Still Making Art

Life Gets Better as I Get Older


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New Day 20 – “Nana’s Cookie Jar” Finished

Well – I’m done!

I’m calling this “Nana’s Cookie Jar” because the cookie jar was the item around which I created the still life. And, of course, this is my grandmother’s cookie jar. This sat on a small bureau in the dining room of my grandmother’s summer house at Merrymount on Lake Winnipesaukee. My sister, brother, and I spent our entire summers there throughout most of our childhood. Nana made cookies often, and we would sneak into the dining room when she was napping to steal cookies. There was an art to getting the lid off this cookie jar without the lid making its very tell-tale grating noise. Fortunately Nana also had a larger cookie jar on the same bureau that had a lid more quietly removed.

This cookie jar is one of the few things I have that belonged to Nana. I treasure it.

Here’s the finished product. It’s 24″ x 16″ – oil on linen. [Note: This is a pre-varnish photo, so the blacks may have matte areas that vanish when varnished.]

IMG_7857 - Nana's Cookie Jar - pre varnish

 

 


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Day 19 – Painting Nuts is NUTS!

Do yourself a favor and do NOT put a bowl of nuts in your still life. I spent hours – and I mean many hours – painting these dumb nuts in my still life. I still haven’t captured them to my liking, but I’m moving on to the cookie jar.

One reason I shouldn’t do this is that I have all the browns already on my palette, and should probably paint the single ones on the table top before I move on, but I can’t bear it at the moment. What will happen is that when I do get around to painting them I won’t remember where the blotches are that I used for the nuts before, or I will have mixed them into something else when I get there. Still – I will do the cookie jar in the interests of  painting sanity.

Messy Palette

This is my messy palette. You can see there’s not much room for mixing new colors, so those browns will morph into something else. Either that or I’ll wipe the whole thing clean and start over, which I’ve already done several times on this painting.

I have never been able to keep a tidy palette. For me it’s like what they say about a desk, a messy desk is a sign of intelligence. It is true, however that the messier the palette, the harder it is to find the blotch you just used. Okay…so where was that spot I was using?

I am really happy with the blue bottle.

Before I began painting in oils, I thought it would be nearly impossible to paint glass, but in fact glass is one of the easiest things to paint. The blotches of light reflections instantly turn the opaque image into transparent glass. It’s just a matter of getting the colors and tones right, and then add the dots of light reflection, and presto – magic!

This is what I love about painting – the magic of it all.

I’ve taken to getting up around 4:30 am on the days when I work full time, to get some good hours in painting. My job isn’t terribly demanding on my left brain, so I get through the day on the job pretty well. Then I come home, feed me and my animals, and then off to bed with a book. I usually fall asleep before I’ve read one page – LOL.

Yesterday I picked up my book and found I just couldn’t remember who one of the characters was. I had to flip back through to sort out who was who. The hazards of getting up at 4: am.

So…here’s where I am at the moment.

Two Candles 5-8-17


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Day 18 – A Lot of Painting and a Lot of Wiping Off

Whew! I did a lot of painting these past few days. I have Tuesdays and Wednesdays off from work. I find having a nice stretch of free time is my best time for painting. So…I worked away.

This was a difficult section for me. I often find that the shadows on cloth are the hardest for me to get the color and the tone right. I did a ton of wiping off and doing over, and lots of using my color checker (see drawmixpaint.com). Usually I’m off because my tone is way too light. And for a cloth that’s basically yellow, the dark shadows are primarily green! And..there’s a lot of subtle colors based on the cool light that’s coming in from the left. In the end I solved my problem when I realized I needed a touch of veridian. The white looks off because the rest of the painting isn’t there yet. Of course I could end up having to tone it down – you never really know if it right until you get the neighboring paint down. But I think I’ve got the hardest bits done now.

FYI – I’ve opened a very basic website – primarily just a gallery – which is, if you are interested: julietbellart.com.

Here’s my progress to date.

Two Candles - 5-3-17


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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.)

sketch

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.

img_7502-copy-my-setup

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.

img_7500-copy-day1-copy

There’s a long way to go!


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Day 11 – The End Draws Near

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

moving-right-along-12-18-16

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.

my-color-blotches

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.

progress-12-7

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.

progress-2

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.

lamination-for-color-matching

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.