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Learning a lot First WIP

Hi All,

Well... I started out all enthusiastic even though I knew early on I wouldn't be painting in an ideal situation. But from reading the posts I know I'm not the only one, so I decided to just jump in.

I am set up in half a spare bedroom and got the 5000k lights but realized I couldn't position my easel and seating properly. So...plan B decided to try painting by natural light. There are two large northwest windows in this room and it is usually always overcast where I live. I felt like I was able to balance the whites when I used the color checker against the little block with the square of paint on it so I went ahead. I have black behind me and black behind the still life. Using the proportional divider (love that tool) I sketched this still life on a 16x20 canvas.

image image

I quickly decided that I really needed to work with a less complicated set-up. Found a sale on a 10 pack of 8x10 canvases and decided to work small while I learned how to do this. Now I grabbed a coffee mug and some candy and started sketching and mixing paint. I watched the videos and felt pretty successful mixing the paint for the background, the table top and the Hershey's kisses. Then, I quickly came to the conclusion that I shouldn't have picked a red coffee mug. I mixed and mixed and made a mess and had a big pile of paint and came close to giving up... I went out and got a tube of Cad Red and think I got it! There is still a lot to do and I need to take a photo of my set up (it changed slightly because the cat jumped in it).

But here are a couple of photos in progress.


All the reflections, highlight, shadows aren't in yet.
I need to clean up edges.
I'm having some challenges working wet in wet, (any suggestions).
I thought I could use baby oil to clean my brushes (then read the post that said I shouldn't).
I didn't mix enough paint (except for the wrong reds). I need to remix background and tabletop so I can clean up around the candy.

Can I scrape the part of the back ground off that might have baby oil in it and repaint?
I think the top rim looks wonky on the left side. What's off?
Any other suggestions or things I might not be seeing?

I'm grateful for any input.


  • you are making a marvelous painting so far. I would suggest you check the amount of overlap the lip of your cup has on the right side compared to the amount it has on the left side. It looks as if you have painted more on the right side. Also, and this is a hard one, is the high light of the cup in the middle of your cup in real life? In your painting it is on the left side and the apex of the curve of the bottom of your cup is under the high light making your curve a little lop sided. Certainly the highlight does not have to be in the middle of the cup, but the apex of the curve is unless the angle is presented as an ellipse. Your red is a marvelous color. Congratulations on that. And your silver is so well done. This is certainly going to be a great painting. Good job. That curve is no big deal since one side of the cup is well shaded and behind the candy. I think your shadow might just start a mite soon, but measure your source. It just makes the cup look not quite round. But hey, maybe it really isn't. And maybe this help is too nick picking.
  • You were smart to start with something smaller. I like that first set up but looks complicated. I'm not qualified to answer some of your questions but I'll tell you what I think. I don't think you need to wipe off the background because of the baby oil. Consider this a practice piece. Yes, the top edge looks wonky. If you put your finger over the top edge you can see that it needs to be lower. I love the handle. Maybe the highlights on it need to be softened a bit. Make sure the foil on the candy has enough darkness? to look like foil. I'm sure others can give some good imput for you.
  • Cin, I would not scrape but as stated, use for learning. A very small amount of baby oil will probably not keep the paint from forming a skin but it may not dry as it normally would. If you wiped your brushes well you are probably ok. As Mark has stated in other posts though, baby oil is not a good item for use. You are making good progress but would suggest you check your prospective on the ellipse at the top of the mug. The upper left quadrant appears a little high to me. Great job so far. :)
  • Your doing great! I like your thought process and the work you've done so far is wonderful. As you and the others have noted, the top of the cup is off but you can fix that if you choose. One goal for you on this first painting may not be to have everything just perfect (like the top of the cup)...maybe the goal could be more of a focus on getting your color groups and steps correct for example. I'm not saying you shouldn't try your best at getting it all correct but really concentrate on a particular element and not stress over the rest of it - except it as part of your growing process, keep it fun! Your first composition is beautiful but you did the wise thing starting with a much simpler setup. Giving yourself the best chance to be successful (and you will be!) is super important at this stage. Looking forward to seeing your next update. :)
  • Everyone,
    Thanks all for the insights. Grandma you're not being too picky! I really appreciate you taking the time to look and offer advice. I will post a pic of the set up. There are a lot more reflections and shadows in the set up that I haven't painted, yet. Ronna, gfish, and Gary thanks for the affirmation on going smaller. I have so much to learn! That 10-pack of small canvases will all be learning practice pieces. Gary, I like your advice on goal setting and to not stress, because believe me I have been stressing :-S.

    I may have sometime to work at this today, but then that will be it until next week. With the holiday this weekend and school break, there is much family stuff :) going on through the weekend. So I most likely won't be updating much until then :(.
  • Here's the photo of the set-up. Dang! wish I had time to work on this today. I'm finding it easier to see where I need to go when I look at the photos.

  • I think you are doing great. I also think you have a good, solid plan in place by doing a lot of small work rather than one big, potentially frustrating, work. Nothing like overreach to kill the excitement.

    My comments would echo others: the ellipse at the top of the cup needs tweaking and the ellipse at the bottom of the Kiss that is sitting upright is too "deep" (too round). Otherwise, Bravo!

    I still struggle with ellipses. They really are difficult so, as I like to say, "Fail to be frustrated".

    Here are a few references that may (or may not) help with them. Why so many? Because not every voice is clear to every ear.
  • Cin,

    Just my opinion, since you asked. :)

    First, you're doing great.

    But I do have a suggestion and it's more for trying out something than it is to say THIS is the way to do it. Truth be told I tend to paint more like what I think I see you doing ... I think. It seems to me that you're blending, probably WAY before you should be if you strictly follow Mark's method. Is this important? Maybe. If you don't blend anything until you're finished you may find, a) that you are happy without blending virtually anything, and b) that you'll have some sharper contrasts and truer (to realism anyway) look. That's just my opinion, I could be wrong. I'm talking specifically about the kisses. It would be interesting to see how they look if you strictly just put dabs, daubs (whatever) of paint of the right color and value in the right place. It's painful sometimes and there is such an urge to blend, but you might find some interesting results if you try it.

    But seriously, you're doing great, colors, application, everything.

  • edited March 2013
    Hi...welcome...your doing wonderful for your first painting...

    A few suggestions...look really closely at your reference photo, study it...ask yourself if you see anything in the photo that you do not have in your painting....

    you left off most of the intense highlights on the mug...this is what will make it look ceramic like...I like to apply my thick...then use the end of the paint brush to gently "mush" the color around...

    The bottom of the mug has a light left this off....add it and it will look more like its setting on the table

    These tiny changes can make big effects in the overall finish of your painting!

    Agree with Garry...on the blending....really study the foil wrapped candies...use a magnifying glass if you have to....and paint all the subtle color changes...'ll add these and repost....again...don't mean to discourage you...but we all have to start somewhere...and art is a never ending quest to get better and learn more...
  • This is an awesome forum!!

    Karen, Thank you so much for the links, they're really helpful, it wasn't overkill.

    Garry, :\"> blending too soon, I'm guilty. Mark said in his video to resist the urge and I thought, I can! But turned out "not" LOL. I will try harder because I believe in Mark's method. The evidence of following Mark's process is all over this website. I know I was just too anxious on this first one.

    Savannah, Thanks for your suggestions. After photographing my setup and looking at the pic, I was amazed at how much easier it was for me to analyze the still life. It really helped me focus on the details. I will continue to draw, and paint from life for awhile because I believe that practice will improve my skills. But now, in addition, I will take photos and use them to further analyze what's right in front of me.

    To all of you, Thank you so much for providing links, insight, and advice. I'm humbled that you all took time to look and comment so that I can become a better painter.
  • I think you did a wonderful job! Congratulations - this is excellent ^:)^
  • I think you did great! Nice correction to the top of the cup, the handle is really good and your reflections of the candy on the cup and table top are very very nice. Congratulations! Looking forward to seeing you next painting! =D> :)
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