Stacked! (Stacking the Odds in Your Favor)

Stacked, painting of apples and lemon stacked a top each other, oil on Gessobord, 10x8"

"Stacked!" oil on Gessobord, 10x8"

One way to the stack the odds in your favor with most endeavors is to rehearse. So before I attempted the oil painting above, I did a little thumbnail sketch, a full-sized value sketch, and a watercolor sketch (below). I also took photos just in case the paperclips and scotch tape holding it all together failed (but they didn’t–the stack is still standing!)

Stacked, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

Stacked, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

I did the watercolor sketch first with the fruit sitting on my drawing table and the grey studio wall as the background. I love ink & watercolor. So immediate and so fun!

Stacked, value study with Prismacolor cool grey markers, 10x8"

Stacked, value study with Prismacolor cool grey markers, 10x8"

Then I set up the fruit stack by my easel and did this value and compositional sketch. I wanted the sketch to be the same size as the painting so I used the Gessobord as a template, tracing around it on the sketching paper. Once I had the drawing the way I wanted it, I used Prismacolor cool grey markers (30%, 50% 80%) to shade the values. It was easy to transfer the full-sized sketch to the Gessobord with a sheet of blue Saral Transfer Paper between the sketch and the board, then drawing over the sketch with a stylus.

I revised the background by hanging a dark gold/green cloth hung behind the still life hiding the gray wall.  Now I’m wondering whether to repaint the leaves. What do you think? Is it better to leave them kind of soft and blurry so they don’t attract too much attention. Did you notice them before I asked the question?

(Painting available here)

Boxed Coffee Scoop (A Silly Purchase)

Boxed Coffee Scoop and Cork, oil on panel, 5x7"

Scoop and Cork, oil on panel, 5x7"

Peet’s Coffee is selling coffee scoops in three sizes that measure exactly the right amount of coffee for their French press coffee makers. Although I was happy with my French press pot and coffee scoop, I couldn’t resist the promise of the perfect cup of coffee.

Haha. It holds exactly the same amount that I already use. And it’s too wide to dump the coffee into my little French press pot without some of it landing on the counter and the handle is too short to comfortably scoop out of the bag or canister. So, while useless in the kitchen it is earning its keep as a model in the studio.

Value study/under-painting for Scoop and Cork, oil, 5x7"

Value study/under-painting for Scoop and Cork, oil, 5x7"

This week’s Daily Paintworks challenge is to do a value study using only burnt umber, and to vary the amount of dark, medium and light so that there is a majority of one, some of the other, and a smidgen of the other. This is done by applying a thin layer of burnt umber, wiping it down for mid value, painting in the darks using only burnt umber, and wiping with paper towel or q-tips dipped in mineral spirits for the highlights.

I was going for a majority of dark, some middle, and smidgen of light. Not sure if I accomplished that. It seems like there’s almost as much middle as there is dark. I’ve done plenty of value studies and monochrome paintings, but I’d never done it this way before and enjoyed it. I like the way the finished study kind of glows but used it as a the under-painting for the painting at the top of this post.

Busby Berkeley: The Cat

Busby Berkeley, Oil on Panel, 6x6" - Portrait of a Cat

Busby Berkeley: The Cat, Oil on Panel, 6x6"

When my tabby cat Busby Berkeley decided to sit in my still life light box and pose, I decided to paint him. After all, what’s more of a still life than a cat (except when they’re running through the house and pouncing on wrinkles in the covers when you’re trying to sleep)?

I painted from the photo below, displayed on my monitor near my easel.

Busby still life

Busby still life

Busby spends most of the day sleeping in the closet, my bureau, or a kitchen cabinet so painting him from life wasn’t an option. Even drawing him from life is tough. In the same way cats chose to sit on the one person who doesn’t like cats, they also get up and leave if they notice you watching them.

This was the first time I’d painted a cat in oils and it was fun and challenging. I’m about to try another from a different Busby photo to see if what I learned the first time will make it easer the second time. This painting is available here on my Daily Paintworks page where I am in the process of placing selected paintings from the past along with current work as I paint it, when/if I’m ready to let it go.

Happy Boy Radishes in Oil (Paint) and Still Life with Cat

Happy Boy Farms Radishes, oil on panel, 8x8"

Happy Boy Farms Radishes, oil on panel, 8x8"

Every time I paint I learn something. This time I learned some new tricks with different brushes and mediums and also about how much easier it is to paint in a good mood than a bad one. I painted the radishes for last week’s Daily Paintworks challenge, “Paint your vegetables.” It is available there on my new Daily Paintworks page.

I painted the radishes over Sunday’s painting of cucumbers that didn’t work because of my bad composition (or my bad mood when I was painting it) not sure which. I liked the lemon slice in the painting so I took a photo before I scraped off the panel for reuse.  Here is the happy little corner of the painting with the lemon slice (and without the two big ugly cukes at the top):

Cucumbers and Lemon, section of trashed painting

Cucumbers and Lemon, corner of painting

And here is the promised Still Life With Cat, shot when I put the radishes back in the fridge and silly Busby decided my still life light box would make a nice kitty sauna.

Busby still life

Still Life with Cat

I’d probably look grouchy too if someone tried to take a picture of me in the sauna!

The Color of White (Warm)

White Pitcher on Provence Pattern, oil on panel, 7x5"

White Pitcher on Provence Pattern, oil on panel, 7x5"

The Daily Paintworks folks are hosting weekly painting exercises that offer an opportunity to practice a particular painting challenge. Last week it was painting a white object sitting on a patterned fabric using only primary colors and white.

I’d found this funny, funky (chipped) pitcher at my local thrift shop and thought it would make a good subject for this exercise, along with a Provencal print tablecloth.

White pitcher preliminary sketch on panel

White pitcher preliminary sketch on panel

I sketched in the shapes with pastel pencil onto my Gessobord panel and then used some thinned Ultramarine Blue to block in the shadows on the pitcher. I like the way this looks so nice and sketchy.

This was another fun painting. I love how oil painting is getting to be more fun and less of a struggle (less of, but not without, that’s for sure!).

Since I tend to lose interest if something is too easy or there’s nothing more to learn, knowing that painting will always provide a challenge and there will always be more to learn, is a good thing.

If you’d like to buy this unframed 7×5″ painting for $60, just click here.

The Color of White (Cool)

White teapot on wrapping paper, oil on panel, 6x6"

White teapot on wrapping paper, oil on panel, 6x6"

The Daily Paintworks‘ challenge last week was to paint a white object sitting on patterned fabric using only primary colors and white. For this attempt I decided to use some turquoise, patterned wrapping paper instead. The wrapping paper had clever little snowmen all over it but after giving one snowman a try, I realized I didn’t have the patience or interest to try to paint all the details on them (top hat, scarf, etc.).

So I gave myself permission to abstract the snowmen into the circular, swirly shapes I saw reflected on the teapot. Since it was meant to be a painting exercise, I didn’t get too concerned with perfecting the painting. I just wanted to experiment with seeing reflections and building the form of a white object on a cool background.

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