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Hardest thing about painting realism

For me, it’s placement. I can get away with a drawing that is slightly off, or mixed values that still need adjustment. But the biggest thing that gets me is placing the paint in the correct spot on the canvas. I think this is the hardest thing about the DMP method. 

Going from pallet to canvas. I also think this is what makes the artist though. This is where you create, and make your painting yours! The more disciplined artist will labor over placing each and every value while the more liberal artist will ignore these imperfections. Therefore art is a reflection of your personality and character. I think all art and artists are beautiful because of this (execpt maybe Botero, sorry!) anyway enough rambling, what is the hardest for you when creating art?


  • edited January 2018
    Painting is an incredibly complex process. What I find hardest is arranging objects in a still life or elements in a landscape to arrive at a good composition. But I agree, @mattyblue, that the way we put paint on - placement - is also really difficult but very important in terms of personal style.
  • This weekend, it was mixing just an orange value, I seriously thought I was color blind to orange I could not get there, but I carried on and got somewhere near - placement is absolute key, that I one lesson I have learnt over the past few months, get your value and put it in the right place, is half your battle
    great question and topic @mattyblue
  • I’d love to be able to get away with just placing a big dollop of paint where it belongs and leaving it in plein air whilst being in the moment, but until then it’s color mixing and DMP! I can dream right haha.. 

    @tassieguy it seems to me that composition is an art form on it own, that’s why I leave it to photographers and nature lol

  • Boudicca said:
    Sometimes, it’s just getting started.....
    I can have a great resistance to getting started. Then, when I start, I can’t stop. I think that might be why it’s hard to start, knowing I’m going to be obsessed until it’s finished.
    I know what you mean, @Boudicca. I've had a few weeks off and have found it really hard to get started again precisely for the reason you mention.  I know that once I do start  it'll full on obsessive again to the point off exhaustion. But I started a new one today anyway. Really had to force myself though.  :)
  • I'm in agreement with you @mattyblue - placing the paint on the canvas is what currently challenges me. Not just right colour and value in the right place, but controlling the paint consistency to get a nice consistent finish across the whole surface. Mixing is also challenging,  but getting faster with each session.
  • The reviews of that book sound good, @movealonghome. I'll have a look at  a sample on my Kindle and buy it if the sample speaks to me.   :)
  • edited January 2018
    Yes, @Roxy - getting a consistent finish across the surface is a challenge for me too. Part of it, I think, is subtle blending (which you do so well) but it's also about maintaining a consistency with the amount of medium used. That is, not to have the paint looking dry and chalky in some places and slick and glossy in others. It's something I'm trying to work on. This is probably not such a problem for those who can get Geneva paints because the medium is included and they are ready to mix and apply.  It's more of a problem for those of us who must make our own medium and need to judge the quantity of medium to add to the paint which will depend on its stiffness when it comes out of the tube. And the stiffness of the paint will depend on the brand of paint, the amount of pigment they contain and the varying drying rates of different pigments ... It's a bit of a juggling act for me.
  • @Boudicca and Tassie I recommend the book called War of Art by Steven Pressfeld- it's a nice short read and focuses on the struggle you mention
    I’ve ordered this, thanks for the heads up @movealonghome
  • This is off topic but Steven Pressfield wrote "Gates of Fire", a semi-fictional narrative around the battle of Thermopylae.  One of the best historical/war/novels I've read, gripping from the first sentence.
  • Hey, that's a damned good idea, BOB73. :)
  • @PaulB I loved Gates of Fire. It would make a great movie.  
  • If you draw a composition formulae like a golden mean or a triangle or a diagonal on a canvas then it will be easier to place the objects in the right place. Also the idea is to shrink things down a little rather than painting big. These will eradicate the problems that you are facing
    [Deleted User]ForgivenessRenoir
  • PaulB said:
    This is off topic but Steven Pressfield wrote "Gates of Fire", a semi-fictional narrative around the battle of Thermopylae.  One of the best historical/war/novels I've read, gripping from the first sentence.
    PaulB this is the monument of Thermopyles battle in Greece, just to trigger your imagination :)
  • I look forward to reading that book.
    The hardest thing for me is time.  I can literally paint for hours, days on end.  But there is no time to do it.  The best thing, the absolute best thing, about the class in Austin, was days and days of uninterrupted, selfishly guarded, fully taken advantage of, time to paint.  Mark kept telling me, "you can take a break." LOL.
    Second on the list is composition.  I struggle with cheese.  It looks great for 5 minutes and then I go, "what was I thinking?, and wipe if off".
  • As far as getting consistency across an entire piece, perhaps that is just a matter of varnishing (after 6 months dry time).
  • The hardest part for me is A) not loosing interest/steam... even though i am painting a lot quicker using ala-prima -im at about 30 hours in on this painting with at least 5-10 left to go before its finished. That said, this same painting would be a 90 hour minimum painting in my old PHEW.  
    B)having a messy pallet! I think i need a bigger one!
    And finally C) time management. Getting right up inot the studio after the kids get on the bus instead of wasting time until 1030/11!
  • I think its the jump were you translate the skills of painting from observation to actually creating invented scenes that look real. Paint straight from photos and pretty much copying them is good practice and difficult on its own, but making the above mentioned transition is just plain difficult.

  • In my current situation, finding space is the most difficult. As soon as I clear a space, my daughters take it over to collect more space in their own rooms. I've tried setting up at my computer desk but that doesn't work either. I can't paint from a swivel chair or I'm just making excuses.
  • @movealonghome it was the process. I painted in 3 layers. An umber layer, dead layer (or grisaille) and then the color after that. The dead layer took the longest as its really the foundation for the rest of the painting. Here is a slide show of the process. I made this for the gala this painting was commissioned for. This beast took me over 140 hours! 
  • That's a lot of time! I think I'd run out of steam.. :)
  • @Richard_P I most definitely was running out of steam... painting was like a drag after a while... It was like painting the same painting 3x. Im sure it has its place, and I will return to it here and there, but I am just having so much fun with wet on wet. Until geneva paints, I just was never able to be on par via ala-prima vs. this glazing technique. Now I think I've caught up, and actually passed in terms of color theory utilizing the limited pallet! 

  • @JessicaArt, you could skip the 1st of the 3 layers.  I think the effect looks different that Ala Prima.  Ala Prima in some ways is harder because you have to think about everything at the same time.  When you do an underpainting, you are starting with value (the meat and potatoes) and finishing up with hue.

  • The video was fascinating and a testament to your skill and determination. 140 hours seems like a long time but the result proves it was time well spent.
  • @JeffAllen I agree. I liked the layers method, because it broke things down for me. Especially when looking at a dauntingly detailed image to paint from, it broke it down to simpler steps. For me the umber layer was important in making those deep mysterious shadows, because my dead layer was not a solid layer, I let the umber layer peer through in parts especially shadows and I think it made a difference. I do think I was using this method as a crutch because I was so uncomfortable with color. Now I feel much more confident, and able to tackle them straight on. That said, Im sure it has it's place, but for now I am thankful to have a departure from it. Im excited to take on new things! 
    Thanks @BOB73! It sure was loooong and I was ready to scratch my eyes out, but in the end I was happy with the result. This was a pretty big painting for me 3ftx3ft so there was that too that added time! Especially seeing as I didnt have geneva paints that spread like butter! I worked in a lot of dry brushing and it took FO- Ever! haha

  • I wouldn't look at it as a crutch.  Its just a different method.  As long as your values are good, how ever you get there is inconsequential.  In the end it ultimately is about the finished product.  the viewer does not know what your process is, and probably does not care.
  • hardest thing for me is to maintain a overall temptaure in a work. and keep the focal point center stage
  • I have more than one "hardest" thing which I guess means my definition of hardest is off a bit.  So my current greatest annoyance is working my proportional divider.  I'm just starting my 2nd painting, and already forgot how annoying the proportional divider work was on the first one.  I measure a point from my golden line, place my little dot on the canvas.  I move on to a second one and place it, BUT the two are not correct to each other, but still correct to the golden line.  So I measure again now one of the dots is off by no small amount but a good 3 inches (I'm getting very good at giving my canvas a very dirty look). I've been determined to keep my shoulders the same, I have a line hanging down, etc but the slightest shift results in a few inches either way.  I can see why mark recommends 4.5 feet. Seems a bit far away to me, I'm getting old and closer up I could see detail better but closer up would make my proportional divider problem much worse.   I have been to trying to draw a bottle using the proportional divider but If I measure from the top of the bottle down to a point it's correct but from the bottom up wrong and the top of the bottle is off from the golden line but correct to the bottle bottom etc, it's even worse if you include measuring from the lines representing the edges.  I suppose most people have moved past this "hardest."  I hate to resolve it by just drawing the stupid bottle, I'm really trying to practice discipline in following what Mark said to do, but my willpower wanes. 
  • PaulBPaulB mod
    @uh_clem, you could always do what I did, and just get photograph prints laminated.  The divider is still used, but the print doesn't move, and it doesn't matter where you sit or what your shoulders are doing.  It's a gentler introduction to the divider.
  • @uh_clem ; I'm sorry that you are having so much trouble with the proportional divider.  As an alternative maybe this method might suit you better.  This is the easiest method that I know of: use your thumb nail.  Place a dot on the canvas where you want one corner of the eye to be.  The entire drawing can be completed from this one dot.  If you measure out the whole drawing, every angle, with your nail, it will be correct.  Just keep asking yourself how many of my thumbnails are there in this angle? How many of my thumb nails are in that angle, and so on.  At times, only a portion of your nail is required.  I've used this method myself.  I've seen others use it.  It has been used throughout art history.  Just trust in yourself, squint and close one eye as you measure.  Try it on a page of a sketch book to see if it could work for you.  All your sketches, doodles, larger drawings can be done in this way.  Summer
  • @PaulB.  if I'm not mistaking it seems like your suggesting that I also take up photography,  and I'm thinking I don't even have enough time to take up painting.  Actually I think I will do that at some point, but I'm trying to paint at least 5 still lifes from life.  So I'm sticking out till I get my 5,  (one down four to go).  
  • What to paint next has been the hardest and emotional thing for me.  I would complete a painting and than fret over what to paint next.   I literally quit painting for quit a few year, because of this.  Nothing looked appealing.   

    Than, I remembered my days as a direct sales man.  My biggest problem was having a supply of prospects. I was positive and successful when I had prospects to talk too.   Than one day I concentrated on  a plan to consistently flood myself with prospects and after that Sales were consistent and loved my work.

     I decided to do the same with my paintings.  While I am painting, I seem to be much more creative and  a good frame of mind, so at this time I take time to set up different ideas for paintings, in this way I have more than one idea to paint when I have completed the painting.  I now am looking forward to new painting, no more down in the dump moments. I was very close to quitting again.  Since I started this program, my new compositions are much better,  This will also slow down you pace of painting, knowing that you have one in the wing.

    Irwin Greenberg quote I love and have used it.    Quote:  " 50. If you’re at a lost for what to do next, do a self-portrait.".

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