Lettering on bottle

Hi guys, I have a question about lettering on ornaments/bottles. I'm trying to follow Marks method and I know he usually lays down his darks first. But, what about things like lettering on a bottle? I have some text on a white bottle which is printed in black (on the reference photo). If you take an abstract method as Mark shows where you wont paint them in exact detail, should one do the lettering first, or leave it for once you are done with the bottle and then place it 'on top'. 

I've attached the photo I am using to show what I mean. Thanks for your help!



  • edited June 2
    Gosh, that's a hard one. If I had to paint this I'd probably paint the lettering on top of the light grey surface of the bottle and then glaze the shadows to unify everything.  I've heard of people using stencils in such situations. That would work but I'm not sure how painterly the final result would be.  I think I'd squint at it and just paint what I could see through half closed eyes. It would be a little abstract, especially with my old shaky hands,  but would work from a distance and look very painterly. 
  • CBGCBG -
    edited June 2

    I'm a newbie, but I think the answer depends upon your brush size, or equivalently, your smallest clearly discernible brush mark size.

    If you are using a really tiny brush, and your brush mark sizes are significantly smaller than the lettering you could choose to put those in first, however if you are using a reasonable painterly brush size, and those details are to be somewhat abstracted, I suggest painting them on last is the correct approach.

    For the illusion of very thin black lines... a thicker but lighter gray line could do the trick.
  • dewalddewald -
    edited June 2
    Reading through Marks notes again, he does say to stay clear of objects with strong and perfect patterns. 🙈 Thanks for advice guys!
  • What a challenge.  Paint the background first.  Let it dry.  You will end up painting and repainting the script until you get it right or at least close enough.   I suggest you watch some videos of sign painters to see how you will lay that script down; what brush size and shapes you will need and how the script and text is constructed.  
    If you go that route it may not be as perfect as a skilled hand letterer may do but it will have that same look and feel.
    I ran into the same problem with the painting I posted at this link … not quite as difficult if lettering as yours is though.

  • Hi dewald.
    Thanks for the question. It's great to watch this bunch stirred up, they throw out gems of knowledge when the right topic comes along.

    For my two pennyworth, I agree with @Abstraction my painting would ignore the lettering completely. 

    My top 3 loves in your composition are
    1 the crooked shape of the handle top join
    2 the gorgeous reflection of the window with the wiggly blue line in the middle
    3 the reflection of the pear on the right side of the jar

    Anything that takes away from these would go.

    Text unwillingly grabs my attention in a painting and takes away much of my enjoyment. Even blurred or blocked in dark shapes just confuse me into thinking they are shadows.

    I hope you have fun painting it😉
  • dewalddewald -
    edited June 3
    @heartofengland :D Indeed its nice to see how different people will approach this in their own way given their own insights and experience. But I think for now I may just stay on the straight and narrow and keep with Marks recommendations (and yours).

    I too like the photo for the reasons you mentioned (also the subject matter itself, a whiskey bottle paired with  pairs). I should mention it was taken by someone else https://pmp-art.com/freds/gallery/311963/20201130-144127 . I'm on a tight budget until I feel confident I can do this so I save where I can. Wait till you see the color checker and proportional divider I made for this painting... 
  • @Abstraction I also thought about that. I too think the darks Mark are referring to are those found in shadows etc, not lettering. But then if you strictly focus on values, wouldn't dark letters be something one should consider in the same way you would consider a blemish on a pear? If one is painting 'values and shapes' and not 'letters' or 'marks on a pear' then the subject gets blurry - for me at least. I think this is what lead me to asking the original question.
  • @dewald

     I notice the photo you attached has a very wide angle of view and was probably taken with a phone.  Are you planning to paint from life or from a photo? 
  • @CBG Im planning to use a photo. How can you tell it was taken using a wide angle?
  • CBGCBG -
    edited June 3

    Ah, well two things mostly, the wooden shelf and the jug. 

    The wooden shelf is almost perpendicular with the direction of view, yet there are very pronounced perspective effects, e.g. the pronounced converging of the lines off to the right in particular. 

    For the jug, there are 5 discernible ellipses, the bottom surface, the color transition, the bottom and top of the neck, and the very top surface of the opening.  The perspective views of these ellipses at different heights changes markedly.  The view is looking down on the bottom ellipse at an appreciable angle and yet looking up (from below) at the top ellipse, at an appreciable angle.

    Feel free to ignore the following but I have a little theory about what is the appropriate field of view for photos used as references.

    A wide angle photo is perfectly fine for a modern instagram/selfie "this ia painting of a cell phone photo" look, but for realism that approaches something more traditional IMHO the angle represented in the painting (field of view) should match (as closely as possible or practical) the angle viewed by a viewer of your work when it is hung on a wall and they are standing at a comfortable distance.  This makes a better match between how they see what they see when they see your painting, and how the camera saw what it saw when it took the picture. (Imagine the canvas filling a virtual window through which you are looking)

    For this one, if painted as is, on any size painting, I would estimate a person should view it from about the a distance equal to a width of the work for the view to look "right".

    So IMHO, paint as is on a large canvas and you are gold. Or, take another picture with the same composition at a narrower zoom or FOV (if you are a techy/mechanical/engineering type person, you can actually do all the measurements) which matches how the viewer will view your painting.

    Hope you find this interesting or useful!

  • dewald said:
    Reading through Marks notes again, he does say to stay clear of objects with strong and perfect patterns. 🙈 Thanks for advice guys!
    I agree. Lettering is difficult.
  • dewald said:
    I too think the darks Mark are referring to are those found in shadows etc, not lettering. But then if you strictly focus on values, wouldn't dark letters be something one should consider in the same way you would consider a blemish on a pear? If one is painting 'values and shapes' and not 'letters' or 'marks on a pear' then the subject gets blurry - for me at least.
    Yes, it starts blurry in traditional Australian tonalism. You would ignore tiny details like lettering or leaf details in the initial block in. You don't paint 'objects' like a tree in the block in. If the shadow of the tree and shadow ON the tree are close you block them in as a single tonal shape, the light on the trunk as another. You wouldn't put in every area of blue sky that pokes through a tree or area of dark shadow on the bark. Capture the major tonal statements because that's the core of the painting. So yes, it starts out blurry.
    Then you can bring it to fine details later. Since letters require fine detail there's no problem painting darks at that level.
    I don't paint in the above style most of the time now, because I love detail, so I just use certain aspects of it. Practically there's no way you could paint the letters and then paint the jug around them without endlessly touching up the letters and the jug would show up as busy brush strokes around the letters like fingerprints to show the artist had been busy here. If I wanted the letters to be crisp I would paint the jug clean and do lettering on dry paint to preserve the smooth texture of the jug.

  • Lettering if not precise will destroy an otherwise good painting. It requires practice as does all good work. Lettering is a unique drawing skill. Spacial relationships are most important. In realism you can't get by with simple indication of lettering. Especially recognizable legos etc.
  • Did you notice Manet’s signature and date is on the label of the leftmost bottle?
  • edited June 5
    Yes, @GTO. I really like his signature there. You would only notice it if you were really close to it and studying the painting carefully.  Most people would pass over it thinking that it would be unreadable like all the other lettering. It's readable but not very precise. As far as I can see it's the only readable lettering in the whole painting. 
  • https://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/manet_bar/

    I just found some interesting info on this painting from an exhibition here in US. Thought you guys might like it.  @tassieguy @ GTO
    And, yes it is really interesting how he signed it.
  • Thanks, @joydeschenes. Very interesting article.   :)
  • dewalddewald -
    edited June 6
    I agree with @tassieguy that lettering doesn't need to be precise because this is an abstract painting, it could only be a mere indication of some writing, but I also think @KingstonFineArt is correct in that its a fine art and skill which if done incorrectly certainly can ruin a painting. Just trying to point out that I think you are both right  :)
  • edited June 27
    Yeah, the accuracy or abstraction really does need to match the rest of the painting or it’s all for naught. If your painting calls for perfect accuracy, here is a video from Julie Beck that might help: https://youtu.be/UivPZ2mcyqs

  • PaulBPaulB mod
    I recommend watching how Julie Beck does lettering.

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