Painting Basket, Nest and Bowl

I started painting the basket. It’s so hard at this point to judge the correct colors! I just made my best guess, knowing that I’ll correct later. I decided not to paint the shadows in yet. I’ll use a dark glaze for those when this layer is dry. Unfortunately, leaving out the darks makes it even harder to judge the correct values for the other areas. So, it’s hard to judge both the colors and the values!

I jumped over to the bowl and added a green glaze over all of it. I then darkened a few areas.

Next, I very roughly painted the nest with a tone that will serve as the shadow areas underneath the twigs and grass.

I’ll leave it here for today!

I Begin Painting in Color

The underpainting is finished. The parts that I painted first are now dry enough that I can paint over them.

I began with the wall. I painted very loosely with lots of brushstrokes left showing to simulate the rough look of the rice paper. I wasn’t sure how to proceed with the shadow on the wall. I could have painted the whole wall white, waited for it to dry, and then glazed the shadow over it. I like that method because it mimics the look of a shadow cast on a surface very convincingly, as the color and texture of the wall show through the glaze. It can be hard to control the quality of the edges of this kind of glaze, though. Also, using this method, I would loose the drawing of the shadow underneath and would have to re-see and redraw it in paint with nothing to guide me as I was applying the glaze. For that reason, and because I wanted very soft, diffused edges, I decided to paint in the shadow wet-in-wet from the start. I painted it much lighter than it will eventually be. That way, I can apply glazes over it to darken it and get most of the nice effects of a glazed shadow. I’ll have the painted edges to guide me in applying this glaze. Also, since the soft edges of the shadows will already be in place, I can glaze just inside them and feather them out.

Above, I’ve painted some areas of the green bowl very roughly, just to get some local color down. It’s easier to judge how to proceed with a painting if the local colors of objects are indicated, so I like to cover the underpainting as soon as possible.

I painted the rest of the wall in shadow in the same color as the shadow of the basket. Some of the underpainting shows through this layer. I like that, as it will show through the final glazing a bit to add vibrancy to the shadow.

The wall on the left is shiny and reflects quite a lot of light from the rest of the set-up. I thought it’d look good to paint it darker than it appears, then after it’s dry, to scumble a light tone over it. A scumble is a scrubbed-in wash of thick, undiluted light-colored paint over a darker area. It is applied very thinly, so that the dark shows through. This can create a nice pearly effect that I thought would capture the look of the shiny wall. We’ll see! If it doesn’t work, I can always paint over it!

Close to Finishing the Under-painting!

Now I’ve begun working on the shaded side of the basket. It’s very hard to see, so I turned on my overhead light. It doesn’t matter at this point if the overhead ruins the lighting effects. I just want to see enough to paint the basket correctly. I’ll eventually glaze over this area, darkening it and obscuring most of it. Only a few details will be visible through the gloom, but I do want to know that they’ll be in the right place. I had a teacher long ago who told me that you should never paint what you cannot see clearly from your easel, but I have found this not to be true. If you cannot see something clearly and understand its structure, you will most certainly make guesses and they will be wrong. Even quick, suggested touches in shadow should be based on reality.

It is usually true that in the finished work you should not show details that are not seen in the set-up. That would destroy the sense of reality. It is for this reason that I end up obscuring shadowed details with dark glazes or covering scumbles. Parts of them will be visible, though, just like what you see in real shadows, and they need to be in the right places.

Above, I’ve just about finished. I don’t have every tiny detail rendered, but that’s fine. The rest of my seeing and painting will happen when I start putting in color!

Still Underpainting

I’m continuing to work on the underpainting. Above, I’ve begun to tackle the handle. I wasn’t happy with the accuracy of my drawing of the weave on the handle. I ended up re-drawing it in paint, which is not as easy as with a pencil! It took a lot longer than I thought it would.

Above, I painted the bowl roughly. There’s no point in being too specific at this point, as I’ll just have to re-see it later when I do the over-painting. The under-painting’s main purpose is to serve as a guide for later painting, not to be an exact rendering of the subject in monotones. There is an old style of painting that uses a very detailed and exact under-painting as a base over which to glaze transparent layers. The underpainting, in that case, would be visible underneath the glazes, so would have to be very detailed. The finished painting would be largely a tinted under-painting. I don’t paint this way, except rarely, when I want that effect in a small area. I find that this technique produces a very dry-looking painting without the vigor of alla prima brushwork, and the juicy texture of thick oil paint.

I’ll try to finish the basket at my next session, but it’ll probably take a bit longer!

Transferring the Drawing to the Canvas

It looks like I forgot to publish this post, which should have come before the last one! We’ll pretend that I just finished my drawing and am ready to transfer it to the canvas.

Here’s my canvas being unpacked. I special order all of my canvases from The John Annesley Company, who do top-quality work. They are thicker than the off-the-shelf variety, and are very sturdy. They offer many different canvases, but I’ve settled on my favorite, an oil-primed French linen with a bit of tooth to the weave. I like some texture on my canvas to catch the brush strokes. When a canvas is too fine and slick, it’s not ‘grabby’ enough for me. If it’s too coarse, I can’t get fine detail. Each of my canvases is a unique size. I always design my composition first, and then order the canvas. I never begin with a canvas and design to that size.

Here’s the blank canvas, waiting for the drawing!

After I traced the drawing onto a piece of tracing paper, I scribbled pencil on the back side. Then I taped the tracing paper to my canvas and traced over the lines with a sharp 2H pencil.

Here’s the drawing transferred to the canvas. I’ll now need to check and re-draw many lines. I find that whenever a drawing is transferred, it needs to be redrawn while looking at the set-up. Any line that is drawn without observation of the object (as happens when a line is merely traced, and not drawn from reality), will not be accurate. Distortions creep in when reality is not consulted, no matter how hard you try to follow the lines when tracing!


I’ve mixed up 9 values of burnt sienna and lead white for my underpainting. I’ve numbered them right on the palette. I find that makes it easier to remember which is which! For a detailed discussion of the under-painting, see

I’ve begun with the bigger areas. As always, I’m working in very light values as compared to what they’ll be in the finished painting. The finished paint layer looks more luminous with a lighter value beneath it. I’m also painting very thinly, both because it’ll dry faster and because I don’t want any brush strokes showing through to my final paint layers. Any visible brush strokes at this early stage wouldn’t be well-considered, and I don’t want them to interfere with subsequent layers.

Above, I’ve started on the basket. It’s painstaking work at first, seeing where all of the little bits go.

Here’s where I’ll leave it for the day. It’ll take quite a few sessions to get that basket done!

Back to the Drawing Board

I was happy with my value study, so I returned to my drawing to finish it up. The basket still needed work! I had many landmarks in place already, so it wasn’t too hard to fill in missing strips. With such a complex object, it’s always hard in the beginning to know what goes where. Once you’ve determined where some of the basic parts are located, it’s easier to see how the other parts relate to them.

Drawing is a process of looking quickly back-and-forth between the object to be drawn and the drawing- always comparing. Speed is essential in order to keep the image of what you are drawing clearly in your mind so that you can remember it long enough to reproduce it accurately. When an object is complex, like my basket, it’s so easy for the eye to get lost in that back-and-forth journey. I might see a small shape on the basket, but when I look back to my drawing, I don’t know where to place it. There are so many bamboo strips! Where should I place that shape? Then, when I look back to the basket to re-check, It’s not easy to find the small shape I was originally looking at! Fortunately, the more pieces that are drawn, the easier it is to know where you are.

I find it very useful to use words to identify what I’m drawing. I might think to myself as I’m studying the basket- “I’m now going to draw this little horizontal strip on the right of the major vertical piece at the point where it bends.” When I glance back at my drawing, the major vertical piece is already drawn with it’s little bend. I know just where to add the new piece. This takes a long time to write, but it’s a very quick process. I’m constantly talking to myself to identify all of the bits I’m drawing. Putting it into words in my head makes it easier to retain the information.

Above is the finished drawing. My next step will be to transfer it onto the canvas.