This week, I left the poinsettia at home and worked only from photographs of the still life. Today was my second “pass” * at the painting after the sketch, under painting and blocking in of shapes that I did in the first week. So far, I have spent about nine hours working on this painting. Today I worked on the poinsettia leaves, the snowman, and the background. *By “pass” I mean adding another layer of paint in a few parts of the painting.
Some challenges I worked on today were: finding the right color mix for the shadows on the snowman’s face to make him seem rounded. “Losing the drawing” always seems to crop up at this point. The initial charcoal drawing might have had a more accurate rendering of the snowman’s hat or nose, for example, but when paint is applied over the drawing, the image evolves away from the drawing. Sometimes, I try to correct it and sometimes, I can’t or don’t if the painting seems ok as it is.
I don’t have a strict ‘order of operations’ as in algebra. Next week, I will move around the painting, trying to get the painting to look like the still life in a fairly realistic way. It just takes patience, time, observation, careful color mixing, picking the right size and type of brush, and stepping back to look at the painting. I take photographs to help me “see” what I’m doing and monitor my progress. So we’ll see what next week brings. I’m not in a hurry to finish. My sketchbook provides an outlet for quick work, but paintings can take months to finish.
In my second week of working on the still life, I added another layer of color to the plant, the snowman, and the Christmas balls. ( The canvas is in the middle on the easel with photographs taped to the sides here.) I was working from the still life and from photographs of the still life which I took last week. The poinsettia changed a bit and it was difficult to position it exactly the same as the week before, so the photographs help with the consistency and details of the painting. Next week, I might not bring the plant to class because the car rides in the cold weather seem to be making it lose some foliage.
In the photo collage, you can see week one at the top and week two below. The plant was in the still life, but I had packed it up to ride home with me before I remembered to take a picture of my progress. Basically, I added thicker paint, more accurate colors than in the underpainting, and began putting in more shadows to suggest volume. more shadows than highlights at this point. So from mid tones to darker last week to this week. Next week I will continue from mid tones to darks and maybe hint at highlights. Details with finer brushes and reflective highlights probably come last, or later, although there are no strict rules on the order of operations for me.
While playing with my photographs of the still life, I made a chronological photo collage for a quick look at the painting’s progress over time. I also began to wonder if making a ‘posterized’ version of the photo would be useful to help me think about the shapes of the colors and shadows in a very simplified way. Photoshop has a posterize filter, but for the photograph above, I used a website that allows you to upload and posterize any image. It was simpler to use my iPhoto on iPad to play with this option than to use my computer (Windows 10) and Photoshop. I am straddling, and struggling, with the two worlds of Apple and Microsoft and have just added into this technological tangle a small Canon Elph point and shoot camera. These platforms do not always play well together which can be frustrating. Using paints, brushes, canvases and looking at a real still life seems easier than climbing the technology learning curve. But climb we must, I suppose.
In my last post, I mentioned that one element of the still life I am working on in my teacher’s studio has to come home with me each week. I can’t leave the poinsettia because the studio cats might be tempted to nibble on this toxic plant. So the potted poinsettia gets tucked up in a brown paper bag each week and sits in the passenger seat while I drive home. So far the cold weather has not bothered it. It is so cold in my home studio that the plant is now on my dining room table where it’s nice and warm for this tropical denizen and also warm enough for me to draw it in my sketchbook today without freezing my hands. I sketched the plant loosely in pencil, then inked it in black. I erased the pencil marks, then added the color with a new set of watercolor markers that my daughter gave me for Christmas. The colors are vivid. The brand is ‘Primrosia.’
Technical stuff: I blocked out the drawing to be three times the size of a standard 5 x 7 greeting card so that when photographed to send to the printer, the resolution would be very high when the size was reduced from 15 x 21 to 5 x 7.
Choose paper color and go! The drawing of my hibiscus bloom, seen in the photograph attached to the easel, is blocked out with a white pastel pencil on green paper.
Starting my 2021 Christmas card
Adding color to the drawing
The finished drawing for the Christmas card
I uploaded the finished image to Vistaprint to turn into my 2021 Christmas card. If you read the stories of my other greeting card misadventures, this year was a much smoother experience thanks to the technical and artistic guidance of my teacher. Thank you, thank you to her. And Merry Christmas to all!
I started a still life painting in October, laying in the underpainting in two class sessions of three hours each. The photograph on the easel helps me remember what the flowers looked like when fresh. The blue tape sets the boundaries of my field of vision and keeps my gaze consistent over the weeks. There is a spotlight to the right of the gourds which casts dramatic lighting and shadows.