Monday, November 26, 2018

100 Starts - numbers 61-70

Continuing my 100 Starts, based on Kevin Macpherson's prompt…

100 Starts - Kevin Macpherson prompt - Days 61-70
Numbers 61-70 of my 100 Starts project

Numbers 1-10
Numbers 11-20
Numbers 21-30
Numbers 31-40
Numbers 41-50
Numbers 51-60

Number 61 notes

This one was cool because I turned the green paper so it was more dynamic in the composition. I like the way the cast shadows change color as they move from the green to the ivory fabric underneath. It would have been nice to add the reflected light on the apple to give that large dark red area more life.

Number 62 notes

Building off of Number 61, I looked for reflected light in this onion and used the green paper at an angle again. I don't think it was very effective to fuss with the shadow side of the onion — it didn't really make the form any more clear. I actually think it made it harder to understand. I spent much more time tweaking it and that seems to have taken away the vitality that was captured in other studies. I really like the way the yellow bowl is painted though!

Number 63 notes

When choosing today's Start I made the choice to give myself a new challenge. And challenge, it was! Every element of this subject pushed me into new territory. I had to figure out a way to simplify the raffia behind the large flower and the flower itself. There were so many more shapes to paint, with each petal angling and catching the light slightly differently. As I stood close to the easel things just did not look like they were coming together, but after I finished, took a break, and looked at it from several feet away it looked better to me. I think you can tell where the light is coming from and how it's casting over the large rusty-red flower.

It would be interesting to paint this subject but at a smaller scale, fitting the entire arrangement into the picture frame. Zooming out on it might help me simplify better.

Number 64 notes

Picked up a few new fruits for still life subjects today at the grocery store. I included the light blue block in the composition to add interest to the right side of the study and because I liked the contrast of warm and cool colors. This one has a soft, muted quality that I'm really liking. It makes me feel calm and peaceful — and it also felt calm and peaceful to paint. That's not something I was really expecting to happen.

Number 65 notes

Continuing my study of this pear, from a slightly different perspective and a dark grey block. My drawing of the pear is a little skewed, which could have been helped by double checking where the base sits in relation to the base of the stem. It's fascinating how the same subject can look so different by changing the viewpoint and lighting.

Number 66 notes

I'm happy with the colors and shapes in this pear study. The colors in the green wedge were interesting because of the warm light being reflected in the left side of it. The composition is dull though…It's more interesting when at least one of the objects extends out of the picture plane.

Number 67 notes

This was interesting because there were so many warm colors in the subject. I noticed some especially dark shapes on the left side of the pear, next to the light yellow block. But painting them in looks a little weird — maybe just because it's flat and basic.

Lately I've been mixing my colors with the shadow family on the left side of my palette, and the light family on the right. Within that basic framework, there's no structure. I think a good thing to work on next is to organize them in color value lines (perhaps starting with just a dark, mid, and light of each color) because when it comes time to turn forms I don't want to have a crazy mess on my hands. That was one of the things I really liked about my palette knife workshop at Art of the Carolinas: having  pre-mixed dark, mid, and light puddles for the trees really helped make painting those areas easier and clearer.

Number 68 notes

I had intended to premix a color value line for this one, but out of habit just started mixing the darkest dark and lightest light. I caught myself when it was time to paint the shadow side of the first pear and rather than premixing the colors I'd be needing I just mixed them in neater piles than usual. It was helpful to see the colors next to each other as they went from shadow family to light family.

The way the light hits the pears in this still life is really nice and describes their forms well. I also like how rich the red-orange is in the pear on the left — it's so much more alive than previous studies of this subject (#64-67). The near-complement palette of the red-orange and yellow green is appealing to me, especially since the red-orange is less intense.

Number 69 notes

Dang, I forgot to premix the color value lines again. Will need to work on reforming my palette habits! The shadow family should be a touch darker, but the separation of families is good. I really like the reflected light in the form shadow of the pear that's bouncing up from the orange paper.

Number 70 notes

My husband bought these neat tomatoes at the grocery store — they're much bigger than cherry tomatoes, but smaller than a typical tomato. Very cute, and remind me of a mandarin orange. My goal with this one was to study the complementary color palette of red and green. After the last few days of pear studies, I'm thinking I need to go a little darker with the shadow family on the next paintings and see how that goes.

I like doing monochromatic spot checks every now and again to test how my separation of light and shadow is going. This one seems particularly successful:

100 Starts 70-monochrome
Start Number 70, converted to greyscale. Looks like 4 values which makes me happy!
On to the final 30 Starts…

Friday, November 16, 2018

100 Starts - numbers 51-60

Continuing my 100 Starts, based on Kevin Macpherson's prompt…

Numbers 51-60 of my 100 Starts project

Numbers 1-10
Numbers 11-20
Numbers 21-30
Numbers 31-40
Numbers 41-50

Number 51 notes

It's been awhile since I painted one of the dogs' toys so for Number 51 I chose their blue monkey (I sketched his brother Brown Monkey nearly a year ago during my sketching focused practice). I was feeling the urge to do something not symmetrical and elliptical, and it's in the realm of a figure study. It was fun to do the form shadows on the toy.

One thing I changed up with this one was to use more linseed oil to loosen up the paint. I had been trying to follow Kevin's advice to really lay the paint on thickly, but I found that it came up and blended so easily with the colors I laid next to each other and caused a mess of my shapes. Maybe this is why they say to paint the shadows thinly, because they go down first and it helps prevent goobering things up? I also didn't worry about painting the lightest light in the beginning because that was also giving me troubles before.

Number 52 notes

Another dog toy! Actually, it's just a little plush toy that my Chi mix, Pipsqueak, snatched off the floor a few years back. She was never one for toys before that, so when she took off with it randomly we were totally charmed and it was then hers forever. It's a javelina from when we lived in Arizona and I think she likes it because she's part terrier and terriers like to hunt little vermin, which this toy looks like. I also sketched it back in January during my focused practice.

I liked the idea of doing a study in temperature. The warm brown ground and cool grey toy are not that different in value, so it becomes about the subtle play between them. My big win for this one was being able to draw out the subject quickly by switching up my approach a tiny bit: instead of drawing linearly with a synthetic brush, I chose a small flat hog hair bristle brush that helped me have a looser, more sketchy drawing.

Number 53 notes

I wanted to do another study in warm and cool, and play with the composition a little. The cool, light grey background next to the bright yellow ground is interesting, and the subtle difference between the soft warm interior of the bowl next to that cool grey background almost makes a lost edge. My cast shadow grew too large, which is something I have to continuously keep an eye on.

Number 54 notes

After pulling an apple and a few grape tomatoes out of the fridge as my subjects, I chose a green paper to put under them for a study in complementary colors. I love the cast shadows in this one! For my drawing, I used a small filbert Grand Prix and kept it loose and sketchy. This approach has been working well for me and I think tomorrow I'll pull out my tube of transparent oxide yellow instead of mixing an earthy orange, just for comparison.

Number 55 notes

The shadow across the multi-colored coaster in this study fascinates me. Ever since I discovered the way this particular object challenges my brain and eyes, I just love painting it. And this little yellow dish is one of my favorite still life objects to paint. It actually has this scalloped texture on the lower part — maybe tomorrow I'll do a close-up on it and explore that shadow pattern.

Number 56 notes

Hmmmm I'm not loving the light/shadow pattern that describes the scalloped finish on the little yellow bowl. I think it either needs to be continued around the perimeter, or left off entirely. But, it's just a start, I guess. I like how the shadow side looks more than the in-light side, where the high points in shallow shadow are just slightly different from the deep shadow. And I raised my still life surface up higher, which gives me a different perspective to work with.

Number 57 notes

I'm exploring the house, looking for some new items for my starts. I selected one of my shoes, which I had sketched back in January during my focused practice on sketching. I spent much more time drawing it then than I did today, which was intentional. But today's drawing wasn't all that accurate, so I suffered the consequences of rushing the drawing when I started painting in the color shapes. It would have helped a ton if I had drawn the line between the table and the wall right away — by the time I added it, my drawing had gone astray which the horizontal line revealed. It would have provided some easy waypoints for checking my angles and proportions.

Number 58 notes

For today's subject I pulled the waxed canvas shave kit I made a couple of years ago for a sewing class lesson off the shelf. I thought it would be interesting to paint the folds and curves of the fabric, with those shadow shapes that are unique to fabric objects. It was hard to fight through the ugly stage — after I painted the shadow shapes I wasn't sure it was actually going to look like anything! So it felt good to finish and be happy with the completed start.

Number 59 notes

I sketched this cute denim bucket hat back in January during the focused practice session on sketching. I pulled it back out for today's Start and it was fun to do it in color this time. I think I did a good job of simplifying the shapes and eliminating detail. It helped that I set a mental goal to go quickly and not worry about every little fold and shadow. I'm getting more and more convinced about these simple, flat starts! Especially because I'm one to get caught up in details and then realize an hour into a project that the foundation wasn't set well in the beginning. This project has been excellent practice for getting comfortable drawing faster, selecting color faster, and putting color on the panel faster.

And this orange paper is one of my favorite surfaces to put under the still life objects! The colors of the shadows cast onto it are so beautiful and rich.

Number 60 notes

A favorite of dogs and their humans alike: the hedgehog squeaker toy! I can't get enough of these, they're so cute. I really like the way this start turned out and I'm learning more and more how much I enjoy painting organic shapes. Especially when there's volume to depict, like with this chubby hedgie.

As a grouping of ten Starts, this set is my favorite so far. I think there's a good amount of exploration subject-wise, and I felt like things started to click from a process standpoint. Drawing and color mixing are going quicker, and there's a good separation of light and shadow families. I'd like to do some more fruits and vegetables — we'll see where the final 40 go!

Friday, November 9, 2018

Palette knife workshop at Art of the Carolinas 2018

Shortly after moving to Raleigh I learned about Art of the Carolinas, an annual art workshop and art supplies expo sponsored by Jerry's Artarama. And it's right here in Raleigh! At the time registration opened, I was painting with acrylics, knew I wanted to pursue landscapes, and didn't have experience with palette knife painting. So I chose Loose & Lively Landscapes with Palette Knife taught by local artist Kim Maselli. Lucky for me, the class was good for both acrylics and oils, so when we set up our palettes we could pick which medium we preferred (I went with the oil paints).

The workshop started with a demo by Kim on using the palette knife and some pointers on painting skies. Then we went to our panels and painted our skies, while she walked around and made suggestions. Next she demonstrated mountains and trees, and gave us time to go back and paint our own. After this step, time was getting short so I had to kick things into high gear because I really wanted to finish the grasses and water. I didn't quite get the bottom area finished, but I actually liked that time ran out because it meant I couldn't go back and fuss with details.

Loose and Lively Landscapes with a palette knife workshop painting Nov 8 2018
My (almost-finished) painting from the workshop done entirely with a palette knife.

Up close, the painting looks like a melty mess, but when I stand back several feet or go across the room I like it much better.

My favorite pieces of advice from the instructor were:
  • When doing the initial drawing to place the elements, think in terms of making five big shapes.
  • Mix three puddles of green for the dark, mid, and light values — which made it pretty easy to block them in but suggest the form at the same time.
  • Keep variety in shapes — I initially had the contours of my mountains unintentionally mimic each other and I was grateful that Kim pointed that out so I could adjust.
I wish I had taken a few progress shots but as per usual the act of painting was so engrossing that it completely slipped my mind. 

Loose and Lively Landscapes with a palette knife workshop painting Nov 8 2018
My table top easel with reference photo below.
The workshop was a lot of fun and the time just flew by. I can definitely see incorporating the palette knife in more paintings, probably for the lighter, more textured areas, with the paintbrush for darker, thinner areas. Or for things like softening edges and reflections on water. I really liked dragging the knife vertically for the water reflections.

I went back today for the trade show, and was pretty proud of myself for not bringing home one of everything. I got a few pads of paper (bristol and marker paper for playing around with pointed pen calligraphy), a big tube of titanium white, some Gamblin cold wax medium and solvent-free gel to experiment with, and a few odds and ends. I couldn't pass up the Silver Brush Grand Prix brushes and bought a few small sizes that I find myself reaching for often.

Now the question is: do I go back tomorrow for more deals??

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

100 Starts - numbers 41-50

Continuing my 100 Starts, based on Kevin Macpherson's prompt…

100 Starts - Kevin Macpherson prompt - Days 41-50
Numbers 41-50 of my 100 Starts project

Numbers 1-10
Numbers 11-20
Numbers 21-30
Numbers 31-40

Number 41 notes

I don't know what the heck I was thinking choosing a stainless steel bowl for this study. It's like none of the normal light/shadow principles apply — the light and reflections were all over the place and it took me a long time to decide what to color as in light and in shadow.

Crazy bowl aside, I love the lemon (this angle worked much better than Number 40) and the cast shadows on the orange surface. Really yummy colors. I used size 4 brushes instead of the little 2s I'd been using and tried to paint slow and steady to keep the edges and shapes the way I wanted.

Number 42 notes

I continue to be stumped by dark objects being struck by light, and how to keep them lighter than the shadow family. I'm sure it's my mental preconception of what "dark" colors look like. This brown onion on a dark blue kitchen towel would be improved by making the shadow family of the onion darker, making more of a differentiation between its shadow side and the towel in light.

Number 43 notes

Today I had fun picking out some new items for still life options at a thrift shop, plus a cute gourd from the grocery store. I love fall! The little olive green ceramic pitcher will be nice to work with. In this start, the color isn't warm enough so I look forward to painting it again and getting the temperature closer. I think I can do better on the deep green portion of the gourd, too. With this new batch of objects, it might be smart to pick one at a time to study.

Number 44 notes

Drawing the little gourd was a serious exercise in foreshortening. It was really cool with this one to see the color in the form shadow on the gourd caused by the reflected light of the orange paper it was sitting on. I had a really hard time getting that orange paper to look right — every time I added yellow to lighten and brighten it, it got less red. But when I added white to increase the value, it got dull. But overall I'm pretty happy with this start.

Number 45 notes

For this little olive green pitcher, I learned I don't yet have the brush control for the size brushes I chose to use. But it makes me wonder about doing a version of it with more angular curves. I think it would help me make the shapes of the subject more accurately — by doing long, smooth strokes I tend to fill in areas I don't mean to. Would be worth a try!

Number 46 notes

Instead of the hog bristle brushes I've typically been using, for this one I switched to a couple of synthetic bristle flats (a Silver Brush Bristlon size 8 and a Princeton 6300 size 4). I thought these would give me sharper lines for doing the angular curves I wanted to try, and for the most part they did a good job of that. I wish I'd used the larger one for the white rim of the bowl though — the small one was too choppy.

I think this start looks great from a distance or as a small thumbnail on the computer. I love the contrast that's happening in it and the shapes of the shadow on the lemon. This setup would be fun to finish as a complete painting, with the warm objects in cool light resting on the cool grey surface.

Number 47 notes

For the most part I'm happy with the colors in this one. Two areas I would do differently: the shadow inside the red bowl is too light, and the light the outside is too dark. I think I'm doing a better job with the shadow family in general though, by not making the colors too dark in relation to the color notes around them.

I'm trying not to let my rough brushwork distract me from the bigger picture of laying down accurate colors. The perfectionist in my is really struggling with that! It can be a future focused practice though. For now I want to continue concentrating on those color relationships.

Number 48 notes

This was one of those where I really had to fight through the ugly stage. One breakthrough for me with painting this little pitcher was to see the shadow inside the spout area as a single shape, rather than seeing the positive shape of the light rim around it. That made drawing the shape so much easier. I'm happy with the colors on the pitcher, and the brushwork on the thin rim area is improved over the last one. Instead of trying to paint a continuous thin line, I did shorter, straight strokes. It was a moment of remembering that this is paint on a brush, and it could look painterly. Doesn't have to be perfectly smooth.

Number 49 notes

Over the weekend I took a look at my planning for the rest of 2018, and if I want to finish these 100 Starts by the end of the year I need to pick up the pace!

I enjoy working with these new still life objects, and wanted to see what it would be like to pair a little bowl with one of the wood blocks. Things were going well until I reached a serious dilemma: the tall face of the dark grey block, which was in the light family, was absolutely darker than the shadow inside the bowl. What to do?? I think in hindsight, it would have made sense to go lighter on the block to clearly distinguish it from the shapes in the shadow family.

One thing I loved about painting this setup was how the top of the grey block took on a purple hue (the red-orange paper backdrop reflecting into the blue-grey block) and the side of the block directly facing the light had a cooler, blue-grey hue from the cool light of the bulb. The cast shadows were also filled with colors reflected from the red-orange backdrop.

Number 50 notes

Made it to the half way mark, whew. In some ways I can't believe I've only been doing this challenge for 2 months because it feels like much longer. I guess a lot of life has happened since September 10. At Number 18, I switched from acrylics to oils (with a few gouache thrown in there while traveling) and I think that transition is working well. I'm glad to be getting experience with the oils in a way that's low pressure and not meant to be complete.

Number 46 — a lemon in a little yellow bowl — was by far my favorite start from this set. I'm discovering how much the direction of the light and where it falls onto the forms is critical to how a shape reads. Like with that lemon, if the little nub end is what makes it look like a lemon. Without it, it's just a boring yellow sphere, which I learned back in Number 40.

I'm not sure if it's all the browns or what, but I didn't get much joy in painting today's teapot. It might be that all of the elliptical shapes around the top got me in a grumpy mood…I'm happy with the separation of light and shadow families though.

On to the next 50!