- Lesson details
In this video lesson artist and author, Juliette Aristides walks you through a comprehensive approach to drawing and painting with a particular focus on preparatory sketches. Juliette both draws and paints a still life by moving through several clear and logical stages, starting with charcoal and finishing with oil paint.
- Nitram Academie Fusains Charcoal
- Shop Cloth or Paper Towel
- Drawing Paper
- White Chalk
- Palette Knife
- Artists Grade Oil Colors
- Toned Canvas Panel
- Micron Pen – Black
- Stretched Canvas
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In this video lesson, artist and author Juliette Aristides walks you through a
comprehensive approach to drawing and painting with a particular focus on preparatory
sketches. Juliette both draws and paints a still life by moving through several clear
and logical stages: starting with charcoal; finishing with oil paint. Juliette will demonstrate
how drawing serves a critical role in the painting process, both as a compositional
tool and a practical state of development.
Hi, welcome. My name is Juliette Aristides and I'll be spending a little time with you
today studying drawing and painting as related to still life. We're going to take you from very
basic beginning drawing, and then translating that into black and white paint, and then
moving through color. Now, still life might not grab you emotionally right away; however,
on my plane ride from Seattle to LA, I happened to pick up a book by Bill Bryson
on home, a book about ordinary things. And he had this great line that I wanted to share
with you. He said that "It occurred to me with a forcefulness of thought that what
most of history really is are masses of people doing ordinary things." And that's
our lives as well: filled with things around us that we may or may not have time to
appreciate. And still life – you can grab anything from a pair of old boots to glasses,
or even reaching into your recycling can and pulling out some things – all can
actually be a marvelous essay in light and form, and a glimpse into the things
about us that give so much meaning to our lives. So, today in our lesson, I've chosen
a bottle, a scrap of cloth, a few pears, and some leaves, and set them up. Don't
be intimidated by trying to set up the perfect arrangement. It's better to go for quantity,
actually, at the beginning, than quality. [laughs] That sounds all funny. However,
you don't want anything to stand in your way from actually practicing and enjoying
it. There's not such a thing as a perfect painting, so it's best not to try. So try to
get an accurate, as much as you can, piece and it will have a sense of authenticity to
it that will be uniquely yours. It may feel odd to spend so much time at the beginning
learning to draw when your main goal is actually painting. When I started studying
and I enrolled in my first class, I was in a big hurry to get to the paints. And to my
shock, it was really 7 years later before I was actually able to move into color.
And the reason for that is the lion's share of what painting is about are drawing
considerations: proportion, shape, design, line direction. There are so many things there.
And so, by stripping away the color, using a pencil and a piece of paper, that's our
entrance way into an incredible world. And you'll find that you enjoy it more and more
when you spend some time with it. So, in this lesson, we're not actually going for a
finished work of art. It's an exploration and a journey. So I hope that you enjoy it and
can follow along at home by setting up your own still life. And I hope you can follow
along at home by choosing a few objects, setting them up, and giving it a good go.
When setting up a still life after you've got something arranged, nothing's set in
stone. The thumbnail sketch can be used to decide if you like where everything is or
move things around. A lot of the objects that I've set up are moving on the diagonal, which
means that they appear to be going from the lower left, up this way to the upper right.
Another flow of movement that's going through the piece: there are a couple big arcs.
One is this arc, where I've got my lower segment of the pomegranate, and then
the main pomegranate here, and then a grouping off to the side of these pears. So
this... I'll just make it a little darker for you.
So these groupings become important because it helps organize the image into something
that feels designed and not so random. Another movement that's happening through
the piece is coming from up here, we have the little jar of water, which is sitting over
here, and it sort of comes like a waterfall as it comes down and through. So if you
imagine: here's the little jar of water, here's where the cut part of the pomegranate is,
and it flows all the way down through the drapery. So we've got a number of dominant
movements happening, which creates a lot of pathways for the eye. And then, here's
another one. OK, I'm just noting all these different kinds of relationships and deciding
which one of them I'm going to end up developing for the piece. But just knowing
they're there will help ensure that the piece is a little more organized than it would be
otherwise. Now what I'm going to do is squint way down and try to organize this
piece based on big value shapes. So I'm going to start off taking that governing line
that I had before, that flow-through line that was going from the one pomegranate
here to the pear at the end – sort of looking at them as a single unit – and I'm breaking
the picture up into different units so that nothing's treated quite as an individual.
It's treated as big value blocks rather than thinking of it in terms of fruit. I'm just going
to lightly sketch this out. I'm not sure I love where the horizon line is, so I might
end up slightly lowering it. Right now the horizon line is really high up, and I might
end up just lowering it a little bit.
So there's not going to be much to look at at the beginning. It's simply just blocking
it in. We'll organize some of our value shadow shapes. OK.
I'm using straight lines rather than curves to find the orientation of these shapes.
So this becomes one grouping.
Sort of a diamond shape. And this, the pomegranate, has a lot of squareness to it.
You can see how they become one: because they're so overlapped that your eye ends up
reading it as one big shape. And then we have the leaf. Over here, we have our bottle.
If I run a horizontal across, the top of the pear reaches the top of the bottle. And you
want to compare across, because it becomes a sort of tiny world where everything needs
to relate to one another: the back pear and the pomegranate. And so I see that my line
was a little bit low. So I can raise that up. And then this becomes attached to its
brother over here, and attached again to the shadow shape.
Looking at this gap.
So, I'm going to just slide this over. I realize that this gap in through here is
going to be a little big. And with the value thumbnail sketch, you don't really have to
worry about it being, in any way, accurate; this is basically and experiment. It's a time
to see what you think of your composition. And you can make changes based on it, and
also give it your first trial run. That'll feel a little bit better. So if you're
starting your drawing based on a flow- through line, sometimes that isn't going
to give you perfect proportion because it's just a gesture. So, on top of that, it's really
important to figure out your measurements. So from here to here – I'm just double-
checking – from here to here, it's a little bit beyond – from the water bottle to the
edge of the pomegranate is going to hit a little bit beyond the pear. So this can
perhaps even slide in more.
All right, now I'm going to start massing in my tones. So at the beginning – it
takes a while to build up the value. I'm using charcoal. This is a charcoal that
the point has been sharpened just using a piece of sandpaper. And I'm just going to
build up some of the dark in the background. I know it's really resting on the tooth of the
paper and it's picking up a lot of the surface texture. If I don't like that, I can always just
work this initial layer in, using this, just a piece of paper towel.
The value from the background actually runs through the bottle.
So this is just putting down another even tone. I'm going to continue to build the
surface of the paper until I get something that feels on the even side. With this, I'm
not really pushing down into the paper with the weight of the hand; I'm just letting
the charcoal skim across the surface. And you can see, as the second layer goes in,
that it's starting to get into the paper a little bit more. Here's the edge of my pear.
So the darkness sort of creeps up along, blasting through the contour, or the
edge of the pear, into the center of it.
So I'm continuing to build it up. And this just takes time. Feel free to use another
medium, such as graphite, or anything else – Conté if you like. So this, you
can make as rough or as smooth as you like. I'm just going to keep pushing it in.
And now, there's enough down that I can start building up the tone elsewhere, and
I'll come and revisit this big background shape later.
[charcoal pencil scribbling]
So, one of the challenging things when you're first drawing is just letting go of the
idea that you have to describe every little distinguishing factor. So it's OK that, with
these thumbnail sketches, our bottle just looks like a blob. Really, the background
tone comes through a lot, so you lose sight, in several areas, of the edge of the bottle altogether.
This can drop down. So here, the edge of the pomegranate is going to be more defined.
Then, again, just like the bottle, this shape becomes really dark. It becomes part of that background.
And here, it comes and sort of bleeds over into the shape of the open pomegranate,
and you can cast a little bit of a shadow shape under here. The background, this
little bit of this segment of the horizon line, is considerably darker than in the front,
where it's catching a lot of light on that ground plane. Over here, the pear becomes
like the other objects in the sense that the big shapes start taking over and this becomes
embedded into the background.
And here, there are a lot of interesting shapes in the bottom of this pear, so
I'm just roughly getting those in, and then a really beautiful dark-cast shadow.
So, the lightest area of this still life is this drapery, this little bit of cloth that's
coming around and through. Other than that, everything else is really diminished in tone.
So this internal shape can get really dark. I'm not going to really pay attention to
all those seeds on the bottom. And here, we're getting the overall atmospheric mass
of the piece. It looks a lot different than you'd expect in the sense that we sort of
lose the outside shape of it being pieces of fruit at all – it's just a series of these
dark blobs. But, believe it or not, it's really important when learning how to
paint, or in terms of moving from the idea of the drawing to a painting is really the
domain of these big shapes, and the ability to lose forms into one another.
So now I'm going to push the darks back here a little more.
OK, I'm just going to drop the value through here.
[blows dust off of paper]
[blows dust off]
When there's too much charcoal dust, I just blow it off the surface. So, I use generally
a medium charcoal and then switch to a softer one, like in these areas when it's
getting blacker, and a harder one when I need to go into areas that are lighter and
require more sensitivity.
OK, now you can see that the value range is getting greatly increased. So, the local
color of this object can start to be dropped down.
The key to getting these shapes right is to squint. [blows dust off]
So this can get much darker here. And this is so far away from our light source that it
can get almost faded out entirely.
Here, I'm shaping some of the shadow shades in that pear. Sometimes you just have to go
over it a number of times in order to get it to sit properly. Here, the value is going to
drop all the way down through the sides. I might as well start to find a few of the
shapes in the drapery as well.
So, I might even go a little darker still. One of the chief advantages of charcoal is
that it can get dark pretty easily. Notice I could get dark right away, but I build it
up. It gives me a chance to find the drawing in a very natural way that's very forgiving.
This is about as dark as I'm going to get in the background. And then I'm going to,
one more time, link it up with the objects in the front. Here, the background really
passes through and washes over the pear, almost as if it's a floating object. You'll
see that the shadow shapes got lost again. And the process of hunting for them adds
nuance to the drawing. [blows dust] The more darks we put on, the more the
light gets bunched up into a smaller area. There's less and less of that light shape.
It sort of mimics a twilight. There's almost no detail going in at all.
And here, we're going to push the darks when we find some of them and knock
this shadow back. [blows dust off]
And here, again, just pushing these darks down. This really gives you a lot of time,
when you're working from life, to be able to enjoy looking at things that, normally,
we don't have much opportunity to sit and stare at. It can almost become like a landscape.
So now, I might go ahead and try and make sense of the light shades.
Here, I can establish this drapery a little more fully; I can decide if I want to include
the front edge or not.
So, in this case, I think I'll push a few of the lights. First, I can do that with
my kneaded eraser just by going in and picking out some of the areas that have
gotten quite dark. And I'm going to do this in a very similar way to the way I put the
darks in. Just squinting down and seeing what's left. We don't need too much
information. The human eye is remarkably adept at being able to decode partial
information. And as we're doing this, we're catching a little bit of the edges
of things that have gotten lost.
[charcoal pencil scribbling]
Be really careful to not allow too many edges; only the edges that we want to be
there. So the horizon line, just letting it be implied more than stated.
There's a little bit of a glare spot on the pomegranate. This, I can see now, needs
to drop. The light shape in here can be further diminished. And we're catching
a little bit of this warm light that we'll be able to develop more fully and paint.
So this is a very painterly approach to drawing: just working from shape rather
than line. And then with the addition of value. So, I might put a few of- see where
the seeds are? Soften the darks in this fabric and push the lights. It needs a
little bit of a white chalk because my paper is a mid tone, or just not perfectly
white. So this, I can just soften down through here. Sort of creep up on the
edge of that drapery.
So that's quite a dark composition. It's got a sort of baroque feel to it. And so
the lights are going to stand out and be more distinct in shape and the shadows
are going to merge together. Here, I can start to find that leaf.
Finding some of the shapes as they twist around. Here, the leaves just follow an
inexplicable pattern that won't show up well in drawing simply because when you
squint down, it becomes almost the same value as the background with the exception
of the shadows.
This, I'm going to drop all the way down. Next, I'm going to look and make sure I
have all the edges that I want. This one has a little bit more of an edge toward
that side. And I don't need to develop it much beyond this to see if it's going
in the direction that I want it to go in and to figure out if all my shapes are
lumping together in a way that's OK. Then I can get started on my drawing.
You can pick up a little bit of light up here.
I can find some of the shapes of the leaves.
So, I'm just going to bring a tiny bit more information into the front part
of the drapery just to give it a little bit more form. And then, the darks
that are in the drapery are not nearly as dark as the darks that are happening
elsewhere. It's easy, as you're looking in one small area, to get confused because
your eye actually adjusts to the light that's bouncing around. And the darks
appear to be a little bit richer than they actually are. The goal of this part of the
drawing is not to come home with a really beautiful sketch, but simply as
an opportunity to get your first sense of the distribution of light and shadow across
the surface of your rectangle, and see, overall, if you're happy with the way the
values are distributed.
And then, we'll move on to developing our more finished piece.
OK, so now I'm going to mix a little value step scale so we can translate some of the
things we were talking about in the little poster study to oil painting. This is just
ivory, black and white, and we'll use this to set up our value step scale. So here, I
like to make a mid-tone. And then we'll add and extend the value range out, both
to the light and the dark.
I'm going to move this more into the middle.
So we'll do a series of gradations, and then this will become our palate. We'll
use this mixture to get these values to be as distinct as we can so each one has
integrity. Here, I'm going to be using the white as value 1. This is value 2, 3, 4, 5.
This will function as my light tones, and then mixing up my mid tones and my darks.
Value is considered the underpinning of color; all color has a value. And some of
the complexity of color can be limited. It's easier to get a handle on if you can
identify what value it is. I'm going to get some of my darks. So we have
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and I'd like to put a value right in through there to give
me my 9th value. The thing to keep in mind is mixing a value step scale is deceptively
simple. It can actually take quite a bit of time to get a perfect one down. What
you're looking for is that there's not a huge jump between one value and another,
and the more you look at it, the harder it is; it can escape you the closer you get to
it. But I recommend taking a little bit of time to get one or two under your belt
because this becomes your vocabulary for a lot of value composition, and later, form.
So this is on a light grey ground; I know a lot of people have their palettes light
grey. Both the lights and the darks show up really well on it. I've got a little turps
and I'm going to be mixing, just cleaning my brush between strokes. This would
be my value #2, and all of this is going to function as my lights. My value #3 is
pretty close to the value of the canvas.
Ah. Look at that - you always have to test these things, because the jump between
that is unconscionable. There's a big jump with my value #4.
We want to keep them pretty distinct and allow them to kiss at the edge so that you
don't have much of the background showing through.
And our final black. So, this is going to become our palette, this value range, for
the underpainting stage of the painting. Jumping into color can be really concerning.
Limiting it and being able to focus just on value actually can be helpful. So that will
be that for this part. Now we're going to do a little schematic of it so we can begin
to translate, in a really bare-bones way, what we were doing in our value poster
study to painting. It's going to be a very dark, atmospheric image when we're done
with it, so we're going to be grabbing, predominantly, from the dark end of the
spectrum. And the keynote will be a light one. So this will inevitably be our focal
point, right up in this triangle. So I'm just going to do a quick sketch for placement,
and then mass in a talk a little bit about what happens when you're doing such
a dark image.
So, we have our ground plane, which is quite a bit lighter than the background.
So we get some good difference here. You want to be careful that your ground plane
and your background aren't the same, or it will appear as if your still-life objects
are floating. You can see right off the bat that the picture is going to be divided
up almost in half this way, and then, value- wise, a lighter triangle here being offset
by a really heavy shape on this side. So this can almost be comparable to those
Rembrandt paintings where you have a dark background and a few lit figures in the front.
So I'm just going to quickly mass this in and then I'll finesse it a little bit. As you
can see, it becomes starkly apparent that we have one keynote in terms of value,
and then we've got our secondary. So, this value pattern, even though it's
incredibly abstracted, becomes, in a way, the true subject of the painting. The flow
of light as it goes across. I'm going to compare it to a different value scheme
in a second and you'll see how it relates. Here, this would be a dark value scheme
with just a few pinpricks of light. And we can even lighten this up a little bit more.
This is the abstract value shape. And this, believe it or not, is critically important for
the success of a finished work of art. There are a lot of photographs in the
world; nobody wants to see another photograph in your painting. You want
to be able to sort through all the detail and come up with something that feels like
a big impression. So, if this was a different type of scheme, we might have our same
still life in a light background. [jar clanking]
This is going to almost be the same value as the background. You can see that if the
background becomes light instead of dark and we have the same setup – and let's give
our pomegranates some shadow shapes – the darks themselves, instead of the lights
becoming these isolated shapes like we have in our dark scheme, it's the darks that start
jumping to the forefront, and the lights become lost edges. So it completely inverts
the image. Depending on how you choose to light your object and design it, you'll hover
between the dark end of your spectrum with a light focal point, or a light end of your
spectrum with a dark focal point, or in the middle, with being able to accent both of
them. OK, now I'm switching over from my ivory black palette to an umber palette. And
there are a lot of underpainting methods that start off using raw umber. And we lay
in our mid-tone. And you'll see how all the preparatory work we've done becomes a
really nice inroad to understanding and developing our finish piece, which we'll
start next. By the time we get started on our finish painting, we'll have actually
looked at this thing a bunch of times; it won't be a stranger to us anymore. So
I'm working from shadow shapes to light shapes and getting in our ground plane.
Raw umber has a transparency to it that ivory black doesn't, so it's really good –
any of these more transparent colors become an easy, nice way to push around
a rough painting, because it's so flexible. So here, I'm going to get this shadow
shape in. We can start to push the background. And you can see, already,
that it's very similar to our sketch that we first did with charcoal. It goes a lot
quicker, however, with paint.
OK, we're going to finish getting the darks in. And when you look at a lot of historical
work, you'll notice that up until the 19th century, the palettes tended to be pretty
limited; they really relied a lot on a beautiful understanding of form and
value to create the illusion of a completely finished piece. You really want every piece
to have one focal point, and it's a good rule to follow. It becomes hard to pull it
off because so many things compete for our attention, but if you can just have one
main focal point in the piece in terms of value or color, it will help, because our
eyes are designed to be able to focus in terms of a hierarchy of information. So if
too many things are jumping out at us, instead of everything feeling important,
it strangely feels like nothing's important. So as much as you can do to simplify – the
genius is in the simplification, not in all the information you can possibly put in
there. And I find that no matter how much I know, how many times I've studied and
thought about it, when it comes time to actually simplify, it's easier said than done
because there are a lot of aspects of life which are very beautiful, and we want to
get them all in there. I'm just going to start to rough this in. Value has two
aspects: one is of pattern and the other one is of form. When you're actually
describing light hitting something and it becoming round and volumetric, pattern
is two-dimensional; it's big value shapes and it has nothing to do with roundness
or volume. And both of those functioning together are really exciting; they make a
piece really interesting. And right now, we're still at the realm of value-pattern.
And later, when we start our final piece, we'll really push the form. Here I'm going
to pull out a little bit of light on my bottle. We've got a little bit of black –
I'm going to just drop the background a little bit more. Some people do this right
on their canvas as the underpainting, and then it gives you a ton of information.
This side of the canvas is darker than the other; we've already established that. And
now I'm going to push the lights. [paintbrushes clacking]
So for pulling out the lights, I can just use a paper towel. And if you have any old
bedsheets, you can use those as well, and actually sort of pull out some of the light
shapes if I've gotten too dark.
Here, the light shape is over a tiny bit further, right about there. This can darken.
I'm going to push the darks in here. I'm going to build up on top of this with my white.
This becomes a sort of swooping sea of light. It starts coming around. Then I can
start pulling out a few of my lights elsewhere.
I'm going to find a lighter part to this part of the open pomegranate and put
in a few of the seeds. I like these Filbert brushes because they can put on a large,
flat area of tone, and they can also hold a point really well on their side, so they're
great if you need any detail. This image is working with just one color, this raw
umber. You can get a ton of information about your subject, but you can't get
everything, and for that, we're going to be looking for color to provide the next
round of information for us.
With painting and drawing, it's more about finding a set of convincing questions: What
value is this? Is this is a hard edge or a soft edge? Is it lighter or darker? All those things
end up giving you an answer. And believe it or not, sometimes if you struggle with
something for a long time and it's filled with this wrestling that's taken place,
the image, weirdly, can end up all the better for it, more interesting and more
complex for having to fight for the answer a little bit. These lights over here: we don't
want them to compete, so they have to drop down. We're almost done with this.
So I'll just put the final implication here of a leaf. It's amazing how time sort of
disappears when you're painting and drawing. It's such an incredibly engaging
process. You're so connected to the world and it makes objects more intriguing and
interesting, not less so, no matter how long we look at them. Let's be done with
that. So, I'm going to start by bringing in some of the ideas that we were talking
about in the very first thumbnail sketch. There are a lot of different ways to go
about this stage of the drawing process. We could really do a carefully-measured
drawing; at some point, I'd really recommend doing that. For this one, we're going to do a
a little bit more of a mass-oriented approach, as we've been doing through all the studies.
Here, I'm going to bring in those big arcs like I did at the first sketch. I'm going to
get a feel for the movement of the piece. Here we have that arc, which is going to
contain our open pomegranate and lead us all the way back to the pear. You really want
to do a fair amount of measuring. Sketching with charcoal on canvas is actually fairly
forgiving, because if you don't like what you've done, you can just erase it. You
can use a cloth or a Shammy. I'm going to give it a good guess. This might be where
I've got the edge of the table.
This represents the top, the highest point, which is where the bottle is.
I'm going to get this what they call "blocked in". You can see how much
it conforms to the initial thumbnail sketch we were doing earlier. If I drop a horizontal
line going all the way across, the base of this almost fits the base of the pears over
here. So this becomes a grouping here, and I can measure width to height and
get a nice, big gap between. I don't have to have all the answers at the beginning;
just creep up on it. There's a slight axis of the pomegranate to the left. This is
vertical. And here, we've got an overlay. As we're working, we begin to get a series
of measurable increments; this to this becomes something we can use to
assess how close we are. So from the base of the pomegranate to the top,
it should hit midway over here, and it does. It's OK to take your time. There's
no prize in art for coming first. It's something that you develop however
long it takes. So if you end up working on your still life for a month, there's no harm
in that. This becomes sort of one family grouping. This feels a little large to me,
so I want to make sure that gap isn't too big. From the right side of the pomegranate
to the left side of the jar takes us to the dimple over here, so now it's a great
chance to see if I'm correct. Yeah, that works OK. I might slide this over, though,
and leave more room. I put a vertical line to see where the drapery hits over
here, and it's catching the far side of my pear. And the other side of the drapery
is hitting here, so it's quite wide.
This – the top edge of our tabletop.
With this, we don't have to worry about it being cleaned up. There's a long way to go
between this and the end of our picture.
Great art ends up being not so much a perfect record or document of an object,
but really an artist's, or your, impression of the world in which you live. There's
a felt truth to it at the end more than an exact accuracy. There's an emotional
accuracy to it. OK, so here I've got a basic, rough block-in that I'll use to
develop into an underpainting. And you can see how similar this is to our
initial thumbnail sketch. Really developed in quite the same way. I want to see that
there's a little bit of a tip between here and here, and likewise, one there.
This can pull down.
OK, so that will give us our initial block-in. Ink over this, I could use a pencil; I can use
India ink. But I'm going to be using a micron pen. And I'm just going to clean up the lines
that I have and use my pen to go over it. I've got multiple lines going on here, and
at this stage, I'm also making a decision about which one of those I'll end up using.
You could do a drawing, and I recommend this as well, on a separate piece of paper
if you want, and always transfer it. Here, I'm just getting the basic outline. There's
not a lot of exhaustive detail; just more of these big impressions.
Finding the cork.
Going in and blocking in the drapery.
Here, I'm finding some of the outside contour of the pear and the shadow shape.
Finding the edge of the leaf.
The shadow shape.
And then I can just erase out those lines.
Now you're going to see a good correlation between what we we're doing here and what
we were doing on those other little sketches. I'm just going to create an
underpainting. I could do it in color if we wanted, but this one is such a dark piece
that it wouldn't hurt to get it done in umber.
I'm essentially just covering the surface with a sort of twilight darkness. This is
raw umber, the same color I was using before.
I can still see my lines through here; it didn't erase them.
Here, we're just getting this whole surface covered. I know it can be
really unnerving to see everything be covered up like this, but my lines are
still under there. If it gets a little too dark in places, you can just wipe it out.
Now I'm going to punch my darks in a little bit. Maybe I'll bring in some of my
darker tone in the back here. I'm just going to punch the shadow shapes a little
bit more. I'm getting some nice glare over there. I'm going to pull out a few of the
lights just so we can see where we're going with this thing. Just like in that little value
sketch that we did to start off with, we can work back into it, both additively and
through subtraction. So we'll get some of this stuff lined up. You can see, we're
finding a few of these big key shapes.
Here, we're pulling out the lights. And this is just an old bed sheet that's been
torn up. T-shirts are great; anything like that would be wonderful. Paper towels
don't work as well because of the lint that ends up in the painting. You can see in
a matter of a minute or two how this can give you a really easy underpainting for
your piece that we can start to work on top of. I'm going to push the darks down
in the front, here, where I'm getting my edge of the tabletop.
I'm going to push down a few of the darks. This could get really nice and dark. Next,
I'm going to build up the background as well. We can get a few of the shadow
shapes under the leaves.
So, now I'm going to start getting a little bit more information in the underpainting stage.
I'm going to grab some black and actually just extend my darks. Basically, I'm just
translating all that stuff we were working on in the earlier part of the lesson into
the underpainting stage of my still lifes, so it should feel pretty familiar. The
biggest difference is the medium: instead of using charcoal, we're using paint. And
just like with the still life, in charcoal, we're building the tone up gradually.
We're not going right for the blasted-out blacks and whites right away; we're giving
it time to evolve. There's a unity to the piece that exists when you have this
underpainting. We try to preserve the unity as much as we can. I'm getting a
little bit of glare, and you might find that using a fan brush to go over it will help
with the directions of the brush stroke. Don't worry about having one particular
direction, like you would if you were painting a house.
As we're extending the dark range, what looked like our deepest shadows before
now get moved into the lighter range of the value step scale. We push down our
shadow shapes, extending our darks, and I'm really paying attention to what areas get
completely lost – like, for example, this part of the pomegranate. The shadow
reads as a dark juxtaposed against the light here, and then as we move up, it
becomes a completely lost edge. Here, it takes on greater contrast as the
background gets darker. Here, we're continuing to push down the tone. And,
remember, we have a lot of ammunition left in terms of our darks. Here, if we
extend the blacks even more, you can see how we still have the full two or three value
steps left until we get to our darkest darks. I'm going to push this value down a little
bit more. And now we're going to do the same thing on this side, allowing the
darkness of the background to envelop the pear. And here, a lot of specific
information is in this edge that goes between the shadow and the light shape,
so I'm going to be careful to try to get some of that.
So, we're really paying attention to how a lot of these edges are hitting the background.
There are a lot of different ways we could go about this: we could do a color wash, we
could have done a detailed drawing, we could do alla prima, which means just go
straight for our finish. But regardless of the method, we want to keep in mind the
major underlying principles. And the underlying principle is, really, working
from big to small shapes, paying attention to the specific nature of how each element
and each edge wanders to and fro across the surface of the painting. Value won't
take us everywhere, but it takes us farther than one would expect into
describing what's happening in this particular image. A slight ellipse here.
And here, I'm catching a little bit more of that edge, so I can pull that out with
my brush, or I can pull it out with the paper towel. After you get your initial
big shapes, painting becomes a celebration of really small things, and the trick is getting
the small things to never subdivide what was happening in the whole so that the
context always feels intuitively correct, like you're seeing the big thing, and then
you can zoom in indefinitely, just like life.
I'm going to find where a few of these seeds go just so that I've got a spot for
them saved right from the beginning.
Really, the job of the painter is to create a sense of wonder, or at least interest,
in everything. So, when I look at a really beautiful painting, it always causes me to
go back to my own life and appreciate something a little bit more that I would've
walked right past. There's something about us staring for so long at one thing that will
cause other people to stop as well. I'm going to get a little bit of a cleaner edge –
sort of have a placeholder there with that cleaner edge.
OK, so now is as good a time as any to start getting some more information in
this drapery. We can pull out some of the light planes where the light is just breaking
across and catching. So this area here is going to be a little darker. This coming around.
This plane is farther away from the light, and so it's getting a little bit of a side plane.
And then on the undercut, there's a shadow being cast by the edge of the drapery where
it's blocking the light. And as we get farther still, the value drops.
Here, we can pick up a little bit of the edge. This becomes really, only a few
spots that are truly blasted out. This, I think we can lighten.
We're doing a lot of the work of finding this information in this stage
of the painting, the underpainting stage. This got a little dark. Now we can start
to carve our some of the light that's happening over here. Going to drag
this across, softening my edges. The lightest part of this is an internal edge
of that plane. Across the top, we get a little bit of a cast shadow around the
stem. I'm going to actually just try to scrape out a little bit of that light. The
light through here is really interesting – it looks like a fan shape. And I'll drop
the value because of some really sincere darks through here. So this murkiness will
be dispelled a little bit when we go in and start to find some of the stronger shadow shapes.
Here, this is a cast shadow from the other pear that's hitting this edge. Through here,
I want to get some of the character of the pear, so I'm going to have to shuffle this
light shape over.
I'll push the lights a little bit more on some of these things.
I'm going to push a few of these darks, and then I might go ahead with some
white. So now, it's starting to be divided up into light shapes, dark shapes or shadow
shapes, and some dark accents. But I still haven't put my darkest darks in and I still
haven't put my lightest lights.
I'm going to pull out this leaf.
We can pull out this leaf a little bit as well.
Drag that tone over. And then I'm going to push my lights a little bit with white.
And this, you can see, will extend our value range considerably towards the light side.
Catching a little bit of the light as a piece of fabric comes up. So you have
really amazing things all around you that you can paint and look at that will be really
fascinating once you start exploring it. Even just a little twist of fabric as it wraps around,
you've got all those little threads. It becomes really interesting.
This becomes more of a grisaille when we add the white to it.
And as it gets farther away from the light, it starts dragging in some of the umber,
which will become a mid tone.
Here it starts wrapping around.
This can sort of trail off into that darkness. This I'm going to pull out a little bit more
and be able to develop that edge. This can wrap around and build up some of
the edges through there. The more we pile on the light, the more opaque it gets and
the brighter it seems. Here we're getting quite thick with the application of white,
and you can see how much it extends into that light side of the value spectrum. And
then the question becomes, "Is this too dark?" The light is changing how dark that appears,
and I think we got a little too dark with it, so I think we can lighten it up. When I was
a student, my teacher always used to say that if you look too long into the lights,
the lights will get too dark, and if you look too long into the shadows, the
shadows will get too bright. So the goal is to maintain that
harmony that we set out when we did our little value poster study at the
beginning. So you preserve that bigness of shape even as you're getting really specific.
We have a light that wraps around. The dark gets pushed underneath here a little
more than I have it. Perhaps this got a little light; I can drop this as it comes
down and around.
[paintbrushes clacking] So my shape through here got a little bit
lost, and it's easy enough to come back and find it.
Now I'm going to build up a few of the lights elsewhere. Now, nothing is going to
be even remotely as bright as that, so I have to be really careful. Here we get
specificity of shape. Really what this is is drawing.
So this, I can drag some of these sort of murky lights across the surface of the
bottle and start to get more specificity of shape. And then here, where it's not
transparent, you really get a strong light catching on the edge of that cork.
The light sort of beats up on the surface of the glass. It's not a soft transition,
like it would be on a different surface; it's very irregular.
...and not transitioned.
So towards the bottom, the whole mass of the bottle is getting lighter. As we're going
into this stage, we're really taking care of a lot of the drawing that we didn't get
to with the first pass.
Now in here, we're moving across and over, catching a little bit of light through here.
And we're going to find the leaves.
And I'm going to go in and find more specific shapes in our pomegranate.
It might be helpful to switch to a smaller brush.
There's a little cast shadow which is underneath them, just like there is
a cast shadow underneath these big shapes. We get a tiny bit of light that can rest across.
And some of this, we'll end up overpainting in the next stage.
Now I'm going to get some of the other sections of the underpainting caught up.
The leaf. And the brush can be used to add tone and also remove it. And the
color will help explain a lot. So when the color gets on all these areas that feel
really ambiguous right now, we'll have more definition. So this might be self-
explanatory, but using a smaller brush helps in these smaller areas.
Here we can catch a little bit of the dark side of the pomegranate. We get a little
bit of relief by lightening up. This is called a light halo. With a little bit of
reflected light. So now I'm going to get a lot more specific over on this side of the
pear. It's got all kinds of lumps and bumps on it, which will be important
for giving it character. This, there's a lot of dark half-tone, which rolls
around until we reach the brightest area.
And over here, we can push the darks and pull out the light part of the leaves.
I think it's a good idea to perhaps lower the horizon line, so I'm going to drag that
background tone down a little bit lower. And I'm going to be sure to extend it all
the way across. As I'm extending it, that gives a definite horizon line, but not a
dark horizon line. We're being pretty judicious about where we place our
sharpest edge. As this gets darker, I can also bring a little bit more clarity to the
center part of the pear and bring up the light more towards the middle. And so
you have to remember that all this is going to end up getting covered by
color on the next pass, so we don't have to worry about it being exact. But on the
other hand, it's giving us a lot more than we had to go on at the beginning. So we
have a lot of information about where things are finally going to end up. So I'm going to
build this up a little bit more. And wherever the light goes in, it has the effect of also
creating half-tones, so here, as this gets brighter, it creates a little bit of an edge
of mid tone. Here you've got half-tone wrapping around. This I'm going to push
down even further. All these little planes that pop up are ones that are useful for
catching light. I'm going to have to let this underpainting dry, then we can
revisit it and put our color layer on top.
There are a few little bits of fold that wrap around, which might help break
up that extreme shape. Remember that as you're building up your lights, you still have
to keep control of how dark those mid tones are so it feels flooded with light. And the
brighter that gets, the more it enables me to pull up the whites elsewhere.
We're just about wrapping this up. I'm just going to put a little bit more information
here. Pushing some of the darks.
And this is going to be pushed down as well.
Going to straighten out where this line is so that my ellipse feels a little bit more
straightforward. This has gotten straight; we have to be careful that it gives us just
a little bit of a rounded ellipse.
OK, that's pretty much as much information as we need at this stage of the painting
process. Everything else, we're going to be able to decide on with color and shifting values
in color in the next painting stage. We can just leave this edge. You want to make
sure your edges are left without any really heavy buildup of paint. That will make it
easy to work on when you come back into it. I'm just going to find a few little edges
through here right before we wrap it up.
[indecipherable speaking in background]
So after this stage is finished, we're going to let it dry. You want to make sure it's
dry to the touch because with this thick application of paint, you can really end up
smearing it or dragging the monochromatic underpainting into your color. You don't
want to do that because you want your color to be as vibrant as possible. So this is not
exhaustive information, but it's enough to give you a good start when you go ahead
with your color on top.
With the still life, we're going to start working from background to foreground.
I'm going to just place in some of the general dark of the background. There's
no orthodoxy with this sort of thing; we can start working with one of your objects
and then build up to the background if you wanted to. This is pretty much ivory black
with a little bit of brown in it to warm it up. I didn't even think of that. [laughs]
I'll just put it around the main objects to give us something to work into.
I'm grabbing some of the dark umbers.
And from here, I can actually start creating a few of the shadow shapes. And just like
our value study that we did, we're going to allow some soft lost edges.
I'm going to get the background, through here, of the ground plane. This is just to
establish the general value and color. So it's warm and the edges are fairly soft.
This is going to pull from dark to light.
As we come closer to the foreground, you're going to have more light hitting
that table, because the light's coming from the left, so it's going to spill across that
surface, getting from light to dark. So we'll scumble that in across the surface
here, just dragging the color across. And I can lighten it up more if I want. This,
we can pull down. It starts to get darker through there. And later on, I'll push to
get some more of the surface texture, but for now it's enough to get big light coming
from here to there. And we'll work on the detail later.
Over here, it's more neutral, which will shift our yellow a little more to green.
We'll drag that down. You want to keep the horizon line the same all the way across.
That's something you can just measure with a ruler later. When you're working, sometimes
the horizon line can get a little off and easy enough to fix. Something you do want to
pay attention to. So here, we're getting a cast shadow coming off the drapery and
dragging across. We've got a tiny bit of light flowing behind this pomegranate,
which will put the dark in high relief. I'm going to drop this foreground a
little bit to distinguish it from what's happening, distinguish the plane change.
So it drops down, and we'll push our darks under here, where we're getting a lot less
light through there. I'm going to soften the horizon line because I'm getting some
glare on it. If my light's OK and I'm getting some glare, it just means
the brush strokes are catching the light. Sometimes that's just an easy way to get
rid of it: dragging a soft, clean brush over the surface. [materials clanking on table]
Then I can start to push the shadow shapes in certain areas. I'm going to create a value
that's sort of a neutral violet for the shadow shape of my pomegranate.
So that comes in. And it's going to push up around. Now, we get a moment that's
really dark. It's still violet, but it becomes so dark that it's hard to see it against the
background. There's a bit of the tone of the pomegranate, the shadow that wraps
around and across through here. It actually comes up a little higher. I'm going to mix
some kind of neutral red. This is on the cool side. It's not red like a red-orange,
a strawberry or something. It's got a little bit of blue in it on this side. You can start
to see it getting warmer and more vibrant, more towards orange, on the lit side. There
are all kinds of interesting things that are happening with the color as it moves around.
The actual brightest moment of intensity is over here and the rest of the color will be
a hybrid of all different things. We'll probably have only a moment or so
of pure, bright red.
Actually, there's some yellow through the bottom part. So this will be my first pass
of color on the pomegranate. And you'll see I'll come back to it. I'm going to
increase the violets, but I'm first going to continue my way across. Actually,
maybe I'll put those in now so I don't get too far along without it.
This can brighten through here. So I'm holding back; I'm pushing my brightest
lights a little until I make my way across. This, right through here, I'd say would be
the brightest area, where we're getting pretty intense red. And almost immediately
after that, it starts to cool down.
I'm getting a mixed light source; I'm getting some cool here and sort of a blue light
here. And really warm light over there. Actually, good time to clean the brush.
So, there's a little bit of yellow-orange as it comes around. And this might be too
neutral, but I can shoot some of the red in, which would help. This will be our first
lay of color into the pomegranate, giving us something to work off of when painting
some of the other areas, and then we'll come back and be able to finish it up.
This area could use a little more mid-tone violet. As it comes around, if this feels too
dark, we can lighten up that. I'm going to push a few of the deep red notes.
That's fine for now. We'll come back. Next, we'll hit this one. We start, once again, with
the shadow. Get a good, deep cast shadow under here. This, I'm going to push that
value down even more. Get the underside to sit back and down. We want this to be
nice and dark. This can drop; so can this. And this we're going to pull up and around.
It's got some good, balancing warms in it. This can come up, and then we're catching
some of those really nice, ochre-y yellows as it wraps up towards the light.
We can push the darks down in through here and get some of those incredible reds.
We'll just get this massed in, sort of broadly placed. Over here, the light's
really shining through it. And the chroma really picks up. We're grouping all of these
seeds to together so that none of them jump out or are alone. They need to be
thought of as a unit, or it just feels like painting individual seeds. You can do that
later if you want. But general to specific is the overall rule. If you start from
specifics, you can still get the whole thing to hang together, but you have to really be
uncanny in terms of your accuracy to get it to feel right.
I'm going to make a really interesting type of yellow out of green and orange.
Here we have a few lost edges.
This we can make a little more red.
Over here, I'm going to extend the light across the top of that.
I'll let that catch some of the shapes just so I don't lose my drawing. We did
all that sketching to block in the drawing and we want to make sure we preserve it.
I'm going to mass this in and then pull that over. But before I do that, I'm going
to get this shadow shape.
I'll let that place the darks in the back bottle.
I'll pull some of the warms that are showing through. It's a little bit orange-y.
Just be moderately careful to note the change of color through here.
Bring in some of those rich oranges.
This is a deep yellow. So I'm going to lighten up this and work from the lit
reflection over. I see that the shape has gotten a little out of whack, and I
can fix that later.
There, pulling up the reflection. Some interesting cools at the bottom of the glass.
This reflection at the top, where we're actually seeing through, into the water,
could get a tiny bit grayer. There's a lot happening up through here; it'd be
unlikely to get it all at once. Still life tends to be a celebration of simple
things, and in our day and age, we can't hear that message too much that we have
exactly what we need right in front of us to be completely amazed most of the time.
This is too bright.
The cork has a cool and warm side; a dark and light side.
This is quite a bright light.
I can lighten that a little bit on that side.
So here, let's throw some green into that leaf and get some strong color.
Here we can push the light side of the leaf.
Here I'm going to pull up a little bit more of the beautiful color.
You start to find it in some of the pomegranate seeds.
I can grab some of the lighter red and put it in.
Next, I'm going to get some shadow color for my still life, for those pomegranate seeds.
And catch a little bit of the light.
This we can make more of a U shape.
And push the undercut of the table.
I'd love to get some more of the cool note in this back bottle. And, as well,
here, get the violet.
Find a few of the shapes through here.
So light is passing through them.
And here, we get some cooler lights. The drapery has got a bluish cast to it.
Turning this from the warm umber underpainting into grabbing some of those more blue-violet tones.
This is just large planes of color.
I think we can shift towards green, even, like a blue-green. And if we don't love it,
we can always change it once it's all in place.
The bright side of the cloth is catching a fair amount of yellow from the light
source. We're using a slightly warm incandescent bulb.
This we can drop down. It tucks under.
This, the warmth intensifies as it folds over and under.
We're going to absorb that edge and lower the drawing on that. I'm going to put the
green leaf in. [materials clacking, shuffling]
Here we can start with a local color.
This I'm going to tip back and under. Then we're going to get this strong yellow-green highlight.
This we can sharpen.
Then we'll start to knock in some of the color back here. For that, we want to get
really warm, deep, dark color.
This becomes part of the background.
OK, so, we're going to put more of the yellow and yellow- ochre to give color
to the inside here.
So we want to take care of all the areas where things meet up. I'm going to push
that back. We get some really nice, strong green.
This part of the leaf is wrapping around.
This is going to get darker as it wraps underneath. And the brightness of the
yellow is bunching up on the planes that are facing more towards the light.
We're just going to stay and hang out in this one area for a while.
Push the color.
And push the color through here.
Sometimes, one highly-punctuated area of color is enough to fill in the
eye for a whole, big area. Your eye sort of fills in the rest. And I'll
bring out the light side a little more.
Right now, we're sort of doing a broad, impressionistic underpainting; just getting
the big shapes. We're not worried about form drawing or form painting; we're just
building up these big masses of light and shadow using color.
Lighten that up. This almost appears to have a little green tinge to the yellow.
Here, I think we can build up some of that violet a little more, and in doing so,
separate it from the background.
I'm just going to help bring it forward.
Here, we can move more quickly. The yellow doesn't have to stay stark for so
long going up and through.
Here, there's a fair amount of obscurity in the painting, which you want to try
to get rid of.
Sort of pulling up the light on this side of the bottle.
Same over here.
You can pull out this sense of bright light. Sometimes you'll paint it in and
it just sinks in and needs to be restated.
So I'm going to catch that ellipse.
As this gets more flooded with light and realize some of these other areas
have become a little dark, it gives us a chance to reassess some of these areas here.
This is going to push up and under.
I'll allow a little bit more light to come through in the back here as well.
It's hard to go bright enough over in this area. It's very close to the light source.
None of the other leaves are quite as light as it, so I have to double-check and
make sure that I didn't accidentally overstate some of these other elements.
So maybe I'll spend some time, now, with the drapery. Actually, before I do that, I
don't like how murky the color of the ground plane is. It just needs a little
bright light to help separate it and get it to start to pull forward.
This isn't a shadow side; this is a light side. So that can pull up. The light comes
down and catches through here.
There's just so much color in this light.
Here, we're going to build this out.
Just a mixture of warm and cools, most of the cools being on the shadow side, like
we talked about.
This is a light shape coming through here, and then the dark hugs around the back.
So this cool note can wrap around.
Put a few cooler tones in through here. And as this is getting cooler, it makes me
want to drop down the temperature in a few other areas, too, to tie it together.
But first I'll finish this up.
This is just a lot of broken colors, when there are shifts that are the same value.
It's just a lot of different hues in one area. So in this instance, we're going from yellows
to blue to violet. It's a lot of color. This, we might want to push the form in there
a little bit. So first, I'll just track some of these threads.
See, this shape rolls over. It creates a dip. And here, again, we work in a nice
cast shadow in the recesses of this fabric.
So, because the color is so bright everywhere else, I really want to
keep the color feeling flooded, even in these shadow areas.
This we're wrapping under. I'm going to load up, use a bigger brush.
I ought to bring more of a neutral, a tiny bit of neutral into here. Really build this
way, way up and light.
You have to be careful because this is getting a little bit uneven.
I'm going to cut in through here.
This feels a little sunken in to me for some reason. I think I'll pull it out.
This I'm brightening up so it can catch more of the light. This I'm going to
lighten as well. This one's got the edge of that; it has all this texture to
it. The pattern of the wood as it comes down. I'm going to drag some of that across.
I think what I'm going to do is actually lower the horizon a little more, because
it feels really close to halfway, which isn't such a good idea. So if I'm lowering that
horizon line, be really careful that these pears don't fall off the table.
So let's see how far we can lower it on this side before we start running into trouble.
Right here where all this cadmium is coming from.
We're picking up a little bit of this red.
This will push the shadow shape right up against that leaf to build up the
light in the leaf so it can hold more form against the background. Start to pull up
out of the background.
We can start pushing the shadow shape down.
Give greater clarity there as we're dropping that horizon line.
Getting that to sit back.
We'll keep the light moving all the way through here so it doesn't just disappear.
I'm going to soften that background.
I'm going to get the top of this in.
I'm going to get a couple of other clear edges.
This is a lot of edge work.
This can lighten up.
This, the light sort of bunches up on the glass.
So the whole thing is still pretty pixelated, and I'm just going in all these little tiles.
We're getting a little spot of light that's coming through the back.
OK. I think I would cast some reflected light into there. How else can we push
this to be more intense dark?
We need to connect that; we don't want to leave it hanging.
We're going to drag this tone all the way up and over.
I'm not crazy about how dead that color goes. So it's easy enough to shoot more
color right into it.
Now, let's go and revisit this. The first thing we want to take care of is that
edge along the light side, because we don't want to have it hanging out, just
this harsh edge.
So, here we go, trying to find a few more edges.
So, it's a little dark in through here. I'll just lighten that up and get the
tabletop to lay flatter.
(no audio until 5:55)
We could leave it as more of an impressionist block-in and get
a great chance to explore how color and light are hitting across
the surface of a piece. So, I'm just going to wrap the value, push
the dark a little bit over here, and then finish it up.
So if I wanted to take it further, I'd let it dry, and then you'd take one
item, one object at a time, and really sort of zoom in on each aspect of it,
or leave it as a general effect, where your eye can just enjoy going across
the whole in a very broad way.
Free to try
Watch the whole lesson with a subscription
15m 42s4. Refining your drawing
14m 43s5. Working with values
15m 32s6. Finding your values
14m 44s7. Under-painting
15m 43s8. Creating a sense of wonder and interest
15m 24s9. Form and mass
14m 59s10. Working background to foreground
15m 14s11. First layer of color
16m 49s12. Continuing to layer in color
15m 1s13. Pushing your colors
15m 10s14. Cooler tones and values
15m 11s15. Final stages
7m 27s16. Finalizing your painting