed over with colour. I like this method because it helps me to control tonal values but so far I have had unpredictable results because sometimes the colours will look muddy or washed out depending on factors like a layer’s blending mode or the opacity. I definitely need more practice to improve my overall technique. I would like to re-attempt a similar painting. I might improve the result by instead of using greyscale using instead a limited colour palette and then glazing over the top of that. Problems with anatomy probably – well, almost certainly, occurred because of problems with the sketch. This perfectly demonstrates how important it is to make sure the foundation for your work is there before you start building anything. Oh well, back to the drawing board!