Actually Painting At The MET!!!

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First day painting.

The next day was my fourth class at the MET copying, Sir Thomas Lawrence.  I love this class!  It’s just as much fun as I thought It would be.
Unfortunately, getting here is such a struggle: the train is late! the Uber is late! the taxi is late! Then, there’s something special going on in NYC! It’s always something! I tried to leave more and more extra time to make it to my class. Sometimes I’m an hour early, sometimes 15 minutes late. It’s frustrating. It would be so much easier if I just lived here.
At first, I didn’t think Joâo Henrique Brandâo, my teacher, from New York Academy of Art was too crazy about my idea of cropping the painting. Lucky me, I love the way it’s turning out, and I think he likes it now, too. During the orientation, they told us we could paint any part of the painting rather than the entire picture.
Joâo suggested that we print out copies of the pictures from the MET website to help us render them accurately. The MET has a fabulous website that anyone can access.  My painting is so large, (9′ x 5′) and the subject’s face is so far away from me that I started relying on the photographs. (But my astute professor, Joâo, on one of his visits to check on me noticed my color temperature was off.  I was too cool with my colors, apparently more like the photo than the original. An easy fix and one I was happy to do since I like the original painting so much more than the reproduction.

Sir Thomas Lawrence

Lots of people stop, watch me paint, and take my picture, but very few talk to me. At first, it made me a little self-conscious, but now I don’t even notice it.

almost there… Selfie at the MET.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I am learning without even realizing it.  It’s sort of like I’m a computer and am getting a direct download when I’m copying.  It’s much more organic than I had imagined, so I now want to do this again and again!!


Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve
Albrecht Dürer
German, Nuremberg 1471–1528 Nuremberg

By the way, I forgot to mention the best day of our non-painting days.  It was visiting the MET’s Drawing and Prints Department.  This is where we met brilliant Laurie Murphey, the MET’s education person in charge of the copyists.  (Copyists are the students, like us, who copy a master painting.) Our class, of only 4, was shown 4 or 5 drawings at a time, from Durer and Leonardo da Vinci to Seurat.  (Other schools had the same opportunity on different days of the week.)  Delicately handled with white gloves,  these original master sketches were pulled out of boxes and put on desk easels right in front of us.  We each picked one and started sketching.  What an off-the-charts fabulous exercise to actually be able to view and copy these treasures close up! The feeling was of being face to face with the living, breathing master!

1510–1513 Leonardo da Vinci

1510–1513 Leonardo da Vinci (Italian, Vinci 1452–1519 Amboise) Black chalk, charcoal, and red chalk, with some traces of white chalk (?); some remains of framing outline in pen and brown ink at upper right (not by Leonardo) Sheet: 8 x 6 1/8 in. (20.3 x 15.6 cm)


Raffaello Sanzio

1508–10 Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio or Santi) (Italian, Urbino 1483–1520 Rome) Pen and brown ink over black chalk, partially incised with a stylus (recto); rubbed with black chalk for transfer (verso) 15-5/8 x 11-1/2 in. (39.7 x 29.2 cm) Drawings


1882–83 Georges Seurat

1882–83 Georges Seurat (French, Paris 1859–1891 Paris) Conté crayon on Michallet paper 24 1/2 × 18 11/16 in. (62.2 × 47.5 cm) Classification: Drawings



Shelli Alford is an artist and author, who enjoys learning from master oil painters from around the world and reviewing their classes, workshops and demonstrations.

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