Still Making Art

Life Gets Better as I Get Older


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Day 13 – Starting The First Painting of 2017

With Monday a holiday, I have 4 days free before I have to head off to my day job. Bliss! So I’ve wasted no time in starting a new painting.

First I set up a still life to my liking. This usually takes me a whole day. I built two still lifes before settling on the third. It takes me a long time getting things right, and as I’ve mentioned before, I have to really like the setup, or I’ll end up abandoning the painting.

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Here’s what I settled on.

What usually ends up working is that I’ll find an object – in this case it was the cookie jar. Then I look at it to see what other objects and colors go with it. In this case it was blues, purples, browns, and yellows.

I knew I had a fabric that would work with it – I’ve used it before. Then I looked around outside to see what might be there of use, and I ended up with the dry goldenrod. This fall I had saved a bag of leaves so I pulled that out and found a bunch that seemed suitable. Next, I went to the store for the grapes. I also looked for other foods and I picked the nuts, the star fruit, and a coconut (which I didn’t use). I found the cranberry candles at a local shop, and then spotted the cattails at the roadside as I drove home. I parked the car and clambered down the icy embankment and managed to break off two stems. (Not as easy as one would think.) Then home I went with my treasures to set up a pleasing still life.

After much rearranging and fooling with the lights, I finally got an image that I excites me enough to want to paint it.

Then I had to decide on the size, and this is usually determined by the size of stretches I have that are the proper ratio for the image. In this case I’ve settled on 24 x 16. I often end up choosing non traditional sizes which then requires me to build my own frame –  if I feel a frame is the way to go.

Then comes all the tedious bits of stretching and preparing the canvas, and then sketching the image.

I am painting on linen, and though I prefer my own primed linen to the oil primed linen I have, in the interests of getting going, I stretched the pre-primed linen this time. I find the oil primed linen is very slick to paint on, and it took some getting used to. The first time I used it I was convinced the paint was never going to stick to the surface, but it did, and I don’t worry about that anymore. But still, I prefer the gessoed surface as it has more tooth.

But hey! I have it, and it wasn’t cheap, so I need to use it.

First I put on a coat of quick drying under-painting. (See DrawMixPaint.com for the formula.) And over that I sketch in the design. (See section of sketch below.)

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I personally prefer a pretty detailed sketch. I should have done an oil transfer for the sketch, but to be honest, I forgot to do this. The last time I did an oil transfer, it was summer and humid. The transfer paper all stuck to the canvas, and it was a big mess which I had to wipe off with turpentine and start all over. So I transferred the image using graphite paper and then drew over the graphite with sepia permanent ink. Then I wiped the whole thing with turpentine to remove the graphite.

Then I fastened two screw-eyes into the stretcher at the back and tied the canvas to the cross-board on my easel so the thing won’t fall off. Since I had already cleaned off my palette after finishing the earlier painting, I am then all set to begin painting.

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Here’s my setup. And yes, that’s a highchair from the days when my grandkids were small.

And here’s what I managed to do today.

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There’s a long way to go!


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Day 12 – Done and Signed

I’ve finished the painting. I’m calling it Fall Day’s Harvest. I sat with it for a while on Saturday, making tiny adjustments here and there, and then on Sunday morning I signed it. It’s done. I did decide in the end that I liked the background as it was.

It will be weeks before it’s dry and ready to varnish.

fall-days-hrvest-finishedThis is photographed at a slight angle to remove the glare from the overhead light. It measures 14″ x 14″. It took me a while to warm up to this photograph, but now I think this is one of my favorite paintings.

What to do next – that is the question.

 

 


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Day 11 – The End Draws Near

I’ve not photographed recently, so today’s blog shows many days of painting.

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I’ve begun the bottom cloth, and am mostly using a #8 filbert brush. I still resort to my small brush for edges and the like. There’s still a lot to do – shadows need deepening in places etc., but I can see that I’m nearing the end.

Here’s my color checker laminate to date. I still also use my color checker that I built according to Mark Carder’s design at DrawMixPaint. I find the plastic sometimes is too reflective to give me a good view.

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I’m getting better and better at mixing the correct color and value without having to use the checker.

I expect to finish this this week. While I finish this up I will be thinking of what I will paint next. Usually by this time I would have settled on a subject, and even done the setting up and photographing. Even preparing the canvas. I like to be able to go straight into a new painting without having to do all the prep work. But that won’t happen this time. There’s too much going on this time of year to fit everything I want to do into the time I have.


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Day 10 – Just Doing The Work

I’m getting up these days full of energy only to bog down when it’s time to paint. But I tell myself that if I just sit down and start painting I’ll find myself engaged. So even though I don’t paint for long stretches at a time, I’m slowly making progress.

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December 7 – progress to date.

I know I’ll have to darken many of the shadows, but I’ve moved on to mapping out the darks and lights of the beet leaves. The more I get on the canvas, the more I can see where adjustments have to be made.

I think the most important thing for me in painting is liking the image. I will occasionally sketch in a whole canvas only to decide I don’t like the subject. With this image I sat with it a long time, even painting a different image, before deciding I really liked this one. I have made a change to the background as it is all black in the photo. I will decide after it’s nearly done whether I’ll leave it this way or choose the deep contrast pitch black. I seem to do so many paintings with black, that I thought it was time for a change.

 

 


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Day 9 – All in A Day’s Progress

I’m posting today so you can see how much (or little) I can do in a day.

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I can see where I need to fix the values.

I painted most of the day, and this is all I have to show for it. I honestly don’t know what others do, but since many do a painting a day, I think I must be a very slow painter.

One of the useful things about photographing as you go, is it is sometimes easier to see on the computer where you’ve got the tone or values wrong. I can see here that the value at the bottom of the lower pepper is way off. I’ll fix that in my next session. This is easy to do since the paint I use is slow drying.

I did do some touching up on the basket, but I’m still not totally satisfied with it.

Here’s the piece of lamination I’m using for this painting.

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Laminating plastic with my color splotches.

This is a remnant from a laminating machine. You can easily get pieces of this from a place that laminates. I happen to work at a place that does this, but any laminating shop will give you the pieces that get cut off after putting something through the machine. This is a nice stiff clear piece of plastic, and I find it easier to color match this way than to laminate my whole photo (expensive), and dab paint on it. That method requires wiping off which is a waste of time.


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Day 8 – Hiatus and Paints

I’m back painting again after a forced hiatus due to food poisoning. A week or so ago I was just finishing off a tub of humus when I came upon a posting about a humus recall. “What!!” I said, as I scooped the last bit from the tub with my finger. Turns out the humus I’d just finished was on the recall list due to a possible listeria contamination.

I was consoled when I read the symptoms and found that the dizziness I’d been experiencing was a symptom of listeriosis and probably not a heart attack or a stoke, but I was dismayed that much of the next week that I had off from work was spent in bed – not really sick, but tired and unmotivated to do anything.

Today I emerged from my hazy condition and began painting again.

Here’s progress so far.

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Back painting. See my disorganized palette?

Notes on Paints

If you look to the far right, on the shelf beside my palette, you can see several tubes of Geneva brand oil paints. As mentioned, I am a devotee of drawmixpaint. Several years ago they came out with a brand of oil paints which are not mixed with toxic chemicals. You can read all about them on their website. After having a cold for months which I could not seem to shake, I began to wonder if it was brought on by my painting during the winter in my tiny unventilated studio.

I invested in the Geneva paints, and have never gone back to my old paints, except for the rare occasions when I need a turquoise or a color that just can’t be mixed from the Geneva limited palette. I have not had any health issues attributable to painting since, and in winter I have no ventilation except for the open door to the rest of the house.

I also find that the paints suit the way I paint. I don’t add anything to them – just use them as they come out of the jar (earliest packaging) or tube.

You might think I have a vested interest in talking up the paints, but I don’t. I just want to share my experience in the off chance it will be useful to someone else.

Notice how messy my palette is? I didn’t learn that from drawmixpaint. It’s my self taught method. Hey – if it works, don’t fix it!

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Here’s a close up of progress so far. There’s still work to do on that basket – not quite right yet. This is a still life of one day’s harvest from my garden this summer.


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Day 7 – How I Paint

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My work station and tools of the trade.

I thought it might be purposeful to describe a bit how I paint.

Right up front I want to give a lot of credit to a particular website (drawmixpaint.com) which is crammed full of free videos (and some you can purchase) covering every subject imaginable on how to paint in oils, from start to finish. Everything you need to know is free, and the artist teaching you is very skilled in teaching.  One of the things I was most grateful for in Mark Carder’s videos is the fact that it is all in real-time speed. There’s none of this sped up painting that leaves you thinking that you should be able to throw the paint on the canvas and get a good result. You get to see how it’s really done.

I watched every video, and built most of the tools and equipment suggested. His style suits me, but even if your style of painting differs, the information on the site is invaluable to a self taught painter like myself. (Perhaps I can’t really call myself self-taught).

Some of the important things you see in the photo above are:

  1. A black cloth covering the window to block the glare in my face
  2. A special daylight bulb overhead which allows true sight of the colors you are painting (that light behind the easel is not used for painting purposes)
  3. A high quality photo of my still-life sized to match the size of my panting
  4. Paint pallet of glass over brown paper (for ease in mixing correct colors)
  5. Color checkers – a hand built black one (drawmixpaint) and a small piece of lamination plastic on which I put dabs of paint to hold up against the photo for color matching
  6. Tilted brush holder
  7. Easel that allows perpendicular positioning of canvas (my stretcher bar has an eyelet through which I run string to tie if to the easel bar – keeps the painting from falling forward
  8. Other things I use are q-tips (the hard rounded type, not soft cotton) for removing small areas that need correcting)
  9. Small jar of Geneva Fine Art Brush Dip [you can also make this yourself – see drawmixpaint]

I don’t do everything according to the Carder method. For instance, I use very small brushes – primarily #2, #0, and occasionally a #6 or #8. I just don’t seem able to use the larger brushes well. Just my style, I guess. This does mean that I paint very slowly. Therefore, I am not able to complete an entire painting before the paint has already started to dry in places. This means that I paint from upper left to bottom right so that I am always painting wet into wet. This also means that I must be continually diligent to get the tones and values correct as I go. I don’t use any mediums that increase the drying time of the paint.

You can see in the photo above that I have laid in the background which is a quick process. Then I start at the upper left with the subject matter. I’ll do all the items on the table first, including the cloth up to the edge of the table. Then I’ll paint the rest of the cloth. I do this so that even if the table cloth has started to dry when I come back to finish it, the transition will be a natural one (in this case, light area to darker area).

I use my mahl stick almost the whole time. I don’t stand back and then reach forward and make a mark on the canvas. Sounds fun, but I need more control.

I do continually get up and stand back to see view the painting fro a distance. I find this absolutely crucial to getting it right. It’s also great fun, because it is when you step back that the magic appears.

I hope this is useful, or at least interesting.

I will talk about paints in the next entry.