I have been going to an evening painting class since September 2009 with a wonderful local painter called Gundula Jacobs, (’Google’ her and see some of her work shown by an American gallery). I have learned so much that I thought I would write a diary as I work through one of my paintings to show the step-by-step progress and try to share the reasons for doing it the way we do.
The set-up is of a wooden box on top of which is one large pine cone (2nd from left); one small pine cone (on the left); a pear (now completed) and an apple (extreme right). The light source is top right – see the dark cast shadow under the pear. The background is a piece of mid to dark blue fabric.
To start with I sketched in the various forms using willow charcoal – not a charcoal pencil as they tend to be too waxy and you cannot dust off the marks if you want to correct your drawing. Once satisfied with the layout, dust off the surplus charcoal and, using a fine-ish brush and yellow ochre paint, re-draw the sketch, taking the opportunity to make any necessary corrections. It is useful to sketch in the cast shadows.
Always start the painting by putting in the darkest dark – in this case the cast shadow under the pear. Then work the dark form shadow on the pear immediately next to this keeping the edges soft – edges that are too sharp give the image a ‘cut-out’ effect, an error I am still making. Continue to work the form of the pear remembering to blend the colours from darkest to lightest to ensure that the round ‘egg-shape’ of the pear shows. Failure to blend these different areas will result in a flat appearance and the image will lose it’s reality.
To complete your work on the first image, put in the background colours immediately adjacent to the painted form – in this case the blue fabric, leaving a feathery edge so that you can come back to the area when you wish to complete the background. This will give you the correct colour and value to compare against those of your pear and you will then be able to determine if you done them correctly – not too light or too dark, neither too warm nor too cold….
As I was in too much of a rush to start painting, I omitted to do my ‘poster’ – a small abstract ‘aide-memoire’ that determines, before you start painting, the relevant colours and tones. This looks like a patchwork sampler and is great to have if your work is spread over several weeks – you can always remix the required colour because you have the small sample of it there in front of you. I will be doing this next week and will share it with you.
First posted March 27th, 2010