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.

Wrinkled Paper #52

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?

Wrinkled Paper #45

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.

Wrinkled Paper #44

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.


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.

Wrinkled Paper #47





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.

Wrinkled Paper #40

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

Wrinkled Paper #41

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.

Wrinkled Paper #42

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


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!

Wrinkled Paper #35

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.

Wrinkled Paper #36

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.


Wrinkled Paper #32Wrinkled Paper #33

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!

Wrinkled Paper #37

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.

Wrinkled Paper #38

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.

Wrinkled Paper #31

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




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!

Wrinkled Paper #24

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.

Wrinkled Paper #25

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!

Wrinkled Paper #27

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!

Wrinkled Paper #28

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

Wrinkled Paper #29

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!