Still Making Art

Life Gets Better as I Get Older

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New Day 27 – It’s Coming Along

I seem to be able to paint a little faster these days. Plus, not having a day job helps!

Here’s my current progress.

Progress 2-14-18

You’ll notice that the “white” table cloth so far has not a spot of plain old white. There’s a mix here of blues, yellows, greens, off whites, purples etc. It’s just magic. I have always loved snow scenes where this amazing mix of colors say “snow”. If I were a landscape painter, I’d be doing snow scenes all the time.

I still do struggle though, and these mushrooms got wiped off in full before I finally trusted the process and kept on putting colors down in the hopes that they’d start looking like mushrooms eventually.

Here’s a closeup of what I see when I’m perched close to the canvas. You can imagine how one can only see a mess, and have doubts that one has got it right.

close up

Getting the right colors can be a real challenge as well. Just look at all the different colors in that one mushroom. If you painted the whole thing just one or two colors or tones, it would never look like a real mushroom. One has to fight all the time with the mind that says something is green when it’s more grey and purple and many different tones to boot.

I’m working with the limited drawmixpaint palette, which really teaches you to see. When I started out, and before I found Mark Carder, I had tubes of just about every color there is – well at least twenty or so. Because I wasn’t able at first to really see the color properly, I wasted so much paint mixing and mixing trying to get what I thought I saw. [Anyone want a lot of oil paints? (Mostly Windsor&Newton artist’s oils.) Let me know! I’ll give you a good deal.]

I should be done in a day or two.





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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.


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 for the formula.) And over that I sketch in the design. (See section of sketch below.)


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.


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.


There’s a long way to go!


Day 11 – The End Draws Near

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


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.


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 7 – How I Paint


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 ( 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.




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Day 4 – Carder Light Box and A Watercolor Sketch

I did some exploring into just who put out the DrawMixPaint videos that I’ve been watching. Interestingly there’s no self promotion in any of the them. I went to the website to find the artist’s name, and then had to google to find out more. Turns out my instincts were good – this artist, Mark Carder will be known to many of you. I’ll let you do your own googling. But when I have a link page, he’ll be right at the top.

My Carder Method shadow box

My Carder Method shadow box

I spent this week building the shadow box he suggests, plus the box for the lamp that goes on top. I had to modify it to sit on my tape cutting table (which happens to be exactly the 36″ he recommends for my height). I also had to do a major clean up of my tiny studio. I removed all my saw making equipment and materials which gave me enough room to create the proper placement of the still-life box and easel, plus overhead light. 

I’m waiting for my 5000k bulbs to arrive, at which point I will wire my lamp box and attach the other to the overhead position on my ceiling. Meanwhile I’ll make my paint checker and holder, and a proportional gizmo – all from the free DrawMixPaint videos. I also need to do some scavenging to find interesting platforms for my still life. In the photo you can see I just plunked my silver baby cup in there on the base that I placed where the platform for the still life I will paint will go. In the painting video mentioned in the earlier blog is of a similar cup. So this might just be my first use of the box.

My workroom is only  8′ high, so it’s all a little close. I’ll have to figure out a clever way to cover the windows and still allow ventilation. Otherwise I’ll be found unconscious at my easel some day – if I’m lucky.

So other than painting the light box [does this count?], I’ve done no other painting this week. But to carry on bringing this blog to present day, after the tape painting, I procrastinated a little more with a pen and ink, watercolor, sketch. Here it is. You can see the pencil sketch in the header for this blog.

My watercolor brushes

My watercolor brushes