Jac’s 100 days of practising from life

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  • This topic has 98 replies, 6 voices, and was last updated 7 months ago by JacJac.
Viewing 15 posts - 16 through 30 (of 99 total)
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    No points.

    Day 16 14/03/2022

    The need to paint from observation has the added benefit of an excuse to buy flowers! I was pleased with how the flowers themselves turned out, and depicting the changing colours against the white wall behind was good fun. There are a few parts that could use improvement. (1) Some of the stem shapes repeat, I could have made a more interesting design, (2) the jug doesn’t ‘sit’ in the environment, too many hard lines maybe? (3) perhaps related, but the wooden ground feels a bit… boring? cartoon-like?

    Over all, quite happy with the result as I haven’t painted many flowers.

    I’m keeping up with the Keys to landscape:

    • Diminish sizes to create greater depth: Be on the lookout to re-design a composition to emphasise how objects retreat into the distance by altering their size. Think of the picture in terms of planes, like wheeled on theatre sets.
    • Diminish values for a feeling of distance. Fairly straight forward, lights get darker and darks get lighter as planes recedes, until light and shadow is indiscernable from one another. This effect won’t be noticeable on a clear day, so you’ve got to exaggerate it.

    Practice Time: 2.5h

    No points.

    These are very nice! Great that you’re working from life. I know that takes much more time than working from photos. Good job!

    No points.

    Thanks Paul. I hadn’t appreciated quite how much additional time and mental effort working from life is – not to mention that you’re also at the mercy of changing light! But I hope it’ll pay off in the long run.

    No points.

    Day 17 16/03/2022

    • I finished the chapter of Russian Academic Drawing on the ‘half lock fold’ and set up my own attempt at elbow-shaped drapery in the shadow-box. I worked for a couple hours on the charcoal piece below. More than anything, I find it difficult to muster the interest in both subject matter and medium. I’ll try and plough through the drapery part of the course, I recognise the usefulness of the exercise.
    • I also watched the penultimate section of Introduction to Painting Still Life on sunflowers, in the hope of understanding a bit more on how to paint more flowers from life.

    I’ve also been continuing my reading regarding landscapes, this time Mastering Composition by Ian Roberts which outlinde 12 “composition basics”. Interestingly, they all have a parallel in Caddell’s Keys to Successful Landscape Painting, which I’m also reading. The 12 are:

    1. Crop for drama. Consider the relationship between shapes, is there tension, drama, or dynamism?
    2. Look for value masses – Simplify your masses, your painting should read from across the room.
    3. Design divisions with rhythm – avoid repetition, be it in shape size, spacing, alignment.
    4. Keep your shapes interesting – Consider each shape a portrait, be attentive to proportions, angles. Don’t be generic.
    5. Avoid attracting attention to the edges of the picture plan – design to draw attention to the motif.
    6. Create depth with overlaps – stack values to show depth.
    7. Watch the corners – the frame corners naturally draw attention, so de-emphasise it in the painting to avoid viewers flying off the page
    8. Create an entrance – Don’t block the entrance to your painting, or make your viewer ‘climb’ over a shape to get in. Lead the eye.
    9. Organise your masses – Impose order on a landscape. Simplify. Don’t paint literally.
    10. Orchestrate the masses for good eye movement with gradation – the viewer will naturally follow gradations of value from dark to light, use this.
    11. Use Straight Lines – lines can better portray depth. A circle has no depth from contour alone, but a box does.
    12. Think foreground, middle ground, and background. Foreground introduces the middle ground, where the motif usually is. Differeniate the planes using linear perspective and aerial perspective.

    Practice Time: 2h

    No points.

    Day 18 18/03/2022

    We’re getting a spell of decent weather in the UK, which makes painting outside a real pleasure. So I set up a vase of tulips on a window sill in the garden and painted a still life in the sun for a couple hours.

    There are bits of this sketch I really quite like. The trowel was effortlessly painted in a few strokes and I think the foreshortening was well done. I also like the shadow effects of both the vase and window frame, they’re illuminated and colourful when contrasted with the deep shadow on the left. The shapes are obviously shadows, but light-filled.

    I couldn’t get the hanging basket to work, it just feels ‘off’ to me though I can’t exactly say why. It’s almost as if it’s serving no compositional purpose. Maybe it’s because it competes with the tulips – which raises the question of what’s the subject, what’s the hierarchy of interest? It’s confused. Perhaps it’s the fact that the strongest value contrast is unintentionally in the top-left corner? Maybe the three items are just poorly arranged.

    Overall, for a reasonably quick sketch, I think it marks progress.

    On to the last 10 ‘keys’ in Caddell’s Keys to Succesful Landscape Painting:

    • Create depth by strengthening foreground detail: Reduce detail as planes recede. This is true also of edges. A jagged mountain from a distance looks relatively smooth. Same for trees. So simplify the distant shapes.
    • Maintain distinct spatial planes: Break down scenes into foreground, middleground, and distance. Organise each by value and colour to ensure the illusion of space and depth. Simplify each plane. Remember value contrast is highest in the foreground, that blue recedes and yellows come forward.

    Practice Time: 2.5hr


    No points.

    Day 19 19/03/2022

    I anxiously sought to make use of the decent weather with a sketch in the garden as the sun set, so I didn’t really have time to find an ideal composition, so I just planted myself down to paint my neighbour’s scots pine. I find this particular type of tree difficult as it isn’t one mass, but puffs of masses with a lot of transparent elements. The last time I attempted a scots pine it was a disaster – so perhaps this is an improvement! I didn’t quite get the setting sun side-light that I was going for. I think the sky ought to have been a deeper redder blue, instead of relying on the rote gradient I went for instead. My main focus was on trying to get the trees to ‘sit’ in the environment and not look cut out… hard to say whether this was successful.

    I’m enjoying painting outdoors a lot though.

    And the keys for the day:

    • Try placing the focal point in the distance: All planes – foreground, middleground, distance- should have light and darks to show value contrasts receding. Bit weird this ‘key’, the title doesn’t have much to do with the explanation.
    • Keep distance water below eye level: Don’t place water high on the canvas in attempt to get it to recede. Remember you’re looking across the water, not down on it. Think of water-shapes like any other and foreshortened when seen at an angle.

    Practice Time: 2h

    No badges. No points.

    Bravo, Jac. Thanks for sharing. Your commitment is inspiring…


    No points.

    Thank you Erich for your kind words! I can’t encourage others enough to try the  100 day challenge or to post regularly in the sketchbook forum. It’s great to see other’s work 🙂

    No points.

    Again, nice work! I struggle tremendously when painting outdoors. What medium are you using?

    No points.

    Hello Paul, thanks for the positivity. Painting outdoors certainly has its own challenges, there’s a lot to learn! One thing I’m finding useful is using my outdoor setup when painting indoors – so that when I do go outdoors the workflow is more familiar and intuitive.

    In terms of medium, I’m sticking to oil at the moment. I use the same materials I first learned from Fenske’s Introduction to Landscape -> https://www.nma.art/videolessons/introduction-to-landscape-painting-part-1-materials/?course=318059

    No points.

    Day 22 + 23 23/03/2022

    • I finished watching Fenske’s demo on the creek. I can’t say I took away huge amounts of new information, but I’m always impressed watching him work. There are still one or two demos I haven’t seen  in Introduction to Landscape…
    • I spent two hours on Sunday outside a nearby church for a plein session. It was a beautiful morning and good fun. I definitely felt more comfortable with the process and I was happier than usual with what I had for my efforts.
    • I worked for an additional two hours when I got home. This process of starting a painting outdoors and finishing it in a study was the structure used by Stapleton Kearns in his NMA course and this was my first time employing it – it worked well. There’s plenty wrong with my completed sketch, but it’s probably the best thing I’ve painted outdoors so I think it marks an improvement.
    • Some positives and negatives:
      • Compositionally, the painting is almost divided perfectly in half, foreground vs middle/background. I think I fell for the trap of making the foreground too big to try and make it recede – which makes no sense!
      • Colour-wise, the greens are just so ugly.  I did my best to add other colours for variety, and add desaturated greens, but the actual field was a garish bright green. It’s a tough problem when in lush surroundings. Perhaps I could have expressed more depth by foreshortening.
      • Foreground design the reeds provided an opportunity to design the foreground in a more interesting way, but I didn’t make good use of it. I don’t know how exactly, but I should have taken the opportunity to re-arrange it.
      • Drawing – on a positive note, I think the drawing of the buildings was decent enough, and the general composition a good simplification of what I saw in person.
      • Line – the line through the picture does a reasonably good job of leading the viewer through the foreground to the gate. It gets a bit lost after that.

    Caddell’s Keys to Landscape Painting:

    • Relate tree trunks and branches to the whole – amateurs tend to paint the width of a tree trunk too wide. Consider the relationship between trunk, branches, and the over all size of the tree. Remember that trees emerge from the ground with roots visible.
    • Keep the sky lighter on the side of the source of the light – Light should come from a definition direction and add drama.  Choose a light effect.


    Practice Time: 2 days, 4 hours.

    No points.

    Day 24 24/03/2022

    • Skies are a definite weakness of mine – particularly clouds – most of the time I just hope for a cloudless day and resort to formulaic gradations. Not ideal! So I spent a bit of time working on two postcard-sized studies from photos I have recently taken whilst out and about. The hope is that I can get outdoors and do similar studies informed by studio work.
    • I’m particularly pleased with the top study because I had offered someone on the NMA open critique forum feedback on a similar sort of picture. Whilst I think my advice was sound, my attempt to act on that evidence myself was not good. I could only produce a chalky colourless effort. I feel this is a better example of the feedback I tried to offer. My main focus was on maintaining the saturation of the warm colours of the sunset, “keying” the rest of the picture to it, and not being afraid of going a bit dark in the foreground.
    • I struggled with the backlit cumulus clouds of the bottom study to get a glowing effect. No idea how people achieve this. I might take time to complete some master studies that exemplify this.

    Caddell’s Keys to Successful Landscape Painting:

    • Make Skies Interesting Without Competing with the Landscape: On theme with my studies today. Decide what your main theme is and subordinate secondary themes. If the sky isn’t the subject, then it should enhance the motif; the sky should be interesting but not compete with it. Consider the ‘thrust’ of the sky.
    • Paint a more dramatic sky than the one actually there: Don’t be afraid to paint from memory or experience, so long as the invention is plausible.

    Practice Time: 2.5h

    No points.

    Day 25 25/03/2022

    The good weather continues and the local farmers have taken to burning the bracken on the mountains where they graze their sheep. The result? Brilliant sunsets.

    Most of my outdoor sketches are improved with an hour or two of studio work, but I feel like this one was an exception. I was reasonably pleased with the effort when I brought it inside but quickly gave up on it, not knowing how to improve it. That said, getting to watch the sunset for an hour was a lovely way to finish off the afternoon.

    The very last key, number 50, in Caddell’s Keys to Successful Landscape Painting:

    • Vary cloud shapes for better design: avoid symmetrical or repetitous cloud patterns. The big decision of a painting is whether the sky or landscape is the key motif (a problem experienced in the sketch above, perhaps). Canvas real estate should be given to the primary motif. Clouds are made to recede by layering them, reducing size, flat bottomed, modelled,

    And that’s it folks, all 50 keys in the book. I might bring them together in one post just to recap them before I move onto a new book. Stapleton Kearns recommended the book and,  for what it’s worth, I can see why. It’s a succinct overview of typical problems faced by amateurs and a set of solutions. I can see it being a good reference book for diagnosing problem-paintings.

    Practice Time: 2.5

    No points.

    Day 26 26/03/2022

    I worked on a sketch for a couple hours outside and a couple more inside. What an evening to be paint outdoors – even if passing cars might have mistaken me for a bobby with a speed camera. Overall, I’m pleased with the result. The foreground tree was a battle. I liked the idea of using a couple trees to frame the motif, almost pointing to it, but I found it difficult to determine its value and hue without being a distraction or total blur. I made a few crucial adjustments to the value hierarchy once I got home, darkening the background tree line and the middle-ground grass, so that the barn would seem a bit brighter.

    There were a few shortcomings. I accidentally stuck the barn (which was what I liked about the picture) smack bang in the middle of the canvas. It’s uncanny how often this happens when you forget to check. I’d also say that the light doesn’t quite have the golden glow that was present at the time. The light effect is a bit more autumn than spring.

    I shouldn’t nitpick though, it’s very likely the best thing I’ve painted to date and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Perfect combo!


    Practice Time: 3h

    No points.

    Day 27 27/03/2022

    I started a quick sketch in my garden in the last of our good weather and then spent a few hours inside working on it. Originally I liked the raking light of the scene and the descriptive shadows of the fence that made the flowers pop. Admittedly, once I actually got painting the background shadow was more of a distraction than a useful contrast to draw attention to the flowers. I was keen to move off this sketch, despite there being something about it I like – perhaps it’s the familiarity of the scene?

    I read a few pages of Ian Robert’s Mastering Composition. The pages I read described his painting process, which I was already familiar with from his youtube videos. Robert’s advocates blocking shapes with a single colour/value, but whenever I’ve tried this they always end up looking a bit boring and uniform. Both Fenske and Kearns in their NMA courses start adding variety even at the block in stage.

    I’ve also started reading Kearn’s blog, which talks about this ‘vibration’ effect. His blog is a brilliant resource. http://stapletonkearns.blogspot.com/2009/02/dissecting-metcalf-2.html

    I also watched Ben Fenske’s demo on “the country house”.

    Practice Time: 3h (over two days)

Viewing 15 posts - 16 through 30 (of 99 total)

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