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Gave it a try today

Despite not having completed my shadow box, I pushed forwards to try and begin a painting, since I had been studying from the website since August.

I made some mistakes that am aware of and others I haven't yet figured out.

First, I think my canvas was too small at 8" x 8".
Also, I think the silver object was too detailed for the size canvas.

I laid out a still life under the same two 85 watt florescent bulbs as my easel, and I checked my white balance.
I painted a wedge, and a piece of wood in Holbein white, to compare light levels, and the still life seemed dark, so I moved it closer until the levels matched.

I had some difficulty because my black was not as dark as parts of the still life.
I thought I was getting glare, so when I put my hand over the color checker (mistake), my color looked darker.

So I mixed about 8 levels of grayscale, and started trying to lay in the colors where they belonged.

My brush was too fat for the detail I was going for, I was trying to paint the background around the silver object, and was unsure what my second step should be, since my first step was not black enough already.

I think I should have trusted the color checker, and not tried to cover it with my hand to check for glare.

It was all downhill from there, with my inexperienced brush strokes, and I ended up wiping off the entire canvas, and then just played with all the colors, practicing brush strokes and creating a piece of modern art (which I wiped off as well).

So the question of the night for me was; if my first step is unable to get as dark as reality, what do i chose for my second step?

Do I have everything lighter than reality by a step or two? Or do i just omit details until I reach a step that matches my paint on the color checker?

I think if I re-use this 8x8 canvas I will do a simpler still life, and paint the object much larger than life.


  • You might have to go over this tutorial again, especially the first couple of minutes.

    I wouldn't advise you to lighten your color or you'll quickly run into issues trying to keep track which color belongs where :-? . Moreover changing your values will throw you off when you start comparing your progress to your set up and eventually it will end up being a bigger frustration since you'll start thinking that the whole painting just looks wrong ~X( . Just have to accept the fact that sometimes even our darkest paint can not match our darkest shadows. The worst case scenario is that the shadow is not going to be as dark as you saw it.

  • I don't think an 8x8 canvas is too small. You can make the vase as big or small bas you prefer. But you do need to use the proper brush, first it just makes applying the pain easier and second its the right thing to do. :) Next, don't put your hand over the checker.
    Third and most important - go back to the DMP site and review what Carder has to say about each point.
    Did this sample below three times before I was satisfied.
    Hey, we're all human and all of us should be learning. :-h
  • Also not sure why the images are being squashed, probably an iphone thing.
  • johnw

    Clearly a frontal assault on the Carder method. You gave it a good shake.

    Well done that man!

    Advice: plan, prepare, set up, method, go slow, stay with the program.

  • Wow, I think you did a great job on that salt shaker! =D>
  • @johnw, you nailed this. totally.
  • johnwjohnw -
    edited January 2014
    I could not have done anything remotely like it without Mark's teaching.
    I was amazed at the variety of colors throughout, and what was more amazing was asking the 6 questions, and then adding a color, and watching the difference between the color checker and the object magically disappear.

    Thanks @dencal, you're right, I needed to slow down and follow the program.
    It was 3am and I was determined to finish something/anything.

    All the advice, "it will look wrong," "trust the color checker," etc came true. At one point of filling in seemingly random, unrelated color shape, suddenly the top of the salt shaker appeared, like an illusion.

    One of the hardest parts for me was figuring out how to keep my head in the exact same place, (left/right, forward/back, up/down) which is what I used the strings for.

    If I shifted the slightest, some of the the color patterns shifted, so i tried to look through one eye, without moving and maintain the same point of view.

    But I think this is where some of the magic of painting still life is, compared with painting from a photo, maybe some sort of 3 dimensional depth comes about from capturing ever slightly varying points of view.

    Can't wait to start the next one, this time with more patience, and accuracy, and hopefully better brush control/technique.

    Thanks @Mark_Carder! Very awesome and complete method, fantastic instruction!

  • edited January 2014
    I think you did a terrific job on this shaker… your loose painterly style is one many of us would give anything to be able to do. I really like it!! ( the silver is awesome!! )
  • Thanks Shirley, I think I can attribute the painterliness to haphazard and novice clumsiness. =))

    Someone might achieve this by painting with their non-dominant hand, (or foot.) :)

    It was fun trying to plan simple/elegant strokes of color, whether or not I actually achieved that is questionable, it was a quick/lazy way of avoiding ultra-precision.

    Also I couldn't really lean on my flimsy easel too much, and I left the wood dowel I intended to use as a mahl stick in my garage.

    The silver portion did manage to have a surprising amount of depth in the reflections.
    I think I can title this "self portrait." =)) :-j

    Can't wait to do another! :)
  • Well done Shaker! Whats next? Salt & Pepper or a selfie?
  • johnwjohnw -
    edited January 2014
    Thanks Ron, I was originally going to do a salt and pepper shaker together, something that could be hung in the kitchen.

    But I decided it would be better to keep it simple, as I was dying to finish it in one short sitting.

    I was amazed at the amount and variety of different colors in this seemingly simple object.

    I don't want to create too may useless student test paintings, I feel like they should have a purpose or place to hang, but I guess it's part of the process.

    Up until recently I had two dogs, a black Lab and a yellow Lab, I had to put the black lab down due to bone cancer just before Christmas.

    If I can figure out which printer to get, I'll do a pair of paintings of the dogs, meant to hang together, sort of as a theme series, salt/pepper shaker, black/yellow dog, etc.
  • LOVE the salt shaker! I just showed it to everyone in my class as an example of how to lay down your color! Fantastic!
  • Wow, thanks Mark! That's very cool. I was definitely channeling Sargent in terms of making my loose brush strokes count. :)

  • My sympathies on the loss of your dog. Gotta love those animals.
  • Thanks Ron, you ain't kidding, Roscoe was something special. They all are.
  • Hang in there. It does get easier. It will click for you.
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