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.

Finishing the Underpainting

Wrinkled Paper #30The underpainting is finished! I included some cast shadows on the left, but then decided I would paint over these with the local color of the tabletop. After that dries, I’ll paint the shadows over as glazes. The shadows will look convincingly transparent, because a glaze actually is transparent! Also, the color will be just right, because the color of the tabletop will show through the glaze.  A shadow painted directly with body color doesn’t seem as transparent, and it can be tricky to guess the correct color. I’m always tempted to paint in the shadows from the start with body color, both because I don’t want to lose my drawing, and its easier to blend the shadow edges softly while painting wet-in-wet. A glaze can be more challenging to blend.

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I managed to preserve the drawing on the vase. Now I have to let everything dry so I can start painting.

 

 

Underpainting

Wrinkled Paper #26It’s time to start my new painting! As always, I begin with the underpainting. Above, I’ve mixed 8 values of raw sienna and lead white, and numbered them from lightest to darkest. It’s easier to remember a number than a color!

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Above, I’ve begun painting in the large areas. In the underpainting, I want everything to be several values lighter than the correct value. I’ve found that the finished colors look more luminous with a paler value beneath them. It doesn’t matter at this point if the values are correct relative to each other or not. My main goal is to get a layer of paint down to serve as a base for subsequent layers. I’m careful not to lose the drawing, as it will be my guide.

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Above, I’ve added the obsidian and started on the vase. Usually, I paint the underpainting very loosely, without much detail. Since it will be painted over, It would be wasted effort to be too precise. But on the vase, if I don’t paint the details, all of my drawing would be lost!

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At my next session, I’ve mostly completed the wrinkled paper. It turned out that my drawing wasn’t quite right, so I ended up redrawing many of the wrinkles (using paint instead of a pencil!). It happens so often that I think I’ve been accurate in my drawing, only to discover errors later!

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Above you can see how loosely I’ve painted the paper. That’s really all I’ll need to guide me.

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The vase will take a little longer. I’m what I call ‘drawing with paint’ here, mostly trying the preserve the drawing and make the lines clearer.

I considered not doing an underpainting on the vase, and proceeding directly to painting the correct local colors, so I could save some time and not have to paint all of these lines again. However, in the end I decided that I want all parts of the finished painting to have the orange tones of the raw sienna underpainting beneath them. Not only does the underpainting show through thin glazes and scumbles, it is visible in small areas that I leave uncovered, to serve as a finished color in its own right.

If I didn’t underpaint the vase, it might stand out in the finished work as not being lit by the same light as the rest of the painting. One of the advantages to using an underpainting is that it helps brings a unified color to the finished work.

 

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.

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

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Next, the checkerboard pattern!

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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