Summer Jalapeno acrylic painting

I am finally getting to the final image from the black and white challenge, which ended up being a photograph I took in early July of my husband’s jalapeno plant, cropped, straightened, and with the color taken out. I had a busy day out of the house that day, running errands up in Palatka, and was tired both physically and mentally once I got home. I really was not happy with the result, and immediately planned to redo it and replace the image with something better, something more “me” than a cluttered and busy photo.

black and white photo of my husband's jalapeno plant with blossoms and peppers
greyscale version of my reference photo

That something else ended up being the very next challenge, which I started with the Calla Lily painting in acrylic. Since the theme for the next challenge was “anything goes,” I figured to do up three images from the black and white challenge in color, using acrylic paint since I could use the practice with that medium.

Starting the painting

Some days, the paint just flows perfectly, and the painting comes together “like magic,” as the saying goes. Then, there are days when I feel as though I am fighting every step of the way … and the first day of this painting was definitely a struggle. I blocked out the position of everything easily enough, but my first stab at the background color turned out too purple, so I mixed up some more paint and tried again, with this time being too light a blue. Then, when that dried, I noticed I didn’t cover the too-violet paint well enough in some spots, so I went over it a third time, using the paint straight from the bottle. Then, I turned my attention to the green leaves and stems.

Trouble getting the green of summer

At the time, I only had two shades of green at hand, and neither one was dark enough to be a good jalapeno green. I tried mixing, but at this point it was time to put the critters up for the night and I was frustrated enough I needed to suppress the urge to throw the canvas across the room. That’s usually a clear sign to stop working on it, and try again the next day. So, this painting knocked me out of the short, three-day “anything goes” art challenge, which requires one completed work each day of the challenge. Dropping out of a challenge is only a minor disappointment for me, and one I actually prefer to posting up something I don’t like.

After officially dropping out, hubby was home and asked me what part of the painting had me so frustrated. When I got to the part about not having a good green, he started digging around his bunch of paint (he has used this brand for several years now) and started pulling out half a dozen shades of green for me to choose from. Then he remembered some blending medium that slows drying time that he tried but doesn’t use often, and also a wet palette setup to keep the paint you mix up on the palette from drying while you work.

Finishing the painting

With the expanded selection of greens available the next day, this painting came together so much easier! This one I actually like, and it is currently on display at El Amigo Mexican Restaurant – because that really is a perfect place to display a painting of a jalapeno plant that has a couple white blossoms, one dark green fruit, and two ripe red peppers (when jalapenos turn red, they are called chipotles). This particular painting may not be perfect (and to be honest, it isn’t because I can spot mistakes) but I like it much better than the photograph.

Summer Jalapeno, acrylic painting on stretched canvas
Summer Jalapeno, 11 by 14 acrylic painting on 5/8 deep stretched canvas, original available $175 USD

I’ll likely do a similar painting, or maybe recrop the photo for a more close-up view of it, and hopefully it will have fewer mistakes and be less frustrating. For those who may want a print either larger or smaller than the original 11 by 14, check out my Pixels store. If you want this printed on apparel or swag, look here on RedBubble. For the original, you can purchase through Daily PaintWorks – or call the number on my business card at the restaurant.

On the Easel 1: Garlic and Chives

The working title for this is Garlic and Chives, and it is an acrylic still life on a black 10 by 8 inch stretched canvas. I am working from a reference photo, and I have been stuck at this stage for about a week. Something seems a bit off, and I am still not quite sure what. Part of the challenge for this is the reference photo has two light sources out-of-frame, which throws odd but interesting shadows.

acrylic painting Garlic and Chives in progress
Garlic and Chives, 10 x 8 acrylic on stretched canvas – in progress

Photography versus reference photos for painting

I am feeling a bit frustrated with the very narrow range of reference photos for garlic as a still life subject. Most of what I have found is lighted for photography (duh) which is actually not so good for painting. In painting, especially a still life, you want dramatic lighting with definite contrast between the lit highlights and the shadows – in art jargon, a high contrast in values. The test I use is to take all the color out of a potential reference photo and see how it looks in greyscale (also commonly called black and white).

What seems to be the obvious solution to the lack of good reference photos – set up my own still life arrangement and paint it from life – is not so simple when you start to play around with trying to light it. Most artists who do this on a regular basis have a box and specific lamps to get the desired effect … oh, and usually a cat-free studio. That is my dream: a cat-free studio, with windows that are high up on the walls, with the right lamps to cast the right shadows. Until I attract a wealthy patron, or get a winning scratch-off lottery ticket, it is still in the realm of dreams. But hey, everyone needs to have a dream for what the end goal is.

Calla Lily two ways

I did both of these pieces from the same reference photo, and both turned out nicely in my opinion. I worked this drawing first as the sixth in the black and white challenge, done on 9 by 12 inch black paper with white colored pencil. I included as much detail as I could, keeping the pencil point sharp to even get most of the dew drops on the white petal while trying to capture the light and shadow.

Dew on Calla Lily, white pencil drawing on black paper, 9x12 inches
Dew on a Calla Lily, 9 by 12 inches white pencil on black paper, original available $80USD

As the black and white series progressed, I found myself enjoying these white on black drawings a lot when I chose a good subject for it. I will be returning to this medium for more white flowers in the future, with and without additional colors.

As I’ve noted in the caption, the original work is available (unframed). I will ship (packing and shipping costs are extra) so if you want the original, you can purchase it through Daily Paintworks. If you prefer a larger or smaller print, those can be ordered at my Pixels store, while apparel and accessories are at RedBubble.

I will likely be revisiting this particular reference photo for more work … as I already have. The art challenge immediately after the black and white challenge was “anything goes” in terms of theme or subject, and I wanted to redo the calla lilies in color on black canvas, using acrylic paints since they do dry quickly enough to scan the same day. I chose this particular photo reference for my first painting, and had two 8 by 10 black canvases gessoed to my desired smoothness prior to the challenge starting. On that first day of the new challenge, the painting flowed smoothly from my brush with ease.

Calla Lily, acrylic painting on stretched canvas, 8x10 inches by 5/8 inch deep
Calla Lily, 8 by 10 inch acrylic on 5/8 inch stretched canvas, original available $125 USD

I think 8 by 10 is going to be the smallest I paint for now. I know some artists love working on a small scale, but I must confess to dreams of working on LARGE canvases at some point in the future. That will likely involve a cat-free studio space, so for now 18 by 24 inches is probably my upper size limit, while 8 by 10 looks to be the smallest I can be happy doing.

For the acrylic on stretched canvas, the original is available, again you can purchase through Daily Paintworks. Prints large and small are at my Pixels store, while swag is at RedBubble. I should probably mention that the image I uploaded to both print sites is the original high-resolution scan, without the domain name on it.

Scarlet Macaws have Blue Feathers Also

I am finally finishing up my six day blue-feathered bird series from the other week, with a pair of scarlet macaws. Personally, I’ve always thought we should call them rainbow macaws, because while most of their feathers are a lovely shade of scarlet red, they also have bright yellow, vivid green, and brilliant blue feathers, as you can see from their multicolored backs. They are certainly one of the brightest colored parrots.

Rainbow Macaws, a pair of scarlet macaws sitting on a branch with a green background
Rainbow Macaws, 11 by 14 inches acrylic on paper, original available, $140 USD

I was extremely pleased with how the tree limb perch came out, although getting the scarlet red with shading was a challenge. In retrospect, I think the green background is not quite right, and probably needed to be toned down a bit more. The birds themselves look more Impressionist style than realist, but since this was for an art challenge I had a (self-imposed) time limit on how much I could fiddle with it. Being the last day of the art challenge, I was not inclined to drop out to fuss over it. As usual, prints are at my Pixels store, while swag and accessories are at RedBubble. If you are interested in the original, you can purchase easily through Daily Paintworks.

Thoughts on this art challenge

I have to say that I am loving these art challenges organized on an art forum that I participate on. I particularly love the themed challenges, as it feels more like a group activity, instead of just me as a solitary artist trying to capture fleeting images from my mind. I remember that one semester of drawing I took in the autumn of 1991 in Texas, where there were about forty of us situated around the large room, all drawing the same objects in the center, but from forty different angles and by forty different hands. I like to listen to an art podcast while doing it, which reinforces that feeling, as we used to discuss the drawing subject while we did it.

I have finished another art challenge, seven days with the theme of “black and white,” and will be starting a shorter three days (“anything goes” non-theme) tomorrow. I may even get caught up over this week, as I am planning to redo at least two of the images I did for the black and white challenge, in color on stretched canvas, but in a different aspect ratio – 8 by 10 inches instead of 9 by 12 inches all the black and white drawings are.

Stay tuned for the next two challenges!

Blue-Feathered bird series: Peacock Portrait

Continuing the blue-feathered bird series I completed the other week, this Peacock Portrait is the fifth acrylic painting. A close-up head study of this beautiful crested bird, I feel I was able to capture a small (but significant) bit of why I love to look at these birds. Yes, I know they can be noisy, but they really are pretty and make a challenging subject to draw or paint.

Peacock Portrait acrylic painting
Peacock Portrait, 9 by 12 inch acrylic painting on primed paper, $100 USD (shipping extra)

Thoughts on Peacock Portrait

This is actually the first time I have attempted to draw or paint peafowl, believe it or not. This was part of the six day “blue” themed challenge, so something about an art challenge feels like permission to try things I might feel intimidating; permission to push my boundaries and try new subjects and media. The part of painting a peacock that feels most challenging is trying to capture the elusive, shimmering iridescence of the feathers, without going too far and having your bird look more like sunlight sparkling on water.

Purchase information for this painting

This painting scanned nicely, so if you want a larger print you can get that through my Pixels store. If you want it on some RedBubble swag, the scan works well there also. The original is 9 inch by 12 inch unframed, and if you want that, you can puchase via the page at Daily PaintWorks, which uses PayPal.

I’ve made up some graphics for social media showing this in a frame on a wall, and it looks fabulous. While I wouldn’t have white walls or furniture, that setting actually shows off the vibrancy of the acrylic paint. I certainly would do a neutral color frame, and this grey has just the right hint of blue to be perfect. The mockup image is courtesy of Pixels, where you can get that exact frame.

mock-up of Peacock Portrait framed and on a white wall
Peacock Portrait framed and on a white wall