Artichokes, Oil painting on 8x8" Gessobord

Artichokes, Oil painting on 8x8" Gessobord

After deconstructing one artichoke to paint in watercolor (previous post) I decided they were too old and worn out to bother cooking them, so why not paint them instead. I’m finding how important it is to take breaks when I’m painting. Each time I took one (because someone came to the door, I had to go to sleep or have lunch) I was surprised at seeing the painting with fresh eyes. It gave me a chance to strategize, stop futzing around in one area that wasn’t working and just needed to be scraped off and started over, notice that the values needed strengthening, etc.

At a certain point I recognized that this is as good as I can do for now. I’ll learn a little more and be able to a better on the next piece. That is so much more satisfying than trying to bring the piece to the level of the bar I keep raising or trying to make it as  good as the painting of other artists’ work I admire.  As a good friend said to me yesterday, “Compare…and despair!” and he was so right. Another friend pointed me to this from Desiderata:

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Artichokes, easel & palette in the studio

Artichokes, easel & palette in the studio

The multi-colored card on my easel is a Gretagmacbeth ColorChecker that I use when I photograph art work. Sometimes I use the white square to set my cameras “white balance. I always include some or all of the card when I take the photograph so I can compare the colors on the card to the colors on my monitor to see if I’ve got it right.

With the card included in the photo, I can correct the colors in the photo using the Levels tool in Photoshop:

  1. Select the “white” eyedropper in the Levels menu and click it on the white square. This sets the white level so that white in the photo is pure white, not greyish. Sometimes this is all that’s needed.
  2. If the black square doesn’t look black enough, I do the same with the black eyedropper in the black square. Setting this range of black to white really helps, especially when there is no black or white in the painting.
  3. To remove a color cast (e.g. when the gray square looks greenish pinkish) I use the grey eyedropper on various spots on any of the gray squares until the color cast is gone and gray is gray.
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Category:
Oil Painting, Painting, Photos, photoshop, Still Life, Studio
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Join the conversation! 8 Comments

  1. Jana
    In looking at your palette in the photo do you put your oil paints into a separated palette by color, and then just mix on the glass?

    I have been intrigued by the “paint piles” I see in so many photo’s of artists oil palette’s, I am curious about what you do. Do you put out just enough for the session, or are you able to cover the left overs for future use?

    Julie

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    • Julie,
      The oil paints are indeed on a separate small sheet of molded aluminum that fits into a protective sleeve. I stick it in a plastic shoe box and put it in the freezer when I’m not painting, which keeps the paint fresh and prevents it from drying out. I used to stick my whole palette in its own plastic box in the freezer but it’s quite big.

      This works out well and since the paint holding device is designed for plein air painting, it’s easy to just grab it out of the freezer and take it with me when I paint plein air. I have an additional small strip of plastic and a bungee cord that holds it on my Soltek Easel in approximately the same position.

      Another way of doing this is to use an extra large 7-day plastic pill holder and put 7 colors in one and 7 in the other (maybe cool colors/warm colors).
      Jana

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  2. Wow, someday I will learn Photoshop and get accurate color representation in my pictures of ceramics, but for now I’m happy if the color is not obliterated by the reflection. So much to learn.

    I especially like the deconstructed artichoke. It reminds me of the Magnolia flower stems after the petals fall off that you find on the sidewalks that I always want to touch and collect.

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  3. okay, I’m going to have to study this further…but not tonight! LOL! I love this little oil painting…I want to try gessoboard too!

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  4. I think this advice to take breaks and to avoid comparisons is terribly important — both give you breathing room and let you approach your work hopefully, always a good thing.

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  5. Jana,
    I’m really enjoying reading your blog and looking at your website! I too have a Soltek easel and can’t quite picture what you are saying about your plastic strip and bungee cord and how it works with your palette and easel. Do you have a picture you could post of your set up? I just started using the easel and so far have it filled with Dakota Pastel custom cardboard boxes as I do plein-air pastel but would like to try oils or acrylics.

    Laura

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    • Hi Laura,

      It’s not easy to explain how this thingee works, but since I don’t think they’re readily available for sale anywhere, it’s probably not worth the
      effort to to photograph the details for you. If you’re really anxious to find one, let me know and I’ll contact the person I bought it from to see if
      he has anymore. I know he hoped to mass produce them, but I don’t think that ever happened.
      Jana

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  6. Jana,
    Great post. That’s a great way to get your color balance correct. I’ve been having problems with that, and only have a gray card. Will have to get a color checker.

    Great blog. Thanks

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