Bird With Water Glasses
A couple of months ago, I went out to lunch with some ladies from my art group at the Mimosa Cafe. There were a bunch of these little birds flitting around and I happened to capture one of them that had landed on a table across from me. It was important to me to the depict the textures of the marble table and the glasses themselves. When it came to the glasses, to achieve the goal of transparency, I layered transparent mixing white for “frost” over cyan blue. I contrasted titanium white and mars black for shine. As far as transparency, I let the background colors show. That, contrasted with the opacity of the titanium white, adds to the translucence. I focused on the shapes formed by the frost, the highlights, and how they were positioned next to each other, not on the whole glass at once. I don’t have much experience painting glass and other transparent objects, so this is helped me grow as an artist.
I used a pale pink for the table and a liner brush for the marbling texture, taking care to curve my lines at the edges to create three-dimensionality. To create the shiny texture of the table, I made sure that everything on it was reflected on its surface. Also, to prevent these reflections from being mistaken for decorations or things painted onto the table, I softened their edges and gave everything a slightly pink tint. I didn't want the table to look like a mirror, but I did want it to have some gloss to it.
I painted this in acrylic on an 8x10 canvas.
In this article, I'm going to walk you through me painting caterpillars eating milkweed in acrylics.
Due to the overall warm tones in my reference photo, I decided to go with a brown toned underpainting, instead of my usual gray-toned one. For more insight into how I came to this conclusion, watch this video.
When I was ready to start adding color to the grass, I saw that it had an underlayer of blue. My first thought was that I should use blue-green. As you can see, though, I scratched that and boldly went with straight-up blue for my first layer. I used cyan rather than ultramarine because of its brighter tone.
Don't get me wrong, though. The grass was going to have plenty of green, as you can see in the pic below. As I said, the tones in this painting are going to be warm overall, so the grass leans more toward the yellow side of the spectrum. I just added a bit of yellow to some permanent green to make my color.
Now we get to the dirt. It would be natural to want to paint everything in this area plain brown, but when I looked at it in my reference photo, there was clearly some purple. I would've said a deep plum shade. I used straight blue violet with very little water mixed in for the small patches and mixed some zinc white and added more water into that for the larger patches.
Here the painting is again with just another layer over these patches. I've done this by painting on shapes, then spritzing the canvas, blending my edges with circular motions, and repeating.
The next step was transferring the sketch onto the canvas, which I did by tracing and transfer paper. You can see that there are no stripes in caterpillars. That's because I plan to add them in after I block in the underpainting.
I'm painting the caterpillars the same way I did the background, i.e., starting with a brown-toned underpainting and then putting on color.
The direction of the stripes determines the shapes of the caterpillars. By curving their lines downwards as I move away from the leaves and letting their ends meet, I’m giving the animals a more rounded shape. In addition to this, I worked on the veins in the leaves.
I want to preserve the definition in the leaves that I created in the underpainting, so I've been applying my color layers in thin washes, being careful to confine my darkest shades only to where they're needed. I’m using a brownish purple for the antennae and dark stripes on the caterpillars. I think it looks more natural than stark black.
The veins in the leaves needed re-emphasizing and more shadows around them.
Here's the completed painting again. Again, I took time to increase contrast by darkening the purple patches behind the milkweed and up saturation by layering more green on the leaves. This is especially important when working on small canvases to help them stand out among larger ones in public displays.
I'm ending this post by discussing why I didn't use black for the caterpillar's stripes and antennae. I chose not to use black for the stripes on the caterpillars because this piece has an overall warm color scheme, and black would clash. Artists are divided about whether or not to use black. Some say never to use it or to mix your own. Others say if you like black, go for it. I came to the idea while working on this piece that artists against using black may feel that it’s unharmonious with the color palette of their paintings. This explains why impressionists and other artists who mainly paint nature traditionally avoid black. It's because they’re often working with this warm color palette.
Painting Clubhouse Pool
I painted my community's clubhouse pool area in acrylics. Read on to find out how.
I’m starting by painting the sky, pool and deck as a base. I’m painting the grisaille and I’ll go on top with color. After I painted the shadows on the pool, I realized they were too dark and needed to be lightened.
I mixed cerulean with ultramarine for the water and glazed green on top of that to brighten it.
After I’d finished glazing color over the water and the deck, I took a charcoal pencil and drew in the plants, gazebos, chairs, and tree. At this point, it was time to start over with the grisaille again.
Using my liner brush and wiggling my wrist while holding the handle, I can get the roughness in the tree bark I’m going for.
Making the highlight on the side of the top of the light post sufficiently light gives it dimension.
I’m much happier with how the gazebo looks much better since I’ve added those dark shadows to the spaces between the posts.
Approaching painting the pebbles, I’ve decided to mix a grayish purple from transparent mixing white and ivory black for the palest of them. The purple came out too bright, so I mixed some orange into it.
Most of the pebbles were different shades of brown, so I used yellow ochre or burnt umber mixed with cadmium red medium, which I chose for its orange tint. I had originally tried to use my yellow ochre and red mixture mixed with green and black for the darkest pebbles, but I quickly realized that mixture wasn’t dark enough.
I planned to paint the spaces in between the bars on the light post yellow and glaze orange on top of that, but I was surprised by how happy I am with just the yellow.
Here’s the lighthouse with orange glazed over the yellow.
I mixed transparent white with yellow, purple, and cadmium red medium and glazed over the gazebo because it needed to be peachy. I used an opaque version of this color for the top of the gazebo roof to create the necessary contrast between it and the sides to make it look three-dimensional.
There needed to be more medium-brown pebbles.
I knew the tree needed more detail, and I painted some brown markings on it, being careful to paint the same approximate shapes as were in my reference photo.
When I felt I’d done all I could on the tree, my attention was turned back to the gazebo, and I realized that there needed to be a shadow along the front of the overhang to give it dimension. I did this simply by glazing blue, which I’d toned down with orange so it would be muted and shadowy over that side. While I was doing that, I glazed that same blue over half of all of the posts. You don’t always have to do a big mixing job to get effective shading in your pieces. I saw that the windows in the gazebo looked to be bluish green. I used cyan instead of ultramarine this time when I mixed the shade for them.
The first thing I did today was paint pale purple highlights on the reddish-purple leaves in the lower left-hand corner. The shade I mixed didn’t come out red enough, so I glazed some red over my purple when it had dried.
You can also see the light post in this pic, and you might notice that I painted two-thirds of it a lighter shade of gray, so now it looks like it has a front and a side.
There was some obvious dry brushing in between the posts in the gazebo and on the edges of the tree, so I worked on taking care of that. Dry brushing is when there are little holes or bumps in the paint due to insufficient paint or water in the brush. So the fix for dry brushing is to go back over those parts with the same color, of course, but with just more paint and/or more water, in the brush.
I painted reflections in the pool by wiggling my wrist from side to side, then spritzing the canvas with my cosmetic spray bottle, and then blending out the edges of the wet paint with a dry brush.
Then I glazed a layer of blue-gray over all of this. My first layer was too sheer. I wanted the reflections to look almost cloudy underneath.
I painted more green detail in the tree using a liner brush. I blended out the edges so they wouldn’t be harsh lines.
Those brown spots were too warm when I first put them down, so I added blue to my mixture for the second layer. I was finally satisfied when I mixed some gray into my brown.
I glazed burnt umber over these leaves and I think they look much better. The color I’d painted them had been bothering me for a while.
Being almost finished with this painting, my main concern today was adding contrast and saturating colors where appropriate. I darkened the edge of the pool, the windows of the clubhouse, and the tree with ivory black. I also lightened the deck with transparent mixing white. What I was really interested in, though, was brightening up the water in the pool. I did this using a combination of dark permanent green and, later, ultramarine blue. I was pretty satisfied with my work,
but then, while I was cleaning up, a bottle fell off a shelf, and when I looked at it, I saw that it was Prussian blue, a color I hardly ever use. I wondered if it was still good, as it didn’t seem to want to squeeze out of the container. I scooped some out with a brush and, while it was on my pallet, thought to myself that it really was a beautiful color and it was a shame I didn’t use it more often. It might just be perfect for what I’m going for with this swimming pool, I thought.
Before adding the Prussian blue, the water looked gray in comparison.
I used a 12x12 watercolor canvas from Fredrix and paint from Liquitex and Royal Talens for this painting.
Painting White Ibises In Acrylics
I don’t paint enough white things, tending to shy away from them because I fear they will look too stark. My mind tells me it’s better to stick to black and white. It’s time to face my apprehension and do a project that features a white subject, these ibises, in color media. So I'm painting white ibises in acrylics.
Before I get to the white ibises, though, I want to discuss the grass and lake around them because the shades I use to paint those will play into how I paint them.Before I get to the white ibises, though, I want to discuss the grass and lake around them because the shades I use to paint those will play into how I paint them.
I used the same base of yellow and ultramarine blue for the patch of grass near the viewer and the bush on the other side of the lake. I used more blue for the bush and added red and black to the lake to mute and darken it.
I want the patches of grass bordering the lake to be somewhat bright, and I’m using analogous colors to do this, glazing yellow over the nearest patch and blue over the far one.
After painting another layer on the grass near the viewer, I mixed some yellowish green color into titanium white. Then I painted reflections in the water using a small round and a sideways wiggling stroke.
As for the ibises themselves, I painted most of their bodies with sheer light brown and green, picking up the grass and lake bed colors. I left only the very tops of them white. This is where light would be hitting them; therefore, it would be the brightest.
Did you notice what I did here? Less than ten percent of the white ibises’ entire bodies were painted white. The rest were painted to reflect the colors of the things around them. This is why I mixed yellow-green into my titanium white when I painted the shadows. The ibises do not show as pure white. Therefore, their reflections couldn't either.
Back to the grass, there are lots of individual pieces of grass in the patch nearest the viewer. I used titanium white first because if I went in first with my yellow-green mixture, it wouldn’t show up properly against what I already had down. Having the titanium white down was especially important because these blades of grass needed to be lighter than the base. These blades gave the grass the brightness I’d been trying to achieve by glazing yellow over the area.
Mars Lumograph Black Pencils review
I had been frustrated with the lack of intensity in my darks regarding my shading. Sometimes, I wanted the extra drama that even my darkest pencils weren’t getting me. Shana Rowe Jackson had made a video in which she made a drawing with some genuinely black shading in it. I looked up that video, found out what pencils she’d used, and ordered them.
Those pencils were the Mars Lumograph Black line. Now, I have to admit, when I opened the box and looked inside, I was skeptical because the pencils went from 2b to 8b, which were grades of pencils I’d been using all along. But these are not like the other pencils I’d been using. I believe the Mars Lumograph pencils each have a bit of carbon mixed in with the graphite so they can get much darker than a regular graphite pencil of the same grade. To prove to myself how different these are, I tested them against my pencils in the Faber-Castell line.
While these pencils are indeed very dark, they don’t cover the paper as well as I was hoping. Achieving the stark black I’ve been going for has required a slow process of layering. It occurred to me that the pencils might not be sharp enough to cover properly. I started looking up “how to get pencils super sharp” on YouTube. That search yielded a video from Leonardo Pereznieto. The method described in the video involves using a blade to remove the wood from the pencil and sandpaper to refine the lead. It’s slow and tiring, but it leaves my pencils sharper than any pencil sharpener I’ve tried.
I was working on a drawing of some ducks, and I’d left it a while ago. I’d wanted darker shading on it than I could get with the pencils I had at the time. I decided to try using the 7b in the Mars Lumograph line. While doing this, I accidentally discovered that these pencils might cover better over other pencil than over blank paper. Unfortunately, if I’ve already started with the Mars Lumograph, it’s too late, as I found when I tried to use my Faber-Castell pencils on the gate posts in my drawing.
Going back to my bird bath drawing, the edges are where I really want to direct my attention for these things to look truly filled in. The edges are where I really want to direct my attention for these things to really look filled in. Going slowly and methodically gives excellent results. All in all these pencils are definitely worth pick up if you're going for dramatically black shading in your drawings.
My First Time Working In Pastels
When I saw how thick these sticks were, I thought there was no way I could fill in the shapes of those leaves properly with them. They were simply too thick, and rounded, I thought. So what did I do?
I tried taking a paintbrush and stroking it onto the end of the pastel stick and using it to paint in the shapes of the leaves. That didn’t work out so well with a wet or dry brush.
I asked myself what would happen if I turned the pastel on its side. To my surprise, I had a lot of control this way, and it was very easy to get the shapes I wanted. I was really surprised the paintbrush technique didn’t work. That may be because I’m using black paper. I bought it because I thought it offset my colors in a cool way.
Some of the leaves were blue, so I made sure to fill those in before I forgot. Nothing I was putting down at this point was what the final piece would look like.
I tried mixing the colors by layering them next to each other and on top, but neither seemed to work. When I put the colors on top of each other, the color on top just overtook the color underneath.
I decided to try sandpaper since it worked so well with my charcoal. I have to get up periodically to put the pastel dust on my paper in the trash.
I’m starting to realize that to mix colors, I must first rub my underlay color in solidly. Get a good foundation for it. Then I go over it with another color, pressing more lightly. This allows the color I put down first to not be overtaken by the color on top of it. I did this with the purple bands on in the pebbles, laying a solid foundation of purple down first, then white. The result is a light purple.
Pastels come off easily onto your fingers. Try leaving margins on paper so your paper can pick it up without smudging the edges of your project.
It's imperative to have a piece of glassine under your hand when you're working in pastels. Inevitably, you will end up resting your hand on a part of the paper that already has pastel on it, and we already know what can happen.
I didn't want my crows to be solid black, so I colored them in by blending black with purple and blue. Remember, almost nothing in nature is solid black, or white for that matter.
I filled in the spaces between the pebbles with a terra cotta shade.
Doing An Impressionistic Painting
I’m planning to paint this photo, which I took in the canal behind my family’s house, in an impressionistic style.
I already started practicing the looseness of this style with the preparatory sketch by holding my pencil far back from the tip. Holding my brush like this helped me move my wrist more freely, emphasizing basic shape and not detail.
For this style, I want my brushstrokes to show more clearly, so to enable this effect; I’m planning to order a thickening medium for my more fluid paint. I plan to use more flat brushes than the filberts I usually use.
I’ve decided to employ the fat over lean technique for this piece. I’m working in acrylics, not oils, so I technically don’t need to do it this way, but I wanted to get in the habit.
I’m sitting in my community’s Art Room while writing this, and I’ve just put the first layers of color on the painting. You can probably see that it will need a lot more layers. I haven't even completely covered the underpainting in some parts.
I have a lot of transparent colors, so to get them to cover the background, I painted titanium white over those parts first.
Today I worked on creating the contrast between the part of the canal closer to the viewer and the region farther away from it. The part that’s closer to the viewer is significantly lighter. For today's entire session, I used different combinations of burnt umber, unbleached titanium white, and mars black.
I purchased a jar of Liquithick acrylic medium from @liquitexofficial, which I used for the first time today. It gave the paint an almost custard-like texture on my palette. When I used it with brown shades, it even reminded me of a bit of pudding. The information on the container said this product wouldn’t make a difference in the opacity of the paint, so I was a bit worried it wouldn’t help me achieve my goal. With this in mind, I was pleasantly surprised. I think adding this medium did give me more opacity. I did already have paint on the canvas, however. I don’t know how well paint mixed with this product would cover a black canvas.
I wanted even more contrast in the water, so I painted over the part of it that's closer to the bushes with a shade that had more red mixed in it. The idea is that the closer something gets to the viewer, the brighter it should be and the farther from the viewer it is, the duller it should be.
Glazing would never be a significant technique with this piece, but I glazed over some parts to intensify the colors. For example, I glazed red in this area.
Since red is already present, adding more red, and letting the original shade show through, doesn’t change the color, it just makes it more saturated.
I added highlights to shape the ducks’ bodies. To make the shade for it, I mixed burnt umber and red to make burnt Sienna. I thought about what I would use to make a complement for burnt Sienna, and the conclusion I came to was green since it’s the complement to red, and Burnt Sienna is a red-based brown. So I mixed green into my red and burnt umber mixture, then mixed titanium white into that. Because these highlights were meant to add shade, I placed them along the curves of the ducks’ bodies.
I added more brown to the bushes because they were looking a bit too plain. The color of the leaves in the upper half of the water needed to be changed to make them flow with those on the bottom.
To recap, use thicker paint or a thickening medium, larger brushes, don't blend out your brush strokes, and use a heavy-weight canvas when doing impressionism.
Showing My Work
I’ll admit that I’ve had some painting sessions that ended with me being unhappy in the last couple of days. I was tempted not to share anything from those days on social media until I remembered a book I’d been reading called Show Your Work, which Ali Abdaal recommended on his Youtube channel.
Of course, I had been showing my work long before I read this book, but what stuck out to me was “think progress, not product.” It hit me that even the stages in my pieces I consider ugly, that even embarrass me a little, are part of my progress and teaching opportunities. If I only share my work when it’s in a favorable stage, I’m doing my audience a disservice.
The key phrase here is teaching opportunity. I don't put myself or my art down in these posts. Instead, I objectively explain what I think is wrong with the piece, what I think I did to make it that way, and what I might try to fix it. Even if you don't share your work on social media, I encourage you to look at your own pieces in the same way.
What I hope you take away from this, whether you share your work or not, every part of your process is equally valid. Don’t get discouraged because maybe your piece suddenly looks worse to you. Keep working on it, and eventually, it will look better again.
Below are a couple of examples of pieces I was unhappy with and how I improved them.
Choosing The Right Canvas
I recently ordered a Fredrix Red Label canvas. This canvas is rougher than what I usually work on. I bought it because I'm planning to do an impressionistic piece. I learned from Lisa Clough of Lachri Fine Art that this particular canvas is more suited to that style than the Green Label I'd been buying. This is because I'm probably going to want to use heavier globs of paint when working in this style, which the Green Label, which is linen, wouldn't be able to take.
You want to select a lightweight, smooth canvas for realistic pieces that rely on fine detail. Some cotton canvases work for this, and linen is excellent. Go with a rougher canvas for more impressionistic styles, impasto techniques, or painting with a palette knife. Anything that says heavyweight is your best bet.
It’s difficult to do fine detail on a rough canvas. Your lines won’t be smooth. On the other hand, a smooth canvas may be too lightweight to take all the globs of paint required for certain impressionistic styles. I’ve also heard it’s hard to blend smoothly on a rough canvas but easy on a smooth one. Blending isn’t such a concern when doing impressionistic work, but it’s a big concern when doing realistic work.
Below is Lisa's video on which Fredrix canvas is best for your painting style, which is where I got most of these tips.
I watched Youtube vlogger Nathaniel Drew attempt to follow Pablo Picasso’s routine from when he lived in Paris for two weeks. He gives a summary of the routine starting at 1:06 in the video.
Drew comments in his video that starting his day at 11:00 am, as Picasso did, made him feel sluggish. I can see myself having a similar experience if I try this routine. I’m rarely still in bed after 8, even if I’ve been up late. Some people left on the video that Picasso’s schedule wasn’t necessarily out of the ordinary Spanish culture.
While I do really like the idea of painting when it’s quiet and no one’s around, staying up until 3 is out of the question for me. I also would find it difficult to go to bed right after working. I’d be too amped.
Picasso and I have in common that we both like to ease into our day instead of getting to work immediately. We know Picasso wanted to ease into his day because he gave himself three hours of leisure time before getting down to business. I hope he included some exercise in these hours because I don’t see it anywhere else on his schedule!
Unlike contemporary artists, Picasso wasn’t obliged to do social media or keep a blog or YouTube channel to promote his work. Most contemporary artists couldn’t devote as much time as Picasso did, even if they wanted to paint. Picasso probably also didn't have to do laundry or cooking.
Painter of portraits and wildlife