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!

Making Progress

Sometimes I mix up some colors that I think I might need before I begin to paint as a way of easing into a painting session. It takes the pressure off of me to mix up a perfect color right off the bat. Also, I won’t have to stop painting to mix a color I might need right when I’m just getting started. Anything that makes starting easier is a good thing. The colors above are my guesses for the basket. I’ll end up using some, not using some, and modifying others.

Above, I show the basket as it was when I began the session, and under that, how it looked when I finished. I glazed the left side of the basket, which is in shadow. I’ve been looking forward to doing this, as it’s easy, and instantly reinforces the feeling of 3 dimensions. I’ll add more glazes later, to darken it further, when I can better judge the correct value. I wiped a bit of the glaze off here and there where the light parts of the back wall show through the basket.

Above, I show the box, bowl and nest as I left them at my last session, and under that, what I did at this session. I added highlights to the top of the bowl, and painted in the design on the lower right. I put in the reflected light from the back wall onto the sliding top of the box by scumbling in a light gray. I added some shadows using dark glazes in the interior of the box. Finally, I darkened the nest. This dark tone will serve as the darker, shadowed areas in the nest. When that dries, I’ll overpaint it with lighter strokes, indicating the straw and grass. I’ll leave spaces between the strokes, so that the dark interior will be visible in spots.

Painting the Basket

For this painting session, I decided to tackle more of the basket. This is going to be time-consuming, and I can’t proceed with the rest until I’ve at least covered up the underpainting. I noticed that it was very hard for me to mix the correct colors for all of these bamboo strips. Partly it’s because I’m painting them a different color than they appear, to prepare for subsequent glazes. Mostly, though, I think it’s because I paint by comparing, and there isn’t enough paint down yet to serve as a basis for comparison.

The handle was next. It was very tricky to see all of the intricacies of the wrapping of the bamboo. I did my best to indicate the basic shapes and colors. I wasn’t too concerned about getting all of the details perfect yet, though. I’ll still need to add another glaze to the background. When I blend this glaze, whether by stippling with a shaving brush or wiping with a cloth, some of the glaze will inevitably get on the handle, obscuring some of the paint. I’ll have to restate many areas after that glaze is dry. That’s ok, though. At this point, I’m not trying for finish-level details. I like the whole painting to proceed at the same rate. I don’t want to commit to final details until I can judge the whole together. Later, I will repaint many areas. They’ll be better observed, and the multiple layers of paint add complexity and richness.

I worked my way down the left side. Little-by-little it’s progressing!

Working on Shadows

The shadow cast on the wall by the basket handle was too sharp. To blur the edges more, I mixed three colors- one, the color of the wall, another, the color of the shadow, and an intermediate shade. I repainted the areas where the shadow meets the background, and then dragged the intermediate color between them to blend. It took quite a bit of blending to get it more or less even. The picture above shows the result.

Next I added some cast shadows using a dark glaze. You can see these on the box, tabletop and left wall (I didn’t do the shadow cast by the nest on the table yet). This was very satisfying, as it was easy to do and greatly added to the sense of reality. I didn’t make these shadows as dark as they’ll probably end up. Until I have more paint down, I can’t accurately judge the correct darkness for the shadows. I can add another glaze later to darken them, but I can’t take glazes away! If the shadows get too dark, I’d have to scumble over them with a lighter color. This would result in a more matte texture, which is not the best for shadows. Also, if I want to adjust the color of the glaze for the shadows (if they need to be redder, for example), I can add another glaze later with the color correction without making the shadow too dark.

The last shadow I added was the big shadow on the right cast by the right wall onto the back wall. I brushed on the glaze rather loosely, then stippled it with a shaving brush. This resulted in a nice even finish. Sometimes, instead of stippling with the brush, I wipe off some of the glaze with a lint-free cotton pad. This can also leave a smooth finish, but takes away a lot of the glaze. That’s fine if I want to layer many lighter glazes, but in this case, I wanted one quick dark glaze. I was eager to paint this shadow, as it is impossible to paint the right side of the basket in the correct values unless the adjacent area is correct.

I painted a bit more of the basket on the left shadow side. This is tricky, as I’ll be adding a dark glaze over this area. I need to paint the light areas even lighter than they appear, so that they’ll be visible through the subsequent dark glaze. The dark areas will need to be painted lighter too, so that they’ll be correct value after the glaze is added. The dark glaze will tend to mute details, so much of the clear underpainting will be lost. This is as it should be, because details always look obscured in the shadows. However, I don’t want to lose all of the details! As if that’s not hard enough, I’m painting an area that is in shadow. It’s hard to see!

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!