Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Color mixing greens, mauves, and secondaries

I'm having so much fun getting familiar with my new oil paint colors and seeing what kind of colors I can mix with them. My basic charts gave me a sense of how they relate to each other in several ways, and I wanted to take that further by doing some color mixing. My goal is to have some go-to color mixes for things like greens, mauves and other low intensity violets, and earthy reds and yellows. I  also wanted to see what kinds of secondary colors my primaries would make, now that I have a more complete palette of warms and cools.

various color mixes in oil paints Apr 27 2019
Various color mixes from my palette of oil paints, focused on earth tones for landscape painting

Because my focus is landscape painting, my hope with this chart is to uncover some great color mixes for the local color of landscape elements as well as colors that enhance them (such as oranges and violets working well with greens).

I get easily overwhelmed by all of the color mixing options when I stand at my easel — there's just so much potential there! How do I choose when I don't want to miss out on any of it? But it can stall my progress to seek the "right" answer to questions like this. In my current research on color, I've come across a few pastel artists that I love and so I started thinking about their approach to color. Many of them like to preselect their small palette of working colors from their larger supply of choices, which helps them achieve color harmony and stay in the flow while painting.

My intention is to use this chart in a similar way, as a visual aid to jump start my color strategy and mixing before I start painting. These little color samplings are primarily made from two colors (with white), and the idea is to get in the ball park and adjust with additional colors as needed to achieve the value, temperature, and intensity I'm looking for.

This chart of secondary color mixes is a simple and handy one to have. Carol Marine suggests it in her book, Daily Painting, as a way to see how the warm and cool primaries affect the temperature and intensity of secondary mixes made with them. I made one like this when I was starting out with watercolors and referenced it all the time.

secondary mixes from primaries in oil paint Apr 27 2019
Secondary mixes from primary colors and viridian (a stand-in for my yellow-leaning blue), with some earth colors in the last two columns

This green mixing chart is something I learned about after searching for how to mix natural looking greens for landscapes. Carol McIntyre demonstrates a sampling of the huge potential from just a yellow, blue, and two orange hues to modify. My photo doesn't capture the real effect, but it was a clarifying exercise on how much can be created with so little.

green mixes in oil paint Apr 27 2019
Mixing greens from Winsor Lemon and ultramarine blue, with the addition of Winsor Orange in the second row and Transparent Earth Red in the third row

Monday, April 29, 2019

Custom portrait of Sparky, the playful Australian Shepherd-Border Collie mix

custom hand drawn mixed media portrait of Sparky the playful Australian Shepherd-Border Collie mix
"Sparky" 8x10 colored pencil, watercolor, and gouache on watercolor paper

Awhile back I created a dog portrait of Ross as a birthday gift that Zach could give his wife, Meredith. Recently she got in touch to ask if I'd make one of her dad's dog so she could give it to him for his birthday.

Sparky is playful and loves to do tricks that his dad taught him. Meredith suggested that we incorporate the playful feeling with a Western theme, and after providing a few sketched concepts she chose one of him with a lasso in his mouth and a classic rancher bandana around his neck. I was excited to be able to draw these textures and patterns — every one of the portraits I create introduces a new challenge for me to work through which is a great way to keep learning and growing as an artist.

While drawing out the rope design, I had to pay close attention to keeping the angles consistent. I also wanted it to look natural and not overly perfect, so I varied the thickness and color slightly for a looser feel. For the bandana, I used colored pencil for the fabric and shading, then went back over the top with gouache to create the surface pattern.

I'm happy with the life in Sparky's eyes, and how soft his fur looks. Capturing the unique characteristics of the pet that I'm portraying is so important to me, and I hope Meredith's dad instantly knew it was him when he opened the gift!

Friday, April 26, 2019

Color study of a mountain stream, take 2

Cool and Crisp 2 landscape oil painting study 6x8 Apr 26 2019
"Cool and Crisp 2" 6x8 oil on canvas panel

I painted this same scene in my last color study, and once it was complete I saw potential for different approaches to the same subject. I reworked the thumbnail sketch and value structure, and chose an entirely different color palette.

I'm so much happier with this version of the painting! With the first one, I tried suggesting a cool and crisp atmosphere with the cool color palette. But it felt very unbalanced to me and I realized I could still suggest this feeling by incorporating warms into my colors. I like how the water looks like it feels cold to touch, and the blue contrasts so much with the rest of the environment that it effectively becomes the focal point. And the greens have enough orange in or near them that it suggests autumn weather more than the heat of the summer.

I paid a lot of attention to keeping the values within each zone fairly close to stay consistent with its place in space, as well as the intensity of the color groups. I'm not loving the way the foreground area looks, but I'm really happy with everything from the water back.

Thumbnail sketch with value plan
Cool and Crisp 2 landscape oil painting study - block in ultramarine violet and transparent oxide yellow
Experimenting with ultramarine violet and transparent oxide yellow for the block-in

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Analogous Complementary color scheme study

Cool and Crisp landscape oil painting study Apr 23 2019
"Cool and Crisp" 6x8 oil on panel

I've been scouring my landscape photos for more interesting compositions — something other than the horizontal bands I found myself repeating lately. This scene was from a photo I took at the Grand Tetons National Park. It's Schwabachers Landing, a peaceful wildlife habitat that's a popular photography spot. Our trip to the Grand Tetons was one of my all-time favorites. It was so beautiful there I didn't want to leave!

For this study, I chose an analogous complementary color scheme to work with: blue, blue-green, green, and red-orange. Since it was a cool and crisp day when we visited the spot I wanted an overall cool feeling to the painting, I gave it the title "Cool and Crisp" to help me stay on track with that.

Four-value thumbnails
Reference photo
Underpainting on light peach-toned panel, using ultramarine blue and transparent earth red
Color map to test colors together (four values)

After testing my pre-mixed palette of colors, everything was reading too dark to me so I lightened them all up. I wish I hadn't though because it ended up lighter than I wanted. Part of the problem may have been that I was testing the colors on a piece of white card stock, not the same surface I was ultimately painting on. Next time I would just make my best guess on colors/values, still testing them on the paper next to each other, but reserving small shifts until seeing them on the actual painting.

One of the things I really liked about the photo was the cool of the water next to the warm green of the grass. But with the color scheme I chose, it loses that impact quite a bit. I think there's a lot of good stuff in this basic composition — it would be great to explore this with more studies, changing the colors and value zones, and overall temperature for different moods.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Square tetrad color scheme study

Blue Ridge Vista landscape painting Apr 19 2019
"Blue Ridge Vista" 6x8 oil on canvas panel

Last fall we camped in Boone, NC, and drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We were a bit too early for the full colors of autumn, but things were just starting to turn. We stopped along the road and I snapped a photo of the Blue Ridge Mountains that stretched back to the horizon. I thought it would be a fun study to capture the blue-green of the mountains as they're affected by atmospheric perspective.

I followed my planning worksheet again for this one:
  1. thumbnail sketches
  2. four-value plan
  3. two-value notan thumbnail
  4. color strategy (square tetrad of red orange, yellow, blue green, and violet)

Four-value plan and notan thumbnail
Black and white and color reference photo
Monochromatic value study in seven values (five greys plus black and white)
Rough color map to test out my initial color mixes

One of my goals with this study was to loosen up my brush strokes and go for basic shapes without detail. Interestingly, I prefer the black and white painted study over the full color one because the shapes are more interesting and the brushwork is more lively. But I do like the colors in the final one — this limited palette of lemon yellow, winsor orange, ultramarine violet, and viridian was nice to work with.

I've been feeling a little stuck on color schemes…once I choose the scheme I want to use I'm not quite sure about a good way to select my pigments for color harmony, and then intermixing the colors so they retain the characteristics of the selected scheme. This would be a good topic to study in more detail.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Painting with a tertiary triadic color scheme

Secret Light landscape painting 6x8 Apr 18 2019
"Secret Light" 6x8 oil on panel

After doing my series of two-color studies of this scene, I wanted to take it to a finished painting. But instead of just two colors I selected a three-color palette: a tertiary triadic scheme made of yellow orange, blue green, and red violet. The paints I chose were yellow deep, viridian, and ultramarine violet.

Like with the last painting, I started with making a plan by sketching some different compositions, value thumbnails, and a notan. Doing these series of thumbnails and notans lately has been good for helping me look at compositions more critically. For example, the notan for this design is not all that interesting. I didn't want to get caught up in endless adjustments so I decided to proceed and see how the finished painting would turn out.

Black and white reference photo with value plan sketch

Notan thumbnail with color reference photo

Monochromatic underpainting

I like this color scheme, and adding texture to the foreground helps add interest to an otherwise bland area. I think the composition could be improved by finding ways to direct the eye into and through the painting. One thing I'm noticing about my recent studies is that there are a lot of hard stops in the composition, like with relatively flat horizontal bands. I want to work on improving this so there's more connection between the different areas of the painting.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Inspired by the puddle of leftover greys

Winter Fog landscape painting Apr 17 2019
"Winter Fog" 8x8 oil on canvas

After finishing my series of color studies, there were a few piles of interesting greys on my palette. I can't let those go to waste! It was a perfect opportunity to do a foggy day painting, so I selected a photo that I took a few months ago in my neighborhood for a subject.

It was also a way to test out a worksheet I made inspired by the books, online lessons, and blog posts I've been devouring. It's basically a framework for planning out a painting so I don't forget an important step. One day I'm sure this will be more intuitive, but for now I need a reminder to consider these elements carefully because they help me feel happier during the painting process.

Winter Fog painting thumbnail and reference photo
A three-value thumbnail along with black and white and color printouts of my reference photo
Winter Fog color map
Testing out my color mixes with a generalized color map
Winter Fog landscape painting monochromatic underpainting in ultramarine blue
A monochromatic underpainting in ultramarine blue on a piece of Fredrix acrylic primed canvas

Friday, April 19, 2019

Color studies in two colors plus white

I've been doing a lot of work to gain a deeper understanding of value and composition, and now I feel like working on color. I enjoy painting with a limited palette, and with all of these new colors in my drawer of oil paints I wanted to do some experimenting to get a feel for how they work together.

My primary goal with this exercise was to find some good complementary pairs among my colors — two hues that could act as a warm and a cool together and would neutralize when mixed. I also wanted to get a sense of how a selection of colors influences the overall mood of the painting.

It was enlightening to see how two colors that sounded like they'd be complements actually worked with each other on the paper. For example, I thought Winsor Orange and ultramarine blue (#7) would be exact complements, but the overall tone of the study feels very cool to me.

Because I used all three primaries for the first three color studies, I quickly found myself wishing I had that third hue to balance out the rest of the studies. It sure gave me a greater appreciation for having three colors to mix with!

Next, I want to do a bunch of three-color palette studies.

color studies in two colors - 1 Apr 17 2019
Numbers 1-9

color studies in two colors - 2 Apr 17 2019
Numbers 10-18

color studies in two colors - 3 Apr 17 2019
Numbers 19-24

A table of the colors I used:
#Color 1Color 2Color 3Color 4
1burnt umber
2cad yellow pale huenapthol redultramarine blueUtrecht white
3cad yellow pale huenapthol redultramarine blueUtrecht white
4cad yellow pale huenapthol redultramarine blueUtrecht white
5lemon yellowultra violetUtrecht white
6trans earth redultra blueUtrecht white
7orangeultra blueUtrecht white
8lemon yellowultra violetUtrecht white
9terra rosaviridianUtrecht white
10yellow deepultra blueUtrecht white
11trans earth redultra blueUtrecht white
12terra rosacobalt turq lightUtrecht white
13orangeultra violetUtrecht white
14yellow deepcobalt turq lightUtrecht white
15orangecobalt turq lightUtrecht white
16orangeviridianUtrecht white
17alizarinviridianUtrecht white
18yellow deepultra violetUtrecht white
19naphthol redcobalt turq lightUtrecht white
20burnt umberultra blueUtrecht white
21trans oxide yellowultra violetUtrecht white
22yellow ochre lightultra blueUtrecht white
23yellow ochre lightultra violetUtrecht white
24yellow deepivory blackUtrecht white

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Charting my oil colors

I recently added several new colors to my oil palette, and to get familiar with them and how they fit in with my other colors I did a few fun and enlightening exercises.

First I charted my colors using a tip by Dianne Mize (shown below), and once I had all of those colors out on my palette I dabbed them onto a rudimentary color wheel based on their relative hue, value, and intensity. This wheel is roughly based on a Gamblin video on navigating color space that I found useful. My chart isn't a scientific mapping of the colors, but it definitely gives me a good idea of how they relate to each other.
oil color palette mapped to color wheel
Approximate placement of my oil colors on a color wheel

To chart my colors, I used my best impression of their value straight out of the tube and plotted them in rows, adding white to lighten the value. Then I made notes on each color's hue, value, intensity, and temperature, along with the brand name, color name, and pigment name. I had considered doing the full color charts (Richard Schmid style) but thought that all of the time used to do them would be better spent painting. Diane's charting tip seemed like a good compromise that would allow me to get familiar with the characteristics of my pigments in a quicker way.

For the tints, I used Utrecht White, which is a mix of titanium and zinc whites.

oil color palette charted
My palette of oil paint colors, charted out with notes to become more familiar with their characteristics

My intention is to create limited palettes from a smaller selection of colors for each painting, at least until I'm more familiar with how they work together. These two tools should be really helpful for choosing those groupings because they give me a clear visual on how the colors lean in relation to each other.

This was also an exercise in not over-engineering a solution to my problem! It was hard to fight my instinct to get very scientific about the exact qualities of each pigment by consulting all kinds of other resources. This would have taken a lot more time and sucked the fun out of it, I'm sure. And it would have removed an opportunity for me to think more critically on my own and trust my own perceptions of the colors.

I'll use these to assign an order to my tube colors so I can lay them out on my palette in the same order every time. Not that they'll all be out all the time, but having them in consistent homes will be valuable.

My next project is creating some color studies based on pairs of colors + white to get a feel for how they work together.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Little landscape painting of an early spring morning

4x6 landscape painting  Apr 12 2019
4x6 landscape painting on Claessens #66 oil primed linen

I'm in the process of experimenting with lots of different painting surfaces to see which ones I prefer using for different approaches. When I read The Painterly Approach by Bob Rohm, he mentioned that he likes using Claessens #66 which is an oil-primed linen with a medium texture. I splurged on a sample of it and have been sitting on it ever since because I felt like it needed to be "saved" for something special. Which is silly of me — how will I know if I even like using this type of material unless I use it??

I'll be able to get several pieces out of this nice sized sample, but before cutting it all up I wanted to test out adhering the canvas to some Gator Board to make a panel out of it. So I cut a small piece to make a 4x6 panel and that's what this tiny little landscape was painted on. I thought it would be a good way to test out putting together each of the foundational techniques I learned in Barbara Jaenicke's excellent oil course "Painting the Poetic Landscape".

After choosing and cropping a recent photo I took near the Falls Lake park office, I made thumbnail sketches of compositions and thought about what drew me to the scene in the first place. I love the way the morning light is catching this one spot of the bushes and causing a long shadow and light pattern on the ground. I planned my value structure around having the most contrast and detail at the sunlit bush area.

Once my composition was organized I toned the surface of the panel with transparent oxide yellow, drew in the basic lines of the shapes, and blocked in the dark and medium values with burnt umber while wiping out the lightest areas with a rag.

4x6 landscape painting - underpainting Apr 12 2019
Underpainting in transparent oxide yellow and burnt umber
Then I mixed up some colors, making 5 columns on my palette to represent the main values I wanted to use. The colors in the sunlight were warmer than the shadow colors.

I started to apply color with the cooler colors, keeping some of the shadow areas very thin to allow a bit of the underpainting to peek through. I worked my way around the painting to see how my color relationships worked, and for the most part I was happy with what I had mixed up.

The hardest part of this one was figuring out a way to handle the background trees. I tried several things and was happiest with the results from using a palette knife. Adding a hint of sky and sunlight between the tree trunks helped open up the area without being distracting.

The oil-primed linen was really nice to work on. I found it to be easy to use, meaning it didn't fight against any of the things I wanted to do.

This was so fun to create! And another great reminder of how painting small and often will help me improve my skills.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Value to color studies of apple still life

value and color study of apple still life Apr 11 2019
Still life study in values, color temperature, and brushwork

Study topics

Value study from still life; color study based on value study; lost edges; mark-making; color temperature

Process notes

Set up two green apples with colored papers near a window with afternoon sunlight. Painted a 7-value black and white study (5 main grey values plus black and white for accents only) on Arches Oil Paper. Used Gamblin Portland Greys for the middle 3 values and mixed the remaining ones.

Divided my palette into 5 columns, one for each of the main values with the coordinating grey mix at the top for reference. Using ultramarine blue, naphthol red, cadmium yellow pale hue, and titanium white, mixed piles of green, blue-grey, and violet-grey, plus a single pile of tan. To increase fluidity, I mixed a few drops of safflower oil into each pile.

While painting the color study, I tried to strictly stay within my light and shadow families and not blend away brush strokes. I used a medium sized brush for the initial color application and switched to a smaller one for more detailed strokes. I also modulated the color temperatures for interest in the flat plane and shadow areas.

value study of apple still life Apr 11 2019
Initial value study in black, white, and grey oil paints

color study of apple still life Apr 11 2019 - black and white
My color study, converted to black and white

What I learned

The best part of this exercise was how much I learned about the value relationships in my subject independent of color. By constantly comparing one area to another, it helped give me a more clear roadmap for color mixing, and where lost and hard edges could go.

I painted the value study on one afternoon, and the color study on the next afternoon. Choosing to use natural light from the window made the timing tricky because I had to wait for the light to be in the same approximate position as it was when I created the original value study. Lucky for me the second day was also sunny!

I didn't like how smooth and blended the brushwork looked on the value study, so I made a serious effort to avoid that on the color study. I didn't really worry about going back into an area more than once, but I did load more color or wipe my brush off after each stroke. This helped me vary the colors instead of plowing over large areas with a single color. I thought more about how it would look from several feet away versus painting-length away.

I've been doing some timed studies lately, but for this one I gave myself no time limits. I really enjoyed my time at the easel with the pressure of the ticking clock removed. Those timed exercises are valuable and can be fun, but I need to avoid adding that constriction arbitrarily. Slower and methodical is a more intuitive pace for me, generally speaking.

It was shocking how intense the colors were when I started laying them down next to each other on the oil paper. To get them dialed down to the intensity I wanted, I added in the complements and the colors felt a lot better to me. I really enjoyed working with the color temperature, especially with opportunities for lost edges and the warm sunlight shining onto the objects.

Thinning the paint with safflower oil worked well for me, but next time it would be good to mix it into the paint before mixing all of the individual piles.

Monday, April 8, 2019

"Twisted Twenties" exercise

twisted twenties - simple apple still life exercises Apr 6 2019
The bottom two were timed at 20 minutes each, and the top two weren't timed (I'd guess about 30–40 minutes each)

Study topics

"Twisted Twenties" exercise from Sarah Sedwick (three-color palette, quick studies, simple subject)

Process notes

Set up the first three subjects near a window but no direct light, and the last one with a direct light. Rotated the subject with each study for slightly different views and shapes.

Trying out my new Arches Oil Paper with synthetic brushes and solvent-free gel medium. Scrubbed some Gamsol/Safflower mix onto the paper before starting each study with a synthetic brush to help the paint flow better and not drag over the surface.

Premixed the colors from yellow (cadmium yellow pale hue), blue (ultramarine), and red (alizarin permanent for first two and naphthol red for second two).

What I learned

My goal was to keep the brush strokes simple and unfussy, and that is so much harder than it sounds! There are a few things I can try next time to move in this direction:
  • focus on value and temperature, and be less concerned with exact hue
  • limit myself to one brush stroke in each color shape
  • organize my palette with more clarity when mixing colors, and mix enough steps for the light family and shadow family to turn the form with single strokes instead of blending edges together
  • shift my brain from seeing a specific apple with all of its particular dull spots and color markings toward being inspired by the apple and simplifying it
  • do preliminary black and white studies and then do color versions based on what I discover about the value relationships

I appreciated seeing the differences between soft window light and a direct light on the subject, and the impact of the different lighting conditions on the shadows. It was definitely challenging to find the terminator line on the setups with window lighting.

It was also good to be able to see the difference between my two reds, alizarin and naphthol. The alizarin made a cooler red that was more like the subject, which was very evident in the shadow side of the apple. This is a good case for having both a warm and a cool red on the palette, but also what got me thinking about exploring a focus on value and temperature over exact hue.

This apple's best days are behind it and it's lost any sense of vitality…I noticed this while painting the studies, but forgot the important principle of "don't just paint it exactly as it appears in nature — make a good painting". Or as Carol Marine says in her book Daily Painting: Don’t Ever Use the Line “But It Was Really Like That".

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Leafless trees study on edges

landscape study based on Painting the Poetic Landscape Edges and Editing lesson - completed
A study in edge handling and simplifying complex masses of leafless trees

Study topics

Simplifying vague, complex shapes; sky holes; overcast day

Process notes

Using the third lesson on Edges & Editing from Barbara Jaenicke's oil course, Painting the Poetic Landscape, I made a thumbnail study from a photo I took while hiking a path in Durham. Then I sketched it in with a brush onto a toned 9x12 sheet of Fredrix acrylic-primed canvas, followed by a tonal underpainting.

landscape study based on Painting the Poetic Landscape Edges and Editing lesson - block-in
Tonal underpainting with softened, vague edges

Looked for opportunities to simplify values and lose edges, varying color and temperature. For colors, I mixed a variety of cools and warms in the 4 basic values of my composition. Moved around the canvas, testing colors for value and temperature before completing any particular shape. Finished with some sharp lines made with a palette knife and refinement of sky holes.

What I learned

Since my reference photo was taken on an overcast afternoon and things looked subdued, I really needed to watch my value contrast. I do wish I had made the gradient in the foreground stronger though by darkening and increasing the temperature a bit more in the lower area.

I saved the sky holes for the end, and they got a little rushed. Next time I would look more carefully at their structures, and slow down to make them less haphazard.

I love this color palette! I think it suggests that mellow, overcast light I experienced on my hike. There's a lot of potential in that mowed field in the foreground that I could explore more.

This Fredrix canvas worked well, and the underpainting went onto it really nicely.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Landscape study in color temperature

landscape study based on Painting the Poetic Landscape Color Temperature lesson - completed
Painted from a reference photo taken at sundown, with warm evening sunlight and cool sky blues reflected in the water

Study topics

Composition with 5 shapes; color temperature

Process notes

Using the fourth lesson on Color Temperature from Barbara Jaenicke's oil course, Painting the Poetic Landscape, I made a thumbnail study from a photo I took recently on a road trip between Charlotte and Raleigh. Then I sketched it in with a brush onto a toned 9x12 sheet of paper primed with acrylic gesso and molding paste followed by a tonal underpainting.

landscape study based on Painting the Poetic Landscape Color Temperature lesson - block-in
Tonal underpainting

For colors, I mixed a variety of cools and warms in the 4 basic values of my composition (blue, violet, orange, green). Blocked in the cool colors, then warm colors. Once everything was blocked in, I added details in the water ripples, plants, and tree trunk.

What I learned

The surface I experimented with (acrylic gesso + molding paste) didn't work nearly as well for me as the one I made with a layer of matte medium. While toning this surface the bristles my hog bristle brush started to break off. I think it was too much like sandpaper for the natural hairs, so I switched to a large synthetic for the rest of the toning and scrubby block-in.

This underpainting got rather intense and red, much less neutral than my previous ones. I think it's making my painting take on an overly pink tone, but I can't tell if it's that or I'm using too much red in my color mixes. Will have to continue to explore with that.

Two things I really like about this study:
  1. The two grassy plants in the water, and the way the palette knife carved some sharp lines out of the soft general shape. I went overboard with the peachy highlights on them, but the general approach was great!
  2. The colors in the water and the reflections.
I don't like this composition very much…the thick tree trunk on the right cuts off the rest of the painting in an awkward way so there's not a good flow. I thought it would make an interesting, abstract dark shape, but not so much. I actually prefer it cropped out:

landscape study based on Painting the Poetic Landscape Color Temperature lesson - completed cropped
The composition is improved by cropping out the tree trunk on the right

There's one more demo in this course, called Edges & Editing. I'm loving these lessons and how they focus on a specific fundamental topic. One thing I'm interested in is making my colors lower in intensity and naturalistic while capturing the intriguing qualities of light. This series is helping me see that colors can be quite muted on the palette, but once they're sitting together on the canvas the whole relationship can change. 

Monday, April 1, 2019

Ten-minute apples challenge

10 Minute Apples exercise Mar 31 2019
Ten-minute apples (minus the upper left)

Study topics

Ten-minute apples exercise from Daily Painting by Carol Marine — Painting from life; color mixing; time limit; simplified brush strokes

Process notes

Divided an 11x14 sheet into 12 units and toned it with a warm mid-tone color. This sheet was a poster board that had two layers of acrylic gesso, lightly sanded, plus a layer of acrylic matte medium to reduce absorbency. Premixed the basic colors before starting. Sketched in each apple with same color I used for the toned background on a size 2 Silver White filbert brush. Used primarily a mix of size 4 synthetic bristle brushes and a safflower/linseed oil mixture to make the oil paint flow well off the brushes.

Set a timer for ten minutes before painting each apple, except for the first one in the upper left which I used no time limit for. Painted them in two sessions, changing the lighting conditions and background after the first session and rotating the apple every once in awhile.

What I learned

Yikes, ten minutes goes so fast! I got hung up with details quite a bit, and didn't complete very many of them. Next time I would probably try painting the basic shapes of light and shadow families, then go back with the more specific areas of light once everything was blocked in. The way I did these, I basically adjusted the paint color with each stroke as I worked around the apple and ran out of time because of it. This would also help me gauge things like the value of the reflected light because I consistently made it too dark. 

I really like that by painting the same thing repeatedly I became familiar with it and learned from lots of little mistakes quickly. There were some areas where I kept trying the same thing over and over, but it wasn't working well. Eventually I came to see that I could suggest and simplify what I was seeing without being so literal about it.

Using the matte medium over the gessoed paper was an experiment and I was so happy with how it turned out that I'm going to prep some other sheets like this for studies. It was easy to tone, and before it dried I could wipe out lighter areas with a rag. I also read about a recipe of 50/50 modeling paste and acrylic gesso to help reduce absorbency that I'm trying out as well. 

Another little breakthrough I had was with the synthetic bristle brushes: it had been difficult for me to get the paints to flow off of them like I wanted, and using the safflower/linseed oil helped tremendously. Curious to see what the additional oil does to the drying time…