Monday, August 23, 2010


hi there!

sorry i've been away from here so long - been a bit under the weather, but also very busy! i got a writing job that turned out bigger than expected & that's been keeping my limited energy-time tied up. but it's almost done - & i did get another painting finished! been working on it slowly - so slowly, i totally missed the deadline!

this was for the august Daily Painter International Art challenge, which was "reflections." i decided to finish it even after the due date passed because . . . well, one, i'm stubborn - &, two, i'm a bit compulsive! also - i guess this is three! - i felt i'd learn a lot from it - &, boy, have i! i'll go through my process painting it, then sum it up - more reflections than the original photo has!

first - here's the photo:

i took that over the july 4th weekend at woodley island. i figured i could simplify it pretty easily so i could concentrate on all the things i've never done in it - things like boats, water, reflections . . . ! i put it on the digital picture frame, placed the grid over it

then sketched it in in charcoal on an 8x10 canvas, pretoned in gold:
this was the point at which i had my first qualms. the perspective seemed off, even after following the grid. the boat didn't seem as angled away from the viewer as in the photo, yet the perspective of the stuff on the boat seemed correct! i tried to fix it a couple of times, but decided to go ahead with it.

first note to self: fix it in the sketch, not after it has umpteen layers of paint!

i decided which colors to use: ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, raw sienna, trans yellow oxide, cad yellow light, alizarin, cad red light, & titanium white. i felt these would do the sky & water (the blues), the sail cover (the reds), & the trees (the yellows w/ the rest of 'em).

i started with the sky. i wanted to show some yellow at the horizon to reflect the warm sunniness of the day, so i put straight cerulean blue in the top of the sky area & cad yellow light mixed with white in the lower half, then mixed them up, going up & down with a fairly large brush to blend them roughly. the light yellow mixture & a light blue mixture i made up on the palette served as my atmosphere colors in light & shadow, and went into any color mixes that needed to be lightened.

i then put in the water, using ultramarine & white, & the sail cover, using the alizarin for the shadow areas & the cad red light for the bright sunlit parts. i mixed up various greens and put in the first sketchy bits of trees. at this point i still put in the buildings in the background & the other boat to the right behind the main one. i decided that boat wasn't working, but still left the buildings.

only that was too much stuff back there for me to do well along with everything else. so i wiped the buildings out, mixed up some more greens, and put in more trees! if you ever go to eureka & see trees growing where the carson mansion used to be, now you know why!

second note to self: settle on the composition before you start painting!


next was the side of the boat & the reflection. i knew the boat couldn't be pure white, so i did a first layer of the light blue mix over it all, then put darker tones at the two ends and the yellow mix blended in in the middle to show the curving shape of the side. i mixed up a color for the main reflection and put that in, along with faint indications of the other things that were reflected.

at this point, i asked my son to look at it. he studied it & realized i had the color of the reflection completely wrong - it was green based rather than blue. oh dear. he sure was right. i scraped the color out & reworked it with a slightly darkened form of the light blue mix, & it looked a lot better!

third note to self: don't mix colors based on what you think they 'should' be - hold up the brush or palette knife next to the original & check!

i then finished off the insides of the boat, discovering leftover bits of the original sketch i'd decided not to do, which i had to paint out. (is that note one or two - or both?!)

i didn't like the sky, so i took my big soft fan brush & started squiggling it around, getting a sorta van gogh-ish effect in the sky, which i liked. at this point i also added some ultramarine to the sky & some cerulean to the water to create more life in them both. i adjusted the darkest parts of the shadows under the boat, the shape of the reflection, and added more cad red light highlights on the sail cover.

the last thing was the mast. i am incapable of drawing a straight line, so i placed a ruler at the top of the canvas, slanted away from the paint but in the direction i needed the mast to go. then i loaded up my finest brush & placed the tip on the starting point of the mast on the boat. using the ruler as a guide, i was able to put it in fairly straight & was really relieved! i didn't use it for the two cross bars but they were pretty short. and that was it!

after all that, this is what my table & palette looked like - not literally every brush i own but every one i use regularly!
oh - plus some new ones! i discovered some taklon long handled guys that i really like - inexpensive too, as they were student grade - perfect for me!

i can't say i really like the painting, though i do catch myself recognizing the reflections as reflections when i walk past it on the drying rack. so in that i succeeded. i do really like the sky, and it does have a certain naive charm about it. (i did notice that i have ripples in the sky, but not the water!) and i sure learned a lot about painting doing it - which is the fun part of the challenges!

i guess the thing is, it just has no 'me' in it . . . somehow it's missing that spark that directs my hand & helps me choose what to present & how. not sure why . . .

if you ever have ideas about how i go about things, or what i could do to improve what i'm doing, please let me know via the comments or through email - i'd really appreciate it!

thanks for stopping by - take care until next time!



  1. Hi Dusty, your work is lovely and it is always fun to see another artist's process...there is always so much to learn.
    Thank you for stopping by and commenting on my blog!

  2. thank you, dana! it was tough to post this one since i'm not as happy with this painting as with others . . . but i really want to show my process for other beginners, too - no matter how it turns out!

  3. Nicely done, Dusty.. I enjoyed your demo as well..
    What kind of a writing job???

  4. thank you, marian! i'm writing some seo articles for a relative of a friend - fun to do!

  5. It is great when we try something new and can find at least one spot that feels like success! I love your notes to self. I make them too but somehow seldom remember them. Making the same mistake about ten times seems to be my only cure. And you have introduced me to a new challenge site. Thanks.

  6. thank you, sheryl! i decided i also liked the juxtaposition of the grey-green trees & the orange-red sail cover! doing this blog is really helpful in thinking about all this - and in keeping me painting!

  7. Nice effort Dusty. I love salboats also and just finished a long kayak trip with some sailboat photos I hope to use for paintings. Keep up the good work.


  8. thank you, kirby - and for the encouragement! reminds me i should post my photos to a public site so other painters can use 'em, too . . .


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