Not Painting, then Painting

Today, I go back to work after taking a month off to spend time with my family during the holidays. It’s not easy to jump back in! Working from home is difficult at the best of times because there are always distractions- housework, cats, family, piano. It takes discipline to keep to a work schedule. It helps that I have a separate studio, but getting myself to the studio isn’t always easy! Also, it’s difficult to put my mind back to thinking about the new painting- remembering what drew me to the subject and why I arranged things as I did.  Sometimes I’ve found that taking a break causes me to rethink some decisions I made. A design that looked good a month ago might seem flawed when I consider it with fresh eyes. I’ll report back!

Perspective is Fun!

Wrinkled paper #18I thought I’d construct all of the patterns on the vase using perspective. The one above is the most complicated. I chose the vertical to the left of the descending ‘L’ to calculate. I’ll extrapolate the rest of the parts. I used the same principles as for the zig-zags.

Wrinkled Paper #19

Above, I’ve transferred the pattern onto my drawing. Also, you can see the corrected zig-zag pattern.

Wrinkled Paper #21

Next, the checkerboard pattern!

Wrinled Paper #22

I decided to redraw the pointed triangle pattern at the top, even though I had eye-balled it. I’m all about precision now!

Wrinkled Paper #22

I probably won’t always go to the trouble of calculating similar patterns in the future unless they are very complicated. But as I mentioned before, doing it has given me a new understanding of how curved patterns behave.



Ellipses and Designs in Perspective

Wrinkled Paper #14After working on the drawing above, I noticed that some of the ellipses at the bottom of the vase, right above the base looked wrong, starting at the 6th ellipse up from the bottom. The sixth ellipse seems to have a shallower angle than the fifth. I wasn’t sure if the major axes were too long, forcing me to place them too high on the vase, or if I had misjudged the angles. I did some rechecking and redrawing. I had indeed, mis-measured some of the major axes. Also, the angle wasn’t quite right! Sometimes, it’s not just one thing that’s wrong, so corrections can be hard!

Wrinkled Paper #17

Above, the ellipses flow more smoothly one to the other.

My next problem was that the zig-zag pattern seemed wrong. The pattern didn’t seem to be receding enough in perspective as it approached the sides of the vase. I decided to try to calculate it instead of eye-balling it.

Wrinkled Paper #16

Above, I drew a circle the same diameter as the top ellipse of the zig-zag band, and marked off the correct number of zigs and zags. (I estimated this number, as I couldn’t see all the way around the vase, and didn’t want to disturb my set-up. I don’t think that will make too much difference.) I counted 10 repetitions per quarter circle. I divided 90 degrees by 10 and marked off 9 degree increments on my circle. I drew verticals down from these points to my ellipse and marked off the intersections.

I saw right away that something was off. The triangles weren’t tilting out to the sides of the vase as they wrapped around towards the back. I had forgotten that the vase is sloped and that the ellipse that marks the bottom of the zig-zag band is smaller that the top one. The tick-marks for the tops of the triangles were correct, but the bottom points  had to be drawn from a smaller circle.

Wrinkled Paper #15

In the drawing above, you can see that I’ve now drawn two concentric circles the sizes of the top and the bottom of the band. I get the top points of the triangles from the red lines drawn vertically from the larger circle, and the bottom points from lines drawn from the smaller inner circle. Now, the zig-zag pattern tilts convincingly as it approaches the sides of the vase.

Though I could have drawn this by eye if I worked hard enough at it, I found it very helpful to calculate the correct perspective. Sometime a little hard knowledge really helps you to see. Though I already knew that the pattern would get smaller as it went around the curve of the vase, and that the patterns would seem to tilt more as they approached the edge, seeing it accurately drawn really cemented those ideas in my head, and gave me a clearer idea of why they were true.


Finishing the Drawing

Wrinkled Paper #7I’m drawing the ellipses on the vase while I’m waiting for my canvas to arrive. I calculated the angles of the ellipses at the top and bottom of the vase, using a string and protractor.  (See Portfolio and Jewelry: Drawing for more details on drawing ellipses.) They measure 11 degrees at the top and 23 degrees at the bottom. I interpolated the angles of all of the ellipses in between and indicated them on the drawing. You can see that in the photo below. After I know the angle and the length of the major axis, it’s simple to draw the correct ellipse with a string and two pins.  I transfer the ellipse drawing from the tracing paper to my drawing by flipping it over, laying it on my drawing, and tracing the lines.

Wrinkled Paper #6

With the ellipses in place, I can start to draw the designs on the vase. It’s tricky getting a regular pattern to appear to wrap around a cylindrical form. Repeating patterns will look closer together as they turn away from you. I could calculate how they would appear precisely using geometry, but it’s not worth the trouble. I can eyeball it!

Wrinkled Paper #8

Small details won’t survive the underpainting. I’ll indicate them as best I can, but I always end up redrawing them with my brush in the final layers.

Wrinkled Paper #9


The Black-and-White Study


Above are my paint mixtures going from white to black. I number them right on the palette, so it’s easier to keep track of them. For instance, if #4 is too light, I can go right to #5, without wondering which one I’d just tried. I find that 9 values gives me enough range to judge the final result, though in a finished painting I use many more values.

Wrinkled Paper #2

I’ve taped tracing paper over my drawing, and paint my study right on the paper with oil paint, using the drawing as my guide. Here is my first stab at the values. It’s hard to get these correct right off the bat, because you can’t judge something’s value unless you can compare it to the adjacent value. I always have to make many corrections once this layer is dry.

Wrinkled Paper #5

I’ve roughly indicated the texture of the paper background. I’ve also tried to correct the values in the vase. I’ve darkened the background on the right. Now I’ll let it dry for a few days because tacky oil paint is impossible to paint over!

Wrinkled Paper #3

The finished study is shown above. The photo has some glare on the left side, so those areas appear too light. I’ve very roughly indicated the design on the vase, and did not attempt more than a suggestion of the paper’s wrinkles.  Details aren’t important here. I’ll use this study to judge the overall composition. If it doesn’t look good in black and white, it won’t look good in color!

I’m pretty happy with this. I wondered if the composition would be improved by cutting off a bit of the top.

Wrinkled Paper #4

I think not. I think that the original version with more space at the top lends the composition a sense of airiness that I like.

Now I’ll order my canvas. That should arrive in a few weeks. Until then, I’ll return to completing the drawing, especially of that very detailed vase!


It’s time to do a drawing. I start by locating major landmarks using my viewfinder and knitting needles, and then measure and draw!  (See ‘Drawing Again’ for details.) Drawing Again


Drawing the designs on the Greek vase will be time-consuming. I think I’ll leave them out for now so that I can more quickly get to my black-and-white study. Small details like the patterns on the vase won’t effect the larger composition, so I can just suggest them in the study without a detailed drawing to guide me. Once I’m happy with my study and don’t need to make any changes in the size of the finished painting, I can order my canvas. This usually takes a few weeks to arrive. I’ll use that time to work on the drawing of the vase.



A Better Photo

I managed to get a better photo of ‘Japanese Basket.’ Most of the glare is gone!

Japanese Basket and Wine Decanter