As you can see with the picture above I started with a gestural drawing of all the figures within the composition. I didn’t transfer, project, or trace the drawing over. I freehanded the composition with gestural lines giving me a feel of where the figures will live in the composition. I used a 2B graphite pencil for this stage. Once the feel of the figures felt right I started painting the central figure as this was the focal point of the painting. I started with the head and moved down on the figure completing each shape before moving onto the next one. I knew I would come back around and make one or possibly two passes for the final touch but, I’m thinking I finish as I go, which what Rubens would have done. A big difference between my copy and Rubens approach is that he would have had an umber base already washed on before painting, I started with a white background and not washed in.
For each section of the painting I completed I compared the unfinished section to it, I used the placement of values, shapes, angles, widths, and height to match each shape to one another. Not once I thought of a figure or fruits or dogs when I would paint specific areas I only think of them as shapes.
What I love about Rubens is the feeling of movement he evokes into his paintings, movement of light, and the figure is done brilliantly. He was able to finely render texture without overpainting it and making it feel a live. I was intimidated by this painting by the number of figures and I haven’t painted anything like this before, I’m so glad I did I learned so much and truly enjoyed every second of it. I strongly recommend doing copies of paintings you admire it teaches you so much.