I have started a new art challenge at the usual forum, where the challenge mastermind Abbie has been running a series of three-day challenges which started with the “fire” challenge, then moved to two challenges that had themes that just aren’t in my repertoire, bedroom items and aircraft. When I saw the theme for this challenge, I knew I wanted to to do it- daisies. I have a folder of reference photos on my computer marked daisies, not to mention a collection of more ref photos over on Pixabay – which reminds me: I really ought to start linking to the original photos I base my paintings and drawings on so y’all can see how I interpret them since I do not actually copy the reference photos.
This will also address a second challenge from here on the blog, the blind contour drawing challenge I linked to in last week’s Feature Friday, so this first piece covers both. I pulled out my almost-full sketchbook that has served me so well these past two years, then grabbed three oil pastels (because I am still in a bit of an oil pastel mood) and set up my inspiration: an unfinished acrylic painting that has been waiting for its feature in an “On the Easel” post here, or for me to feel like finishing it. I’ll likely work on it today when the storms roll in and knock out our satellite internet connection (like yesterday). I didn’t close my eyes, but I didn’t look at my sketch – I looked at this:
I had started this so enthusiastically a while back, then had to stop working on it to put critters up or something to do with the critters, I honestly don’t remember exactly why, but I put it on the easel the other week and my mother-in-law saw it last time she came down and remarked how much she likes it so far. (Note ref photo for this is here on Pixabay, for those curious.)
Blind contour daisy drawing
Now, for the blind contour reveal. I’ll say upfront that it isn’t bad for not looking at it – I tend to have a good spatial memory, and if you tilt your head to the side and maybe squint it looks like the unfinished painting on the easel.
Blind contour drawings can run the range from abstract to primitive to just downright funny-looking, and this one fits in there somewhere. It’s a fun little exercise, and often provokes laughter, which is a good way to start out for a day’s art session. Art doesn’t always need to be so serious. For those who missed it last week, Siena Blue came up with this idea and will be posting links to all the participants on the 15th for an old-fashion blog hop/link party (which is another fun thing we used to do back in the day that I would love to see make a comeback).
So, who else is brave enough to post up their blind contour drawings?
I felt motivated to paint today, and this painting of a red admiral butterfly has actually been on my easel for a few weeks without progress. I originally picked out the subject and reference photo back in November for the red challenge that I didn’t finish. In fact, I had even done up an acrylic sketch on paper. You can even get a print of the sketch, though once I complete the final painting and scan it in, I will be replacing the image that is there now.
I did it quickly, and in the evening after running errands around the county and was tired and my back hurt … yet when my friend Keashia saw it, she immediately said I needed to do it again “for reals.” I didn’t get around to that until last month, and am not setting any speed-painting records on it, but today I’ve managed to make it look like I want it to look.
Yes, that is purple where I will eventually be painting black (maybe). I have two sampler sets of Golden brand Open acrylic, which is their slow-drying formula made for the en plein aire painters, but right now I am using the quick-dry acrylics to get the undertones down. I don’t have actual black in the Golden Open sets, but I do have a very traditional work-around: ultramarine blue and burnt umber, along with a convenience mixture they call sap green which I am using in the background of the piece.
The red admiral butterfly
When I looked up the red admiral butterfly, all the sources said I ought to have seen this pretty and eye-catching bug at least over the winter season, as Florida is very much in their habitat range. Alas, I have yet to catch a glimpse of one, though we have plenty of swallowtails and sulfurs fluttering across and around the property. I’ll be painting those as well in the future.
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.
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.