On the morning that I spent in the National Gallery, there were three of us working in front of Veronese’s paintings. In the middle of the room, a young painter had set up his easel to make an oil sketch – ‘Forgive me if I splash you with paint!’ – he said, as I sat down on the bench alongside him. As he painted away, sculpting layers of oil on his canvas, he started to attract the attention of visitors, who crowded around him, taking lots of photos. Poor old Veronese got less attention that morning than the student who had set up to copy and learn from him. On the other side of the room, a young Chinese artist was using coloured pencils to make her study-sketch. Her work was more discrete, and just occasionally she would stand up from her folding stool to get a closer look at the faces of the painting in front of her. I began to make a sketch in a watercolour pad that I had just bought in a shop around the corner.
The thing about Veronese’s work is the way the figures move – they’re very fluid and rhythmic – almost jumping out of the pictures. I took my time with the picture I had chosen, ‘Scorn’, using the negative spaces to help me recreate the composition. I was interested in the colour scheme he had used, ranging from bright orange and green, through to grey-blues that brought everything into harmony.
An hour later I moved on to the picture alongside entitled ‘Respect’. This composition was even more fluid, accentuated by the leaning posture of the figure on the left. Studies of his kind help me to understand other artists’ work, and give me ideas for projects and compositions of my own. The quality and breadth of the national collection is more than enough to reboot your creativity, and is well worth a visit!