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WIP - Basement

I painted ground cover, which was all green and nothing but leaves, all organic and no straight lines.  That was an exercise to teach myself how to mix paint.  This is an exercise that addresses two other weaknesses - straight lines and proper values.  I took a photograph in a corner of my basement, and it's a combination of dark, dingy corners and tools.  Everything is covered in sawdust, the lights are flourescent and weak, and every color is muted.  Perfect!

I have learned that I love nothing more than to get lost in all the little details.  I even painted a bar code and some wood grain here.  This obviously must stop, and I need to paint more loosely and achieve a different effect.  But not yet.

One big problem that I didn't notice until too late is that the perspective of my photo is dreadful.  It's taken with a phone lens, pointing at a corner, too close, looking downwards, with nothing but straight lines and crooked placement.  Then I made mistakes in the drawing, but I'm addressing those as I go.

This is day 4.  I work slowly.  The only part I'm happy with so far is the plastic bag.  Wood panel, 9" x 12".

I think I have time to finish this in the next two weeks and get started on the portrait challenge, which I expect will torment me all summer right up until the deadline.


  • Excellent! Don't loosen the grip. Everything is perfect till now.
  • edited June 2017
    Everything looks fantastic, looking forward to this. That plastic bag looks great and the tool box under it! Incredible composition.
  • edited June 2017
    Wow! Your drawing is awesome and what you've painted so far is great. That plastic bag is amazing!
    I'm going to love watching this one happen.
  • Thanks @movealonghome, @Kaustav, @tassieguy, @Richard_P, @Forgiveness.

    The plastic bag was a surprise.  I was focused on getting the right kind of blue/gray color/value in roughly the right place, and when I leaned back (the 9" panel version of stepping back) it suddenly worked.  I had not seen this happen before with anything I did, it was quite satisfying.

    @Forgiveness the crazy perspective makes a metre-high drill press look like a toolbox on the floor.  It has confused me many times.
  • Love it. It looks like my shop
  • Looks like my family room or bedroom. But that's not important. @PaulB, If I could paint a plastic bag that well I'd be happy, surprised and satisfied too. This looks very good so far. Is that a window and is the side vertical or is this a camera focus thing. You're right about the confusion. But I'm easy to confuse anyway. 
  • BOB73 said:
    ... Is that a window and is the side vertical or is this a camera focus thing.
    @BOB73 Yes, that's a ground-level window on a bright day.  The real basement is as square and plumb as a basement could be, but the photo is a terrible non-Euclidean Escher nightmare.  Lots of straightish lines, where nothing is parallel.

    I did load that photo into editing software and tried to address the perspective issue.  I can make some of the lines parallel/vertical, but not all of them, so I gave up and just drew it as is.  I'm only practicing color/value matching, it doesn't matter if looks like I used a fish eye lens under water.

    @MikeDerby Thanks!
  • I used to see things that way in the sixties. Thanks, I thought I was having a flash-back.
  • Your draftsmanship is amazing and that plastic bag is absolutely fantastic!  I can't wait to see this progress.
  • your work is very clean and super realistic! 
  • edited June 2017
    @BOB73 this reminds me of, where I live there is a Science & Tech Museum which features "a crooked kitchen" where all the floors in it are quite uneven and the stairs a nightmare. You get to actually walk through it for the live experience, while under any condition, still quite an attraction today since the 60's. LOL!
  • @Julianna Thank you, but draftsmanship is too a grand word to describe me drawing a line and saying "that ain't right" a hundred times.

    @anwesha Thank you!
  • edited June 2017
    Wow, this is going to be awesome! Drawing, values and colours are all great.
  • PaulB

    Looking good.


  • I can almost read the labels on the cans. Maybe if you'd have wiped the paint drips off I could. LOL. The metal duct is done really well. The odd angle on the window still distracts the eye but the detail you've got going here is terrific.
  • Thanks @BOB73, the labels on the cans were a problem for me.  I decided in the end to just put in a darker smudge, and it works.  Those are the cans of paint that primed the panel I'm painting the cans on.  I like that circularity.

    On those shelves on the left, there are some jars of nails/screws, and all I did was put in a line that represents the lid, and a highlight.  Nothing more.  It really surprised me that it works.  Now I'm looking for other opportunities to paint less and achieve the same.

    I agree that the window looks wrong.  But here's that window from the photograph I'm working from:

    I do need to make the lines at the top of that window frame more parallel, but as you see, it's my photo that's got the hall-of-mirrors perspective problem.  I've decided I'm okay with this, and I will just try to do a better job with fixing perspective in the photographs in the future.  This painting is all about me getting over my fear of straight lines and dark value problems.

    Speaking of which, I now realize I have the wrong white in the window.  Mark's rules about mixing paint kind of break down for me when I'm trying to match shades of white.

    I also realized that my basement is one big shadow box with dim directional lighting, and this is just a still life with a bunch of items arranged.
  • @PaulB ; When I put on my new glasses and looked at your latest update, I could see excellent judgement of value differentiations.  Very nice!  Summer
  • PaulB said:

    I also realized that my basement is one big shadow box with dim directional lighting, and this is just a still life with a bunch of items arranged.
    What a great way of looking at it! I must remember this.
  • PaulB – I think everything is going to fine.Keep it up! Well done but the bag must be smart enough
  • @PaulB ;  that is so interesting about that window in the photograph!  And you'd probably hear for years "that window is wonky" and you'd say "but it IS wonky".   Creative license is so lovely when desired.  I think this will be a fabulous painting and everything is so well thought out.  Congratulations.
  • edited June 2017
    This looks like such convincing work, I like it with the distortions in it just as is. It will make a great piece when completed. Don't let this get you down, don't let the artist's curse get to you, and I completely respect your decision to better resolve perspective in the future. Looking forward to this, it' very good work! This has inspired me to paint paintings of my own basement, 135 year old building, used to be heated with coal, the old boilers with large valves are still there (non-functional), unfinished old walls, stone work, variety of rust and corrosion in old pipes, overhanging wires, corridors, hallways, a fair amount of the old is still there, most everything distorted. Everyone that visits this building are in awe over it even though it is steadily deteriorating and more apparent as time goes on. I also realize that my basement is like one large shadow box with dim directional lighting. I see a number of still lifes about with a bunch of items arranged.
  • Thank you @tassieguy, @dencal, @aslampolo, @Julianna, @Forgiveness!

    @Julianna, I like the wonky window, because nothing in the picture is vertical or horizontal, and I deliberately avoided a square-on view.  I was searching for something complex to paint with low contrast and lots of values for me to practice on.  I took a photo inside my garage form outside on a sunny day, and it has many of the same qualities, but it's just a boring composition.

    I think the diagonal lines make the basement photo more interesting.  I also have one taken indoors with crazy diagonal lines, perspective, textures and sunlit plants.  I might paint that one soon.

    @Forgiveness I'm drawn to that kind of dark decay of a basement, and if there are rusty pipes and valves, so much the better.  I did search online for suitable photos of abandoned industrial works, but found nothing that wasn't heavily photoshopped or available to paint.  It makes me wonder what a professional photographer could achieve in a basement, with real lenses and proper exposure control.
  • edited June 2017
    @PaulB, I love that interior with plants!  In fact,  I wouldn't mind having a go at it myself if I didn't have so much else in the pipeline and if you were ok with it. I love the verticals and diagonals and the rich variety of values/ colours in the dark areas. It's pregnant with painterly possibilities.  I really hope you paint this one - it could make an amazing painting and be a fantastic exercise in form and values.
  • @tassieguy I'd be much happier if you painted it than me!  Anyone is free to take my photographs and use them in any way.

    I look at the photo and that rug pattern, the foreground fern and the dirty windows all make me shudder.

    I like how the wood floor is all different tones but also somewhat indistinct at the far end of the room.  Also the shiny centerpiece pot is reflecting sunlight onto the wall.  I would likely edit out that cat scratching pad in the lower left because it's distracting, and they prefer to destroy that rug anyway.
  • edited June 2017
    PaulB said

    ...that rug pattern, the foreground fern and the dirty windows all make me shudder.
    @PaulB, they are precisely the things about this picture that interest me. I can imagine Vermeer painting this with the inclusion of a girl tending the plants and the light falling diagonally across her face and shoulder ... Sublime! 
  • i think it is amazing, cant wait to see your progress.
  • @PaulB ;  forgive me if it came across that I was judging the window!!!  I just saw that someone commented about it and you referenced it being plum  - I love the window and everything about this painting!   I also agree with tassie about the photograph of the living room - wow, that is a fabulous subject matter!  Those windows and the light coming into that room - stunning.  Again, apologies if it seemed in way that I was being critical - yikes! 
  • @Kschaben thank you!  Progress is occurring, but now I have some problem areas that I'm thinking about and deliberately not fixing until I have a plan.  It should be obvious in the next update.

    @Julianna, please, all feedback is welcome, and I happen to agree with you.  The window is crazy, and you have no idea how many times I rechecked those measurements before moving on.  Your comment just made me think about why I chose that picture, so off I went on a rambling discourse.  I also agree with you and @tassieguy about that other picture (we call it the sunroom - you can see why), that's the one I should have painted.
  • I also think the interior with plants would make a terrific painting! :)
  • I hate to sound like an alarmist but I don't see any straight vertical lines in your house. Am I being gaslighted? Is it just the camera? I guess I'm a little over sensitive to things like that after my experiences trying to get my house level and plumb.
  • Latest update.  I now have quite a list of problems that need to be corrected.  The worst of those are the insulated pipe in the ceiling corner and the perforated frame of that shelving unit.  I'm having a lot of trouble making a series of holes in the frame that are the same size and properly spaced.  I'll see what else happens before I try to fix that.  What I should have done is draw them, and paint the holes first.

    I'm also thinking a bigger canvas might be nice.

    The top shelf on the right is not quite done, there is a lot of stuff hanging off the right side.

    Despite having the photo, and also having the actual basement beneath me, I've made several trips down there because I can't understand what I'm seeing on the photo.  That black lump on the shelf is two rolls of electrical tape with a hacksaw on top of it.  That brown plank on the far wall has a metal strip down the side.  I have no recollection of these things.  It turns out I don't need to know what I'm painting, I just need to paint what I see, which is a lesson I'm still learning.

    Still having fun.
  • @PaulB ;   Fantastic and impressive.  Your patience also astounds me.   Thank you for posting and sharing your work - I really enjoy it.
  • Thanks again @Julianna.  I'm just enjoying messing with all the details.

    I am updating a lot, but I'm assuming people can just ignore me as I paint one thing at a time, in my 300-item still life.
  • BOB73 said:
    I hate to sound like an alarmist but I don't see any straight vertical lines in your house. Am I being gaslighted? Is it just the camera? I guess I'm a little over sensitive to things like that after my experiences trying to get my house level and plumb.
    @BOB73 it's my phone.  I don't have a real camera.  I used to, but when film cameras became digital cameras I never replaced it.  So what you're seeing is just phone photos that are themselves probably not vertical either.

    You're not being gaslighted, but I wish I'd thought of doing that.  House is fine. Sure, all the furniture slides into one corner, but that's normal right?
  • Super! You're doing great detail work. Great realism without losing the painterly charm. Getting reflections on metal cans and ducts perfectly. Keep painting what you see.
  • Vertical lines are still a problem with my new slr. Distortion is so bad. Doesn't seem like spending more money solves the problem either. Luckily you can just fix it when drawing

    I was surprised to see the tiny size of canvas for this one. Some of those details youve gotten are sooo small!
    I believe the distortion is entirely due to the short focal length of the lens.  An iPhone 6 has a 29mm lens, which is a wide angle lens, and lines aren't even straight.  A longer lens (200mm?) would yield straight lines and almost parallel lines.
  • Excellent. Sounds like you are learning a lot as you go as well.
  • Thanks @Ronna, @MikeDerby.  Thanks @Roxy, yes, this is all learning for me.
  • Enjoying the way this is coming along! Incredible how flat and even your paint is.
  • @Forgiveness can you explain "flat and even"?  I don't know quite what you're getting at.

    If you are referring to ridges, then I would point out the top right is like corduroy.  My view of it is nothing but lint, fluff, tears, insects and paint ridges. 
  • edited June 2017
    Thank you, I couldn't see that in photo from my view. Had similar experience as you doing my last, did my best to remove these before it dried, I oiled it out when it was needed after completion, brought things back quite well. I'm sure things will look much better after varnishing finally.
  • edited June 2017
    Since the values of the table and the wood panels are correct in relation to the light, you can leave those! =)
  • Kaustav said:
    Since the values of the table and the wood panels are correct in relation to the light, you can leave those! =)
    @Kaustav, I am very tempted but that table has things on it I have not yet drawn.  It also has a lot of text on it.  Obliquely written black text is going to look bad, I might need to abstract it.
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