I am currently in what we painters call the “dead coloring” stage of the painting. Shadows are established, then the lightest light. This gives me a value scale that contextualizes the rest of the painting and dictates what colors I will choose in later layers.
I really like the hues in this setup. The delicate brown-orange of the bottle are in nice contrast to the high chroma green cloth. The hardest part of painting is balancing the intensity of a color. Sometimes it looks too flat, or worse, too bright! The further I go, the less forgiving my mistakes will be, so this dead coloring stage will take me a few weeks.
I use color isolators to help me. They are basically two swatches of grey cardstock I have put a hole-punch through. If I want to check myself, I look through the hole and isolate the area on the setup I am trying to paint. Then I hold the other card up at the same time to my painting. If it is way off, I’ll see it immediately. Wipe off, try again. It is all in the beginning! My palette choices and my vision have to be set before I start, or I will merely fumble and spend time reacting to mistakes.
I’d rather go slow and steady, owning every single one of my choices. Sip and paint this ain’t. 😉
My latest still-life setup: notice the flowers I’ve suspiciously erased.
I learned how to paint flowers this past summer and I am eager to incorporate florals into my setups. These fake flowers will have to hold my place for now as I am sure real ones would die in my studio/garage setup. The cold weather might stall things, but instead of one day to paint I might have two. (Florists refrigerate flowers to make them last longer.)
Perishable subjects, like flowers, are incredibly hard to paint. Normally I like to take my time with the drawing, but a flower’s petals will curl inward, expand, or die as the light changes. The key is to be able to sketch it in paint, flawlessly, in one go.
I am teaching a high school painting class for the first time this semester. I showed them studio basics like cleaning and setting up a limited palette. After giving them a talk about method discipline, I turned around and tried to rush my flower sketch and had to start over. Perhaps I will play back my own lecture for myself.
Starting over is so obnoxious, but what I have learned is that in the artistic life, the artist is always the student. Sargent would wipe out a portrait fourteen times before he was satisfied. Until I get to that point, I won’t be the kind of artist I want to be.