Progress of the Basket

Above is the basket as I last showed it. I still haven’t completed the covering of the underpainting in the lower right section and upper rim.

Above, I’ve covered most of the underpainting. I’ve gone back to the shadowed section on the left to the right of the bright thick bamboo strip and picked out some lighter areas that were obscured by the last glaze. I glazed in a shadow on the far right side of the basket. I also worked on the top rim.

I worked on the front top rim and the area below the front two handle pieces. I repainted parts of the handle. Finally, I’ve started to work all over to refine colors and details on the areas that I already worked on. Now that everything is in place, I can judge if areas are too dark or too light, as well as adjust colors. Many of the oranges were too bright. I went over these areas with a more muted orange. Many of the warm deep colors have been very difficult for me to reproduce in paint. When I’ve mixed a color that was dark enough, it didn’t look rich enough. I tried adding alizarin crimson, one of the colors that is both warm and dark, but often this looked too red. Adding yellows (raw sienna, cadmium yellow) made the mixture too light. Raw umber was a bit too cool and greenish. In the past, I’ve been successful glazing these dark rich tones, but it seems cumbersome to glaze so many tiny areas. I’m going to try adding burnt umber back into my palette. I haven’t used it in years. It is a reddish dark brown earth tone. I can’t remember why I stopped using it! We’ll see if it does the trick at my next session.

Finally, I’ve softened edges that were too sharp. I also softened edges and adjusted colors and values in the many small cast shadows. When I focus on these when studying the set-up, they seem darker than they really appear than when I take in the set-up as a whole. Actually, the spotlight and the bright areas in the basket cast light into these shadows, lightening them. This light also seems to warm up these shadows. Some of them seem to have a dark warm reddish hue. Alizarin crimson works well here, because it is transparent, warm in color, and a lighter value than the ultramarine and raw umber tone that I usually use for glazing shadows. This is a bit confusing, since, theoretically, shadows cast by a warm light are cool- so a yellow spotlight will create bluish cast shadows. I have to go with what I’m seeing, though!

Tackling the Nest Again

I thought it was time to work on the nest again. I still don’t feel confident about it. Usually, I know that I can paint something even if it’s complicated. The basket, for instance, is very complex, but I’ve painted a similar one before, and I can understand its structure. The nest, on the other hand, is very irregular and made up of tiny bits and pieces- most of them hard to differentiate from each other. I’ve never tackled anything like it before. When I sat down to paint, I had no idea where to begin. I mixed many colors that I thought I’d need, more as a way of avoiding painting than anything else! Part of the problem is that part of me wants to paint every stick and twig, though I know that that’s neither practical nor desirable. It’s not as if anyone, including the bird who built the nest, would ever know if it was ‘correct!’ More importantly, I need to pick out the essential parts to emphasize the character of the nest. I want to leave out any parts that are distracting or not contributing to the beauty of the whole. An exact replica was never my intention. Eventually, I picked a tiny area to work on and focused just on that. Painting can be hard!

Below, I’ve shown my progress thus far. I’ve published the first four of these photos before, but I thought that it’d be useful to have them here as a basis of comparison with what I did today.

Above is how the nest stands now. I’ve filled in the interior with lighter strands and have begun to add the lightest pieces all over. I glazed the shadows cast by the grass onto the table and over its front edge. I’ve begun to paint in the tiny bits with a very fine brush. I still have more highlights to add and some more details, but it’s largely there now!

The Bowl

Above is my first layer of paint applied to the bowl. I’ve just indicated the basic shapes and colors with no real detail.

Above, I’ve filled in some details, painting the blue design on the right side, some highlights on the top rim, and some bright green at the top and in the reflection in the base.

Above, I glazed a dark green over most of the bowl because everything seen through the glass is modified by its green color. I added some highlights. You can also see that I softened the edges of the light spots on the back wall. I did this by scumbling some light paint over the edges.

I noticed that the top rim of the box seen through the bowl was placed too high. I lowered it. I corrected some shapes and colors near the rim. I did some work on the box top showing some green reflection cast onto it by the bowl.

The question that I am most often asked by people is how I paint glass. I know that it must seem confusing, but it’s just like painting anything else. I’m just painting the shapes that I see through the glass as well as the outline of the glass object itself. The shapes seen through the glass are modified by the shape of the glass object, so that they seem to curve around, following its shape. I suppose the trick is to look at the facts- the visual data- that you are seeing, not to think about the object as transparent. I use my eyes and not my brain, if you will. So, I would say to myself ‘there is a round shape there that is pale green, that touches a dark vertical piece,’ instead of wondering what every little shape actually is. It can be confusing at first to see all of the shapes, because things seem distorted when they are seen through glass, and there can be many reflections. The trick is to just put down what you can understand, and gradually, at each session, you’ll be able to see more.

Shadow on the Back Wall

I’ve been unhappy with the shape of the cast shadow on the back wall. It seemed awkward. I went back and looked at the photo I took of my initial set-up and discovered that indeed, it looked a bit different. (See the photo below.) Perhaps my spotlight got shifted a bit. In any case, the angle of the shadow coming from the upper right was too shallow. Also, the vertical part of the shadow near the basket handle should have been set further to the right, allowing the shape of the shadow of the basket handle to show it’s full curve. Below, you can see the original shot of my set-up.

Below, you can see the adjusted shadow. I scumbled some light paint over the existing shadow, making the angle steeper. I also used a scumble to adjust the shape of the shadow, showing the full curve of the basket handle. I softened all edges.

It’s worth noting here that I never paint from photos. I always look to the set-up for my information. The photos are very useful, though, for judging compositions and refreshing my memory as to what drew me to the set-up in the first place.

The Nest

Above is a (slightly over-exposed) photo of the nest. I include this so that you can appreciate its complexity. Obviously, I’m not going to attempt to paint every twig!

My first stab at the nest (shown in the second shot above) was a bit scary, as I’ve never attempted anything like it before. I was relieved to find that it looked pretty good! At this next session, (shown in the third shot, above) I began to study the forms more carefully. I found it was very hard to get started. The nest looked like a hopeless jumble of twigs and moss going every which way. Just to get going, I glazed the area on the left darker to serve as the shadowed part. I won’t overpaint this until it has time to dry. Next, I decided to look at the major twigs and lumps of moss and to check my drawing. I found that their positions needed adjustment. Details like this are easier to see if you unfocus your eyes a bit and take in the whole nest. I repainted the moss on the right and added some bright green. I placed some twigs that I had left out, and repositioned others. I’m not attempting the lightest twigs yet. I want to paint these later with bold, confident strokes after the base is correct. If I were to try it now, I’d probably need to make changes and re-paint and my beautiful strokes would be wasted. For now, I indicated their positions with a mid-tone. I need to be careful not to completely cover up the dark underlayer which serves as the shadow area.

As the day progressed, the nest seemed more understandable. I was more able to focus on an area, see the shapes and colors, and reproduce the most important parts of what I saw. I just needed to put in the time, carefully observing. It was slow-going, but what seemed hopeless in the morning now seems do-able!

Some Glazes and Scumbles

I was eager to put a glaze down on the rear part of the handle. It’s very satisfying to have part of the composition that is in shadow actually look darker. Also, it’s fun to do! I’ll wipe some of the glaze away with a lintless cloth so that the details will show through.

Above you can see the result. I still have to work on the edges and will selectively restate parts of the handle in shadow to bring out the lighter parts slightly.

It was also time to tackle the nest, at least in a cursory fashion. I’ve never painted anything like it before, and was a bit nervous about it. I had an idea that if I first painted in a dark background tone, I could just pick out the light straw bits with a thin brush. Above is my first experiment. I like the effect. Later I’ll make it more specific, but for now, I’m just relieved that I have a beginning.

The next thing I did was to scumble a light tone over the wall on the left side at the top. Above you can see the before and after shots. Soon I’ll clean up the vertical where the left wall meets the back wall. It’s a bit of a mess!

Here’s a shot of the studio!

A Scumble and More Basket

At this session it was time to scumble a light orange tone on top of the deeper brown of the wall on the left (actually a lacquered box propped up on its edge). A scumble is a semi-transparent layer of lighter paint dragged over a darker layer underneath so that the under layer shows through. You can see the result in the second photo. I preferred this approach to simply painting it in the correct color in one layer because the transparent nature of a scumble results in a surface with a beautiful pearly quality. This suggested the irregular and reflective nature of the box nicely. When scumbling, you have to remember that the area will look cooler (bluer) than the actual paint mixture that you apply. I had to mix quite a bright orange to achieve this result. Also, the paint has to be dragged over the canvas with a dry brush so that the pigment gets caught by the top surface of the weave of the canvas. I also scumbled a few spots of a lighter and cooler tone at the top to represent the reflections cast from the back wall.

Next I applied myself to working on the basket, adding more strips. I’m not going for finish-level quality here. I’m just trying to get the basic local colors in as best I can. I’m not painting the larger shadows yet. These I’ll glaze in later after this layer is dry.

Here’s how it stands!