Saturday, June 30, 2018

Fish still life acrylic painting lesson

Daily Art 06-29-2018 fish still life acrylic painting lesson from Will Kemp

I really enjoyed this tonal painting lesson by Will Kemp. I had been saving it for when I got through a few others that seemed simpler to paint because it incorporates a more thorough underpainting with the values in the subject as well as glazing.

I took my time with the drawing stage to try to get it as accurate as I could without tracing. I used a horizontal and vertical reference line to help me orient the shapes and get the proportions on track. The shaping on the tail gave me loads of trouble for some reason. Perhaps doing more of a large shape block in to position the elements would have helped. I'm definitely still feeling my way through an effective way to get a drawing onto the canvas when it's just one part of the overall piece, not the end goal.

Daily Art 06-29-2018 fish still life acrylic painting lesson from Will Kemp underpainting
Checking my values on the underpainting against the reference image sitting on the top of my easel.

I don't know if it was the subject (this was my favorite reference image so far), the fact that I used a larger flat brush, or the way I held the brush further back on the handle, but I was able to stay looser with this one. It could be the pre-mixed tonal range giving me some comfort and confidence, or the Mark Carder videos I've been watching on painting ugly. Not that I think I've gotten there yet, but it was a step in the right direction.

My underpainting got too dark, so when I added the glazes and other color layers I had to lighten things up here and there. I learned to shoot for going a step lighter on the tonal/color string as I paint it in.

This one was painted on some linen blend fabric from my sewing stash that was adhered to a piece of mat board and gessoed. I love the texture of it and would like to try out some clear gesso in order to leave some of the natural linen color showing. That would have been really cool with this subject because of the way the reference photo basically has a white background.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Beginner landscape acrylic painting lesson

Today I completed another of Will Kemp's tutorials, featuring a beach and purple cloudy sky. I'm pretty happy with the color mixing that I did for it but it's too overworked. The camera really picks that up more than in real life! It looks better in person from several feet away.

Daily Art 06-28-2018 beginner landscape acrylic painting lesson from Will Kemp

The big cloud ended up being too blocky. I was in this stuck zone between being loose and leaving the strokes alone and following the blending from the tutorial. I mostly followed the blending, figuring I might as well at least try to make it look similar to Will's.

After I finished it, I was watching some painting videos on YouTube and heard the comment that it's good to avoid painting dark over light — instead, put down the darks, leave them, and go lighter over top. I'm starting to understand why that is. The darker colors tend to be more transparent (at least the colors I have) and the lighter ones are more opaque. The places where added more purple clouds over light areas look rough.

But all in all I'm learning a ton about using my brushes which was the primary goal of following these exercises. I like learning his approach to painting, and will continue to learn others so that I can compare and find my own favorite ways of working.

This one was painted on a piece of gessoed illustration board. The texture was pretty nice to work on with my golden taklon-style filbert. The Isabey Isacryl was too firm for it. I also made a DIY stay wet palette by layering wet paper towels in my plastic palette and covering them with lightweight baking parchment. It worked well! My color strings stayed workable for several hours (even after I went back to do some playing around about 6 hours later). Acrylic retarder is also on my wish list to try out so I can experiment with longer open times and a more wet in wet style.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Glass of water acrylic painting lesson

Daily Art 06-26-2018 glass of water acrylic painting lesson from Will Kemp

This tutorial from Will Kemp on painting a glass of water was really cool to follow for a few reasons. One, it only uses 4 colors (black, white, yellow ochre, and burnt umber) and I'm constantly impressed by what can be done with just a few colors. Also, it's one of those images that seems intimidating to draw and paint at first because of the reflections and distortion of light. But as you go through it bit by bit, it's actually not that complicated. It's just a matter of seeing all of the shiny and shadow parts as shapes, not naming them as "glass reflection" or "distorted light".

The more of these that I do the more I really want to experiment with looser brush strokes. I like the idea of painting interesting pictures that have more personality with smudgy or messy brush strokes while maintaining realism and avoiding exaggeration.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Winter landscape acrylic painting lesson version 2

I'm so glad I did this winter scene painting lesson again! The first time I followed the exercise, there were a few areas I really liked but overall felt it could use a lot of improvement. This time I tried to stay much looser and follow the reference photo a bit more in my own way instead of trying to exactly imitate Will's version.

Daily Art 06-25-2018 winter landscape acrylic painting lesson from Will Kemp version 2 copy

The illusion of distance is more convincing in today's painting, as well as the brushy areas in the foreground. I'm particularly happy with the smaller trees in the middle and on the right — they have a nice modeling to them. That happened rather accidentally, when I made bigger brush strokes and made myself leave them alone. I love that they look like they have volume. That didn't happen on the first painting.

The trees on the left didn't go nearly as well though. I fussed with them several times to get them to even look this good. In a way I like that they have more detail since they're closer to the viewer. But I do like the trunks and branches much more on this one.

I also moved the horizon line down so that it didn't look so split across the middle of the canvas, which was a different format this time for no particular reason other than it's what I pulled out of my stack of prepped surfaces.

Daily Art 06-25-2018 winter landscape acrylic painting lesson side by side
The first painting (left) next to the second (right).

I approached this one more as a value study, which ultimately helped me suggest elements rather than over-detailing them. I'm starting to understand how color strings are useful when it comes to mapping basic values.

Adding the brushy texture to the weed patches in the snow made me excited to do the Acrylic Landscape Painting course I have waiting in the wings. I incorporated some of the brushwork and color choices that Bennett Vadnais demonstrated in it and it really helped.

This one was on gessoed watercolor paper. It was OK, but I'm still preferring the mounted canvas texture.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Winter landscape acrylic painting lesson

Continuing my series of acrylic painting lessons from Will Kemp, today I chose his simple snow scene project. I had all of the paints for it (well, except Neutral Gray 4 and 8 but those were easy enough to make with what I do have) and I was excited to do a soft grey toned ground.

Daily Art 06-22-2018 winter landscape acrylic painting lesson from Will Kemp

I'm not exactly sure how I feel about this painting exercise — if I look at it solely as a learning experience and ignore my actual finished piece it was well worth the time. I learned some new techniques for brushwork, glazing, and working with a limited palette. That stuff was all awesome. I'm just not pleased with how fussy and dark my painting looks.

The trend I'm noticing is that the first time I do these lessons, my painting is quite stiff and overworked. I guess that's because it's such a broken-up experience, following the instructor piece by piece as opposed to making artistic decisions on my own.

Another trend: going too dark. I'm working on referencing my grey scale & value finder more and attempting to lighten up a value. Using the value finder more is something I want to be doing more of anyway, so I just need to develop the habit of picking it up. At least it's sitting out on my taboret now, so hopefully it'll start to stick!

One thing I did love about this one was using one of the new canvas panels that I've been making. It's cotton duck canvas that I adhered to mat board with matte medium and covered with 2 coats of Jerry's Studio Acrylic Gesso. It's amazing how much nicer it was to paint on compared to the gessoed paper I've been using. No issues with the paint lifting, and the textural experience was just so much nicer.

If I do this one again, I'd like it to be lighter, looser, and less literal.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Apple painting lesson version 2

When I finished the apple still life lesson a few days ago I knew right away that it could be improved with another session. I wanted to work on the values (my first apple was too dark) and brushwork, and this second version is getting much closer to my goal.

Daily Art 06-21-2018 apple still life acrylic painting lesson from Will Kemp version 2

It would be better if the background were darker to help set the apple off from it. I need to get some practice with how much value shift there is when the paints dry. I just got several new Golden colors to replace the Blick Studio acrylics I started with, and a couple more are on the way.

It was delightfully agonizing to choose which to buy…I want to explore the Zorn palette because it's good for harmonious and muted paintings, but I also want to continue following Will Kemp's lessons. His recommended palette includes alizarin crimson permanent, ultramarine blue, and cadmium yellow light, so I decided to get those in addition to the yellow ochre, cadmium red light, and ivory black I bought for the Zorn palette.

The Studio acrylics will be great for art journaling, but I decided that if I'm going to learn to paint representational artwork I might as well learn on the artist quality paints so I understand how they perform and interact with each other. The value shift after drying is one of those aspects, and I'm also eager to understand how they mix together.

Related to color, I saw an insightful video by Mark Carder on his Draw Mix Paint channel where he says the number one mistake he sees artists make is exaggerating what they see. We tend to make nuances in color and detail more pronounced when we paint (for example, my fruit stems are always too large and heavy). This observation makes me much more mindful about something I may be exaggerating in my work — I think it's fine to do if it's part of some story I want to tell about the subject or detail I want to emphasize. But the key then is to be doing it intentionally, not as a result of inaccurate drawing or painting, which is what's been the case for me so far.

For this painting, one area where I can see that happening is the red area on the right side of the apple. I was so delighted to be using my new cad red light that it got away from me there!

Daily Art 06-21-2018 apple still life acrylic painting lessons side by side
The first painting of this exercise (left) next to the second (right).

Next I might do the simple snow scene lesson. It's hot and humid here in North Carolina, so it's got me wondering what winter will be like. Color charts are also on my list to help me get familiar with the new paints.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Acrylic painting surface and medium experiments

After my issues with the paint lifting off of the apple exercise while I worked on it, I wanted to do some experimenting with different gessoes, surfaces, brushes, and mediums.

To compare with my bottle of Liquitex Basics gesso, I brought home a big jug of Jerry's Studio Acrylic Gesso and applied it to a few surfaces with a small foam roller. After trying out a variety of combinations, Jerry's gesso seems to be working for me on fabric that's been adhered to a panel, and the Liquitex Basics is better for brushing on paper. Jerry's applied with a roller was way too smooth on paper and that's one of the reasons I struggled with the apple.

Daily Art 06-19-2018 testing out brushes and surfaces for acrylic paints
On the top section, I adhered some linen blend fabric to some illustration board and coated it with gesso. The texture is fantastic for brushing on the acrylic paints! On the bottom section, I prepped a piece of watercolor paper with a variety of colors and mediums to test lifting with different brushes.

Another thing I tried was mixing the toned ground layer with matte medium instead of water. My paints aren't artist quality and the water was weakening the acrylic bond. A similar approach was done with some of the paint swatches in the upper left — the second and fourth rows of swatches are made more transparent with Golden Gloss Glazing Liquid rather than water.

I also put more paint on my brush, and tested out a filbert that's softer than the Isabey Isacryl. The tests on paper (the lower section of the photo) worked much better with this softer brush than the Isacryl. The paint didn't lift off as I went back over, and the brush strokes weren't as apparent.

I'm totally loving the texture of the fabric on the panel! In the top section of the photo, I used a mystery linen blend fabric that I had gotten several years ago at a remnant shop. I wish I knew what it was, but they don't label at that shop. I'm going to prep more panels with that fabric as well as some cotton duck canvas that I have in my stash. The paint adheres so nicely to the canvas sample and was a lot less stressful because it didn't continually wipe off with additional brush strokes. The Isacryl brush works much better on this surface as well.

I hope to get back on track tomorrow by repeating the apple exercise.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Apple still life lesson on painting light and shade with acrylics

Daily Art 06-18-2018 apple still life acrylic painting lesson from Will Kemp

This painting, where I followed Will Kemp's tutorial on how to paint light and shade, was one of those projects that I almost quit part way through because the paint wouldn't adhere to part of the apple. I had to check my lack of patience and tell myself to just work on another part while the paint dried. It also helped to switch to a softer brush and put more paint out on the palette. I'm seriously struggling with the whole "don't waste paint" mentality. Which is crazy because I just watched a fantastic tip by Dianne Mize encouraging artists not to worry about wasting paint and end up wasting their experience. She says either paint or experience will be wasted, and which is more valuable to you? Plus, how much fun would it be to get to buy more paint?!

I'm glad I stuck it out until the end though. The stem and cast shadow are working well, and although it's overall a little dark I do get the sense of form from it.

I'd like to paint this exercise again with a few adjustments to see if I can improve it. I struggled more on this one than painting the form of the cherry, and it might be that I was too fixated on doing exactly what Will does in the lesson.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Cherry still life lesson, version 2

Daily Art 06-15-2018 cherry still life acrylic painting lesson from Will Kemp version 2

I'm so glad I did this exercise again! There were some areas I really wanted to take another run at: the background color, reflected light and highlight on the cherry, and the shaping of the stem. I think they're all largely improved from the first version except for the stem getting a little too thin.

I had a lot of fun scrubbing in that background and shadows. The cooler tone sets the cherry off well.

For the reflected light and highlight, I switched to a small flat synthetic hog brush, and approached it as more of a soft stroke applied carefully instead of a rough feathering in. It helped make it look more like it belonged there, whereas in the first painting the reflected light looks obviously applied and chalky. I took a similar approach on the highlight — instead of trying to paint the exact shape in the reference photo, I thought more about what would actually look good as a highlight in paint. Again, I feel like it looks more like it belongs on the surface of the cherry instead of being applied and abrupt.

Daily Art 06-15-2018 cherry still life acrylic painting lesson from Will Kemp versions 1 and 2
The first painting of this exercise (left) next to the second (right).

I've also enjoyed experimenting with different painting surfaces. I'm making a few linen-covered panels with some linen from my fabric stash. It's nice when my sewing and art-making intersect!

And one of the things I'm most enthusiastic about is how even though I wasn't interested in this subject, it totally didn't matter once I started working. It became about seeing the values and colors, and the problem-solving of how to make the paint tell the story of the subject. It was a good step toward not naming the parts, and instead looking at the "ingredients" as Dianne Mize says.

The reference image can be seen here, and the full tutorial is here.

Another bird sketch warmup

Daily Art 06-15-2018 block in sketch of bird figurine

For these bird figurine block-ins, I'm really trying to find that terminator line for the shadow areas. It can be hard for me to distinguish on more complex subjects and I'm hoping some regular practice will get me more familiar with finding it.

I love how dramatic this little bird looks lit like this. When I squint at the drawing, I really get a sense of the form even though it's basically a two-value (maybe three-value) sketch.

After yesterday's sketch I revisited my notes from Sadie Valeri's online atelier and was reminded that it's not necessary to define the width and height of the subject — just whichever dimension is greater, and then start enveloping it. That reminder really helped me get the proportions on track (after bringing it in on the sides, that is).

Friday, June 15, 2018

Bird sketch warmup

Daily Art 06-14-2018 block in sketch of bird figurine

This week I've been painting almost every day, working on some acrylic painting exercises. I also did some sketching as warm-up/good practice so I set up some boxes (we have plenty of moving boxes around after all) as a still life shadow box. I put a direct light on my little bird figurine and worked on my block-in skills. They had gotten rusty after so many weeks without regular sketching, and I want to get them back to a solid place.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Cherry still life acrylic painting lesson

Daily Art 06-13-2018 cherry still life acrylic painting lesson from Will Kemp

Today's acrylic painting lesson was a fantastic learning experience. I built on some of the things I learned in my last two acrylic painting exercises (two-color jug 1 and 2), and made more of my own decisions as I followed the tutorial.

For this one, I used a panel that I had coated with a raw umber-tinted gesso. I didn't sand it because I wanted to compare the texture of the surface to the last two that were sanded. For this type of painting, I do prefer the unsanded. I had less issue with the paint lifting off as I worked. I also like the physical texture the brush marks left behind. I want to also make a panel with brush strokes going perpendicular to the first layer to see if it creates a woven-like texture similar to canvas.

While checking some supply lists for other classes, it sounds like the smoother panels are good for indirect painting and the canvas/textured is good for direct painting.

I don't have the alizarin crimson paint that Will uses in the demo, but I was happy enough with the red I mixed from my Blick starter set.

That reflected light gave me some trouble — I had read that adding white to the color can make it chalky and this is exactly what I experienced here. The red has a luminosity because of the way it's layered, and when I added the grey-blue reflected light along the bottom of the cherry it looks dull and jarring.

I really like how the background feels in this one. It's the loose and fresh look I wanted to achieve. It's hard to believe that this thing started with painting in the dark areas and looking rough. Bit by bit it came together though!

Portrait of Ross, the adventurous Husky-German Shepherd mix

whimsical drawing of Ross the adventurous Husky-German Shepherd mix

Zach, dad to Ross and Cici, wanted a portrait of Ross for his wife's birthday gift. He had seen the drawing of Scout and liked the whimsical look of it.

Since Ross is adventurous, and they live in Kentucky, he wanted to see a concept with a Daniel Boone look — the coon skin hat, piece of straw, and fall colored maple leaves. As a lover of autumn, this one was particularly fun to work on!

Ross reference photo next to colored pencil and watercolor portrait

The coon skin hat really captures Ross' spirit in a unique and personal way. I used colored pencils for the portrait and hat, watercolor for the leaves, and gouache for the name banner. The hat was really cool to draw because as I started, I wasn't sure how I was going to achieve the right texture. It took some faith in the process, and as I kept going it turned out exactly as I had hoped!

If you'd like to read more about the portrait, there's a longer writeup on my Oxford Dogma blog.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Two-color acrylic painting, version 2

Daily Art 06-12-2018 two-color acrylic painting lesson from Will Kemp version 2

After yesterday's two-color jug painting project, I wanted to repeat the lesson on my own without following the videos. Since it was fresh in my mind, I figured it would help me understand the tutorial on a deeper level, in a more advanced way than just following the instructions.

My drawing on this painting is much stronger, and I really liked being able to look at the reference photo next to my easel and making judgements on value and tone. I feel like I improved the weak spots from yesterday. I wish I had kept more of the toned ground showing through. My tendency is clearly to be thorough and detailed! Some looseness is sacrificed though, so I'll continue to work on that.

I'm already wanting to upgrade my paints to artist quality, but I'm trying to hold off until I get more experience and finish these large tubes I already own. I also want to re-gesso one of my board pieces. I made them pretty smooth, and I'm running into some paint-adhesion issues. Hopefully with a thicker coat of gesso it will help give me a better ground to paint on. Maybe I'll do a toned gesso...

Daily Art 06-12-2018 two-color acrylic painting lessons side by side
The first painting (left) next to the second one (right)

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Starting my acrylic painting lessons

Daily Art 06-11-2018 two-color palette painting exercise
It's so satisfying to see my palette paper all messy with paints finally!

With the move complete, and most of the boxes unpacked, I finally get to start back up with art class! My new area of focused practice is mastering acrylic brush work. After a quick value study I learned just how much I need to work on getting familiar and comfortable with the actual motion of painting with acrylics. Much different from watercolors, which is what I have more experience with.

I've been experiencing serious mental blocks when it comes to learning this medium. Not because I don't want to learn it — I really do — but because I had in my head that I should be able to paint great, original paintings from square one. Once I accepted the fact that simply following some existing tutorials and even doing some playing around would do me a world of good, I passed that mental block and dug in.

It felt awesome to actually be painting something! I enjoyed the setup process, and getting familiar with my tools. For my first lesson, I chose Will Kemp's warm and cool still life painting. I loved the idea of just using two colors plus white, two brushes, and the 8x10-ish format. I mixed my own burnt sienna from my red, yellow, and blue paints.

Daily Art 06-11-2018 two-color acrylic painting lesson from Will Kemp


For my first acrylic painting, I was very happy with the results. There are some wonky areas, like the handle and rim. And it looks a little stiff to me. But the tutorial is fantastic, and this particular subject is nice and simple. I love the way the burnt sienna jug jumps off the cooler background. It's amazing what can be done with just these two colors.

I'm going to repeat the painting again tomorrow, but doing the steps more on my own instead of following the video. I also printed a copy of the reference photo which will help tremendously — I'll be able to make more decisions about what values and colors go where instead of relying on the instruction.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Oak leaf sketch

Daily Art 05-30-18 sketch of an oak leaf on the ground

On our journey east to Raleigh, we camped in our travel trailer along the way. When we arrived in the Raleigh area and waited for our closing date on our house, we stayed at Holly Point Campground. It's a beautiful campground! And only 5 miles from the new house. On one of my walks I snapped a close-up photo of an oak leaf on the ground. I liked the composition and angle of the paved path against the green mossy ground.

Holly Point Campground Raleigh North Carolina

Every time I sketch now I'm so happy that I took the Sadie Valeri online atelier class! The process she teaches makes it more enjoyable and less intimidating to draw out the subject.

I lost steam drawing in the rocks and details, but I think it would be fun to paint them with nice brush strokes.

Monday, June 4, 2018

New bird figurine for studies

Daily Art 05-22-18 bird figurine block in sketch with shadows

I've been searching for a good figurine to use as a subject for sketching and painting, and when I saw this little bird in the store I knew it would be perfect. It's a matte grey color and there's a fair amount of detail in it, but it's also simple enough for a block in or loose painting. My goal is to set it up with a variety of lighting styles and angles to practice one subject multiple times.

I did this sketch quickly (time was short due to our moving prep) and although it's a little too tall I'm pretty happy with it. It feels good to be sketching again!