A Refining Layer of Paint

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Above are the geode and blue stone, before and after my last session. I glazed the left side of the stone darker, then scumbled in some light tones where the light was strongest. I added some warm tones to the top which were reflecting from the paper above. I darkened the shadows cast by the geode onto the stone and tabletop with a glaze of ultramarine blue, raw umber and alizarin crimson. I softened the top edge of the stone. The geode received a dark glaze where the shadow was cast from the obsidian. I refined the colors on the cut surface of the geode, adding some warm yellowish tones to the pale blue area. I defined the shapes of the rough underneath part and adjusted the colors.

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Next, I repainted the yellow and orange stones, adjusting colors and softening edges. I still can’t get the colors quite right on the orange stone! At least I know that I can always go back to work on it again.

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I noticed that the tabletop was too yellow and bright (and stained with smudges from my glazing), so I repainted it in a more neutral color.

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It’s hard to see here, but I painted the vase handles darker. The little red stone on the far right finally has some shadows.

At my next session , I’ll work on the orange bowl, adding some texture to the front, softening edges, and making the rim in the shadow darker. It helps to have a set goal for my next session-preferably something easy and straightforward. It makes getting started much easier!

 

 

Painting into a Wet Glaze

 

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I put down another dark glaze on the right side of the paper in shadow, then, instead of waiting for the glaze to dry, I painted directly into the wet glaze. This is a nice technique that results in very smooth transitions. It appears that the solid paint is floating in the shadow. It also gives an opportunity to add some subtle colors. I was careful to keep all values very dark, so that they still appear to be in shadow. I think that I will continue to darken this area with glazes after this layer is dry.

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I continued work on the paper in the light, adjusting colors and shapes.

 

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Continuing Work on Paper

IMG_0180The paint on the paper on the right had dried, so I applied a dark glaze over all of it to bring the value down closer to what it should be. This is always fun to do! It’s both simple and transformative. The photo has a glare at the top, so it’s hard to see, but it is darker! Now I can see more clearly what the finished painting will look like. After the glaze was down, I noticed that the folds all looked too soft- almost like cloth. I’ll need to add some sharper edges. Also, the color is too uniform. In reality, there are a lot of warm tones reflecting from the bowl and vase onto the paper.  I’ll address these issues when I apply my next glaze.

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I had another go at painting the paper on the right side in the light. With a base layer of paint set, I can now begin to make better judgements about color and form. The more that I have down on the canvas, the easier it is to spot errors. It’s always less trouble to correct an error than to make your first guess! For instance, If I have a tone down, it’s easy to compare that area to reality and see that it needs to be more yellow or more blue or lighter or darker. Or, if I have most of the wrinkles painted in, I can see if one of them is in the wrong position. Painting is all about comparing- both your painting to reality, and areas of the painting to other areas.

I softened the transitions between dark and lighter areas and between different colors. It’s easy to fall back on laying one tone next to another with a hard edge between them. Reality seldom looks like that! There is usually a blended area between tones. How much depends on the nature of the material. A soft cloth will have very gradual transitions between tones, whereas a fold in paper will have sharper ones.

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Above, you can see that I’ve almost finished the decorations on the vase. I painted the S-shaped designs at the top. I’ve saved working on the delicate transitions from light to dark on the body of the vase until the values of the background are set.

 

Painting Wrinkled Paper, Mostly

wrinkled Paper #48The paper on the right side needed finishing, so I spent quite a bit of time on that, getting the shapes and values of the wrinkles right.

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I also darkened some of the shadows on the table top, being sure to keep the glazes thin and transparent. I added another glaze to the shadow cast by the orange bowl onto the vase, and painted in the diagonal line pattern on the zig-zag area on the vase. I worked a bit on the bowl, adding another layer of paint in a closer color, and softened some edges.

 

Getting More Precise

Wrinkled Paper #46Even though the paper on the right will be in deep shadow, I still want to get the wrinkles right. Enough detail will show through the shadow glaze to make the effort worthwhile. I’m painting this portion of the paper in lighter values than it will ultimately be, because of the dark glaze to come. Seeing this area is very difficult, both because it’s in shadow and because the folds are complex. I spent a lot of time staring at a small section of paper, only to loose track of where it was located when I looked at my canvas to paint it. Another difficulty is keeping the edges soft. There is a great temptation in the beginning to paint the edges crisply, because that simplifies the shapes and makes them easier to paint. I’ll continue to soften edges and borders between darks and lights as I continue to refine.

I noticed that the darker areas of the paper, which I’d painted at my last session, looked too greenish. I had painted them with a mixture of raw sienna, raw umber and white.  I needed to think of another way to darken the color. Darker values of yellowish colors are very tricky to mix correctly. If you add black (which I don’t have on my palette) you end up with green.  Another option is to add a cool tone, because in warm light, shadows are cool.  I tried adding blue. Of course, blue plus yellow equals green- again, not what I wanted! Still another theory holds that you should add a color’s opposite to darken it, so I added purple (the opposite of yellow on the color wheel). That also didn’t look right! Finally, I added a bit of raw umber to tone down the yellowness of the raw sienna, and then neutralized the resulting greenish tone with a reddish color (green’s opposite). I used burnt sienna. The resulting color looked pretty good.

It can be hard to judge if you’ve gotten these subtle colors right.  One trick I use is to curve the fingers and thumb of each hand into a fist, leaving a small viewing hole. I view the set-up through one fist, and the canvas through the other, framing and isolating the color in question. I can flick my gaze back and forth between them and compare.  I try not to think too much, but simply ask myself “how are they different?

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The paint on the vase was now dry enough for me to paint the first glazes in the shadow areas. I used a glaze of ultramarine blue and raw umber to indicate the shadow cast onto the vase from the orange bowl, and the form shadow of the dark side of the vase. I’ll probably darken these shadows later, as I adjust the darkness of the background. I also added a frottie (a glaze mixed with white) on the right side of the vase to darken it to closer to the correct value. Normally, I’d paint subtle transitions in value  (as on the right side) in body color, mixing the tones wet-in-wet, and then paint the details of the vase on top, after the body color dried. Since I didn’t want to lose the intricate drawing on the vase, I would have had to try to blend body color in subtle graduations between all of the markings. It would have been impossible for me to achieve smooth transitions in value while trying to keep the drawing visible.

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It was time to add some more paint to the obsidian. Below, you can see the first layer of paint. Above is my second attempt to correct color and value using both dark glazes in the shadow areas, and direct paint elsewhere.

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I try to work all over the canvas as much as possible, so that no area advances much beyond the others. I added some more glazes to darken shadow areas in the vase, bowl, and stones. I also darkened the shadow cast by the vase on the paper. At my next session I’ll work on the rim of the bowl, as well as finishing my second attempt at the paper. All of this will have to dry before I can glaze the right side of the paper to its proper darkness.

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Refining

Wrinkled Paper #39I decided to begin my session with adding some shadows, since the paint on the tabletop had dried. I had obscured my drawing of the shadows with the overpainting, so I eye-balled them. I used a glaze of ultramarine blue and raw umber. I wiped away most of the glaze, because there are many areas within the shadows that are very light, and the color of the tabletop has to shine through. When the glaze dries, I’ll add more for the darker areas.

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Above, you can see the color of the tabletop shining through the glaze.

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At my next session, I added another glaze to darken some of the shadows. I glazed the shadow of the vase on the wrinkled paper. I mostly completed my first layer of paint on the paper. It’s a very rough approximation, with no subtlety. I find that with complex surfaces that are difficult to see properly, it’s helpful to paint just the most basic forms at first. This enables me at the next session to be able to see even more clearly, and to build on my foundation with more refined details.

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I put another layer of paint on the small yellow stone and the red one, correcting the colors and shapes. I darkened the top right side of the geode with some think paint. Later, I’ll darken it further with a glaze to get that transparent look I like to have in my shadows. I could have simply glazed it now, but I think that I needed to define the geode’s edge with some thick paint first. One of the beauties of oil paint is in the luscious texture of the paint. A painting with too many glazes instead of direct painting looks rather flat and unconvincing.  It can look like a colored drawing, and not an oil painting.

 

Starting to Paint

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Here’s my palette. It’s an antique inherited from my husband’s artist uncle. I’ve added my own patina after 26 years! It is weighted perfectly. I don’t think I could paint with a different one!

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Here’s my rolling painting table, also with a patina! I have one jar for my hog bristle brushes and another for my sables. A jar for my mineral spirits, my palette knife, and a lot of paper towels complete the set-up.

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I put in a dark glaze on both sides. Usually, I’d do several layers of glaze, wiping each one with a cotton pad, and letting each layer dry for a day. Here, I’m experimenting with not wiping with the cloth, and instead, tamping the wet glaze with a domed shaving brush. This leaves a slightly stippled texture and doesn’t remove as much glaze.

I also glazed a few dark areas on the vase, and started to put some color on the stones on the left.

 

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Above, you can compare reality to the painting (the camera angle’s a bit off). At first, I’m just putting down the approximate local colors. After this dries, I can correct by adding glazes for the shadows, lighter scumbles for the lights, and of course, details!

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I’ve painted the table top, stones, and bowl. I’ve made a start on the paper background. I can see now that the color’s off. It’s too green. I’ll correct that at my next session.

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I start roughly, just indicating the general shapes and values. Only once these are in place can I begin to see and paint the details.