Sunday, August 2, 2009

Step by Step Painting "In a Field"

The majority of the painting will be sky, so I paint the background with Apple Barrel's "20751 Regency Blue." This is a super cheap craft paint and I am often asked why I use these paints at all. Usually, I use these in the first layer or two to create a less absorbant canvas. This really cuts down on the amount of more expensive paint I use. The canvas is primed with acrylic gesso, but it is still absorbent and sucks up paint very quicky. This really makes the surface much easier to work on.

There are times though that the painting is coming along very well with just the cheap craft acrylics, as in this painting, so I just continue to use it to complete the painting. The paintings come out very matte and I am always asked if the painting is done in pastel. If you are looking for a soft pastel effect, this is a good way to go about it.
I brush on the color with a large flat brush. Because I like to let the layers of acrylic dry in between layers to prevent cracking, I always have several other canvases that I prime while I am waiting. I have done paintings that have cracked because I was too impatient to wait for the first layer to dry. This is why I feel that it helps me to have several paintings planned, it just makes things easier for me. Below is one of the paintings that I am preparing that I will officially start within the coming week.

I like my colors to be super pure, so I have three buckets of water to rinse them in. The first has just a little bit of laundry detergent in it, to really get the brush clean. The other two have just water in them. If you are going to try this, I would highly recommend using big containers and changing the water frequently, I change mine after every painting. I use grey water so that I am still being environmentally conscious.

In this painting the sun is setting, or rising, whichever you prefer. The top of the sky is darker and a little greyer, so I use a lot of the regency blue and a little Folk Art's # 964 " Midnight" mixed together. At the top I use more of the Midnight and as I go down toward the field, I use more of the regency blue. This softens the sky.

The bottom of the painting is yellowish where the sun is setting. I use Craft Smart's #23633 "Yellow". I use it full strength at the bottom and as I go up I thin it with more and more water, once again giving that soft effect.

Using a super soft flat brush I mix a little of the yellow with My Studio's #72700 white to make some clouds.

The idea here is to keep the clouds VERY soft, so I lay on the whitish yellow and then add a lot of water and soften around the edges. As I get closer to the sun - the bottom of the painting I add more yellow to the clouds.

On the bottom of the painting I added some little background trees. I was 'into it' and forgot to take pics of this process. Basically, I used Apple Barrel's #20521 "Nutmeg Brown" and just made random little 'hills' on the very bottom of the painting. I softened the edges by adding some of the same yellow that is in the sunset. Anything that is far in the distance is always less detailed and contains more and more of the color of the sky (usually blue) as it recedes.
To add depth, I put Apple Barrel's #20512 "Burnt Umber" on top of the nutmeg brown, being careful to really blend out the edges and let plenty of the nutmeg brown show through. The more random you are with the pattern, the more it will look like trees. I mix a little Folk Art's artists' pigment #470 "Pure Black" in with the burnt umber and add that on top to create even more depth, always making sure that I am applying this randomly.

I felt that the sunset could use a little more warmth, so I added My Studio's # 72721 "Coral" to the very bottom and Craft Smart's # 23623 "Light Orange" just around the tree line on the very bottom. A lot of the process of painting involves looking at your work, making evaluations and then making adjustments accordingly. Remember that it will never be 'just the way you want it'. There will almost always be changes that you want to make. You can't go on making adjustments forever, you must decide that it is good enough and then move on. This was dificult for me, as I am a perfectionist, but I've come a long way.
I check my painting to see if any final adjustments need to be made to the background. Something to remember that makes painting infinately easier is that big shapes always come first and the details are always added last. It is SO frustrating to have to make changes to the background after you've added foreground detail and then have to do that detail all over again.
I am going to use my script liner to do the grass.

Load the liner with paint, test it on a piece of spare paper first to see how thin the line is and to get out the globs of paint. Then paint the straight lines for the grass using nutmeg brown, holding the brush at a low angle to create an even line.

After I have made a line for the stalk and for the little branches, I use a spotter to create the little seeds. These are a litte darker than the stalk and branches - so I use the burnt umber.

The leaves are larger and show highlights and shadows a little more. I paint the using a small round brush using the nutmeg brown and the burnt umber and even a little black for the shadowed areas. The highlight is light yellow.

These details are important, the little highlights and shadows, they can really make or break a painting. Be sure to take your time, and make sure that you ADD THE DETAILS LAST.

Brushes can be super expensive! Take good care of them. If you don't have time to wash them immeditately after you finish your painting, invest in a brush well, fill it with dye free, unscented laundry detergent and leave it overnight. If you leave any acrylic paint on your brushes it is impossible to get off without ruining your brushes.

Completed painting:

Summary of things to learn from this painting:

*To keep things soft by adding more medium (water in this case) to blend out the edges.

*As objects recede into the background, you see less and less detail and they take on more of the color of the atmosphere (blue most of the time, but yellow in this painting).

*Adding the little details, such as tiny shadows and highlights can really make a painting, but they must be added last. Add the big shapes first and then get smaller and smaller. The details are like sprinkles on a cupcake, they make a big difference in the appearance, but they aren't added until the very end.

* Let each layer of paint dry before adding another one. If it helps to have other projects to work on while you wait, then plan them ahead of time.

*It is important to have clean and pure colors. If you have the space, using 3 tubs of water, one with a little laundry detergent in it, the second one to rinse the soap and the third to make sure that it is truly free of soap will help to keep your colors 'unmuddied'.

* A brush well is a great place to let brushes soak if you don't have time to wash them right away. I keep one for my acrylic brushes and one for my oil brushes.


Emilie said...

You are a beautiful artist. That was a great tutorial.


paperwhite said...

I love the tutorial! Great pictures!