Monday, 30 May 2011

Sentinel - the background and shadows

Once the wash dried I started working on the background, filling in the large blocks where the dark shadows are. I paid specific attention to the focal area (the rocky outcrop in the sun); adding the darkest colour here. The focal point of a painting should have the biggest contrast between your complimentary colours (or light and dark) as this draws the eye. The natural slope of the mountain is being used to draw the eye in an upwards direction as well.

The mountain in the background has been lightly suggested but will need more work done later. The original image lacks this detail but I have added it for depth.

Sentinel - preparation

For this painting I have decided on a dramatic landscape where part of a mountain is illuminated with strong light from the setting sun, leaving much of the rest of the landscape in shadows. An outcropping of rock stands guard over the surrounds in this lighter area. I'm using the complimentary colours of dark purple and orange as my primary palette.

To start I applied a thin wash of the dark purple (the dominant colour) to the canvas. The area that will be lit up has a lighter wash. Taking a thinned down naples yellow I drew the basic outlines.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Jamm and Kira - the completed work

Last night and this morning I spent some time fixing up the small glaring problems, including adding some material draped over the right arm of the couch to soften that very hard and dark blue corner. Now the eye doesn't linger there anymore. I also lightened the couch between her legs for the same reason. Dark colours draw the eye, so rather soften and lighten the colours on the areas that aren't the focus of your painting.

I also added a bit of extra fur to Kira's right cheek and mouth area to equalise the two sides of her face. And that's it! I'm pleased that the painting has come out with the mood I hoped to capture. 

You can see a larger image on my web site

Friday, 20 May 2011

Jamm and Kira - remodelling some details

It's a chilly day here in Pretoria, enough to make me want to stay in bed all day and watch movies. Yesterday was rather industrious though, as I re-painted some areas that were bugging me. I've made a stab at the background with the suggestion of a brick wall. My base colour, naples yellow, was used liberally with rough brush strokes over the purple brick lines. To maintain the colour balance of the painting I added touches of cadmium red and lime yellow on areas of the bricks. The red warms the painting up nicely. There's still a bit more work to be done here as I want to let the viewer know where the light is coming from and at the moment it feels like the background is stapled to the foreground which isn't great.

The couch has had some work done too, with the material hanging over the left arm being completely reworked. Here I used a mix with a larger amount of lime yellow to show the light coming in from the right. The other arm of the couch is still a work in progress. I decided to abandon the yellow and paint the arm in the same blue as the top of the couch, with star patterns. I hope to add more detail to the pattern and lighten the corner under the orange cushion as this areas pulls the eye too much.

To complete the head I've added details and highlights to the hair which has softened the face.

I'm noticing small problems that need to be fixed and will be addressing those as I go along finishing up the last sections including the clothing. Even a small dab of paint can totally change a painting and at this point I'm getting a bit anxious about messing things up!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Jamm and Kira - working on the arms and the cat

I've been very excited at how the painting is coming along, especially since my latest editions - to complete most of the details on and around the cat.

Using the same skin tone colours of the face (and squinting of course) I painted the hand and arm resting on the cushion. I think some more work might be required on the arm but for now I'm going to let it dry.

The cat took up most of my attention in this session as I really wanted to express Kira's personality. It was also the first time I painted cat fur, most of my subjects usually being human. I took the payne's grey mixed with a small amount of naples yellow to fill in the grey areas of her fur. Still keeping the brush strokes in the same direction as her fur grows, I added highlights using a larger amount of naples yellow in the mix. To complete the session, I took the payne's grey and added in the darker areas.

I'm still a bit disturbed by the right arm of the sofa and have been toying with the idea of changing it to a blue (to match the top of the sofa). And the background is still a nightmare!

I think about 3 more sessions should complete this painting. I've already started thinking about what to paint next...

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Jamm and Kira - the face

It's been a very quiet Sunday in Pretoria, everyone has been out of the house and I decided to put on some lovely mournful music and paint. Because the face has been bugging me I chose it to work on today. The first thing I did was to mix up a warm skin tone with a tiny amount of cadmium yellow, cadmium blue and a large amount of white. I also had some indian red ready for the darker face shadows. 

Normally I keep the image I am working from (in this case a photograph) off the painting, but to really get intimate with the shapes and colours I pinned the photo to the canvas, right next to the face. I found that when I shortened the distance between looking at my source image and the canvas I got a much better result. 

I've been watching my mom paint and have learned a few lessons from her. She says that squinting lets you see the various colours on an apparently uniform surface. So without further ado, I mixed up the skin tone and added blocks to the canvas. Then squinting like mad, I mixed various shades of pink yellow, brown and blue and added these carefully to the face. I was careful to remove the blue 'lines' I had painted earlier for the features as the face doesn't actually have any lines (except the line formed by the lips touching). 

To complete the session I took a small brush with payne's grey and added some thin shadows around the eyelids and added colour and reflected light to the eyes. Then, taking a dry brush I blended some of the colours.

To finish off the head, the hair will need some work once the face is dry.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Jamm and Kira - details and frustration

I had a terrible urge to paint some cat, so here you can see I've started adding fur to Kira using Payne's Grey mixed with naples yellow. I've been careful to create the brush strokes in the direction that her fur grows to make the fur look realistic. At the moment it's all a bit shaggy, but once I add the highlights and soften the brush strokes her image will become a little clearer and more defined. I've also been and playing around with her eyes with a straight lime yellow and a tiny bit of white for the iris's to get that wickedly bright shine. At the moment I don't understand the paws very well so I'm going to leave those for a bit.

I've also added the stripes on the cushion and some extras shadows around the face with the pthalo blue mixed with cadmium red. These will eventually be painted over by some warm skin tones taking away the dead look. I'm toying around with the background a bit to see what will work, but I think the dark colour is too distracting and I will probably make it a very soft pale colour once the brick lines are dry.

I go through stages in a painting where I loathe the work and at the moment I'm going through one of those. I know it will pass but I'm frustrated that the painting needs more work. I'm not the most patient of people...

So now I feel like I need to stop looking at it for a few weeks (also to let things dry so I don't make a dirty mess).

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Jamm and Kira - starting on details

Here's where things start to take shape. I started by adding more detail to the couch and correcting the angle of the right arm which was originally too steep. By adding highlights where the light falls on the material and working on the creases in the material (naples yellow mixed with the pthalo blue), the shape of the cushions are now starting to emerge. I've also started adding big blocks of colour to the figure's face and hands. It's important to check the light source and I usually try to see the shadows of the face in planes or shapes before going into more detail with the features. Gah! Those eyes still need a lot of work, but once I start working on the finer detail of the face they should look less like 'night of the living dead'!

My favourite part so far has been working on the fabric of the clothes. I love painting folds! Here I took cadmium red mixed with a lot of white and added some mid tones. The I took pure white and applied thickly on all the areas that are lit up from the sun. The naples yellow wash is not completely covered and I quite like the effect, although this will eventually be covered. To finish off this session I took the phtalo blue mixed with lots of white to add some accents to the creases and folds. 

I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do in the background and you can see the brown smear in the top right as an attempt to find a colour that will suit the painting. So far, I'm not dead keen on the brown and am still pondering the problem.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Jamm and Kira - shadows and blocks of colour

Once happy with the drawing on the canvas, I went straight on to painting the shadows. For this I mixed a dark purple with cadmium red and pthalo blue. I love the deep colour this gives. I was taught never to use black in a painting; and I agree - it's such a flat and dead colour, all fun gets sucked right out of it. Of course, when doing something super dramatic, or monochrome black is invaluable. But I digress...

I used the deep purple on the shadows all over the painting. Using the same colours throughout the painting creates a sense of balance and harmony.

Once the shadows were added, I decided to add the large blocks of colour to the couch. Working with Lime yellow, naples yellow I added the main couchy sections. After that, I added the blue striped using the same phtalo blue mixed with some white.

Now, a grey cat is not particularly interesting when painted, so I added some lovely rich indian red highlights to spots where the sun catches her fur. I used the same colour to the hair of the figure.

Jamm and Kira - the drawing

This painting is a large scale rendition of a photo that my partner (Joe) took while we were on holiday at my parent's house in South Africa. The cat (Kira) is a venerable old lady of approximately 14 years and is quite a grumpy cat, if still decently loveable. The photo was taken in the mid-afternoon sunshine with the light entering from the right.

The first step to creating the painting was the drawing. I created a 4x2 grid on both the photo and the canvas and sketched out the outline in thinned down blue paint. I made the cat larger than in real life to accentuate her in the painting (as it's not really a self portrait!)

The feeling I want to convey in the painting is one of relaxation and peace; the owner with her pet, enjoying each other's company in the sunshine. It's also deeply personal painting for me, as I raised Kira from a kitten and even though I live hundreds of miles away now, we still have a wonderful connection that is rekindled when I go to visit. Technically, this painting is a challenge of perspective, with the figure receding into the distance and the large legs closer to the viewer.