… also known as Chinese Lantern Plants.

… also known as my last assignment in Oil Painting class. From life.

Here the real challenge in oil painting begins:  painting an actual object from life. To keep things simpler, our instructor restricted our palette to mixed black (Burnt Sienne + Ultramarine Blue) and white.

Unfortunately, I didn’t capture the progressive stages of this painting, but it was a long process. We first chose our subjects and set them up on a table. Then, we tried out different compositions in our sketchpads. It’s difficult for me to adjust the scale of what I see and make it fill up the whole canvas, but finally doing so made the painting more interesting!

We also tested out simple value patterns (where the dark and light areas would be in the painting). According to my instructor, it is the value pattern that a person notices first in a painting. If you don’t have an interesting composition in that respect, the painting will be never be really good. So she held our sketchpads about ten feet away from each of us so we could appreciate (or not) our value patterns.

Once satisfied, I moved to the canvas and blocked in major areas of value. The result was what I might see if I really blurred my eyes looking at the subject.

Then little by little, I adjusted the forms and brought in more and more details and value shifts that I saw on the leather boot and purse.

My last step (and the most difficult one) was incorporating the wing designs at the end!

If you want to see more, this person’s blog does a good job of illustrating the steps of oil painting.

My first thoughts when I signed up for my requisite oil painting class? Sounds slow, expensive and intimidating! The class was all of those things… but I was surprised to discover how fun and satisfying it could be at the same time. I have this first assignment to thank for much of that realization.

To help us relax and explore the dynamics of the paint (Windsor & Newton water-soluble oils), our instructor announced that we would spend a couple weeks working on an abstract emotional piece. To provide a little framework, we each received a nebulous photocopy that looked something like this. We each reproduced its major lines in pencil onto our canvases, then examined them from all angles until an idea came.

The answer to “how did you ever come up with this?”

I knew almost instantly that I wanted a white rectangle on its side, with illusions of depth, contrasting pure hues near the white, and deeper tones toward the edges. I’ve learned to begin creative work with whatever part I feel most sure about. The other details always make themselves known eventually.

What is this canvas about? To me, it feels like a momentary self-portrait of my soul… a place of happiness and mystery. But I’d love to know what you read into it!