Master Artist Ed Copley shares his technique for using copper as a canvas … this is a technique of the old masters.
MODERN DAY OLD MASTER
BY DR. LEW DEITCH
Working from his studio in Scottsdale, Arizona, Ed is a man of many visions. He is equally as comfortable painting a landscape of the Sonoran Desert with its majestic saguaro cacti piercing a storm tossed summer sky, a Tarahumara Indian woman with a weatherd face, set against the backdrop of the Barrancas del Cobre of northern Mexico or a classical image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. No matter what the subject, he portrays it with realistic depth and brilliance, attempting only to bring it to life in a most exquisite manner. His representational style draws together many techniques dating back to the renaissance, masterful and painstaking skills that have nearly vanished in an art world that is often more consumed by commercialism.
“I have always been fascinated by art,” says Ed. “From the age of five or six, I wanted to be a painter. And I have studied for many years to understand how the Old Masters achieved what they did. After attending two fine art schools and starting a career as an illustrator, I was still seeking more knowledge. I continued to study on my own and then went into the highly specialized field of restoration of oil paintings. I realized that I liked to solve problems, essentially doing detective work. If you have ever stood in awe in front of a great painting and wondered how on earth they created it then you can understand why restoration work can be so challenging. I wanted to find how they painted, as these old artists created works of art that hardly seemed possible.” Ed goes on to note, “Answers to the mystery of how they painted came via my work in the restoration and conservation of old paintings. Art restoration is a highly specialized field that requires several unrelated skills from its practitioners. Those who excel in art restoration are combination scientist, historian, artist and exceptionally talented craftsman all rolled into one. The work also requires an inordinate amount of ingenuity, skill and patience.”
Today he is well known nationwide for his authentic representations of Native American tribes, painstakingly researching their cultural complexities to insure that the detail in each of his compositions is totally accurate. In June 2007, he went on a photographic expedition to northeastern Wyoming to document the Cheyenne, Crow and Blackfeet culture, just one example of his ongoing quest to gather authentic material that ultimately becomes part of his painting repertoire.
Ed’s studio calls to mind images of a European master from the 16th or 17th century. More like an atelier, replete with antique furniture and rustic walnut wooden floors, it is one in which many paintings and drawings sit on easels, as the artist busies himself going from one to the other, working simultaneously on several compositions. All that are missing are apprentices, as was true in the renaissance. In part the number of works in progress results from the Old World technique of glazing-the use of thin layers of paint diluted with oil that are applied in successive layers through the course of time. Each layer must first dry before the next application, and this is a labor and time intensive method that precludes an artist from simply concentrating on one composition at a time. The art of glazing developes richness in detail and color without the use of heavy applications of paint, but because it is such a slow process, few artists choose to use it at the present time.Although Ed could take shortcuts and create works that would please many collectors, he believes strongly in his principles, devoting much time and energy into producing works of enduring quality. He notes that longevity is the test of the legacy of an artist. “Look around at the great museums and see what stands the test of time. It is classical art, which is something that people can relate to and understand. It is a responsibility if you are going to execute quality paintings. It requires a lot of study, work and sensitivity. Every artist must try to accomplish his or her highest level of excellence.
With a classical attention to composition, meticulous attention to his use of light and devotion to the Old World application of pigment, Ed’s paintings will remain perpetually enchanting in the mind and heart of his collectors. There is no doubt that his paintings will earn their place in the contemporary history of art.