Monday, September 6, 2010

Artists Helping Artists Challenge: September

hi there!

when i read the artists helping artists challenge, i tried to think of what i associate with september. to help, i went through my old camera files. and there was this wonderful picture of ripening plums from one of the trees in our backyard, taken by my son last september!

i was really excited to find this, for a number of reasons.

first - i've always wanted to try a painting with a very dark background & just the center of interest lit. this would give me a chance to try that out, as well as practicing controlling values in order to get some leaves appearing just out of focus in the dark background.

second, i've been feeling like i've been using a lot of white lately, which has been unusual for me. i love my m. graham paints so, i tend to want to use them pure mixed only with each other if necessary, not white! so this offered a chance to use as little white as possible.

third, i've not done much with leaves, especially profusions of them, & i wanted to see how i'd handle that! in some ways, painting is like writing - you don't know yourself until you do it!

so i set up the grid in front of the digital frame, marked a grid on the 8x10 gold-toned canvas i chose, and sketched in the basics with a bit of charcoal.

after wiping away the grid lines & dusting off the excess charcoal from the sketch, i laid out my colors.

i love alizarin, but decided not to use it - i wanted to explore some other reds i'd not tried much. i also decided i'd need pretty much every green i had to pull this off without white. but i did need something opaque to lighten the greens, and to accentuate the center of interest.

for those, i chose cad yellow light and naples yellow. i added trans yellow oxide to brighten the deeper reds, if necessary. the reds were cad red light for the opaque parts, and quinacridone rose & red for the shadow areas.

the greens were veridian, phthalo (for its blueness), sap, and olive (for its wondrous darkness!). i also put out ultramarine violet, planning on mixing it with the olive green for the transparent background. and here they all are:

this arrangement of colors still seems to be working really well - keeps 'em separated & also allows lots of room in the center & along the other edges for mixes.

i put an initial layer of color down for the plums, using the quin rose for the shadows, the quin red for the transitional areas, and the cad red light for the brightest areas. i mixed a small small bit of all of those with a lot of white for the highlight & lay it in.

then the background - for which i had a plan! on the outer areas of the canvas, i used a mix of lots of ultramarine violet with some olive, figuring the purple tone would compliment the green leaves. closer in to the plums, i used the same mix, but with mostly olive green, to compliment the reds in the plums. they look nearly the same, not only in the photos but on the canvas, but i feel it did make a difference.

here's the plums initially in & a start on the outer background:

i got the rest of the background initially in, then started playing around with straight olive green with bits of this & that to see what would show up, but barely, against the background. here's the first few back-most leaves in:

i decided the phthalo would be good for those leaves emerging from shadow but not fully in the light, and used both cad yellow light & naples yellow to modify it. then sap green and a very little veridian, also modified with the yellows, made up the rest of the leaves. the brightest leaves were sap green and cad yellow light. i refined the plums a bit & stood back for a look. (this photo is a bit bright - i had an amazingly hard time getting good photos of this painting - probably because the dark background was wreaking havoc with the auto settings on my camera! and i also managed to get some blurry photos - using the tripod!!)

i saw some areas i wanted to improve - the highlights on the plums & the too brightness of some of the background leaves - & my son pointed out that the leaf & bit above the plums were too light. after fiddling with the values some more, i got it looking the way i'd envisioned it! (and then spent a few hours trying for a good photo!) here it is, finished!

i'll be submitting it to artists helping artists (pretty cool site, btw!) tonight & start the next challenge that's due the 15th - daily painters international: music! also, i'll soon be posting an abstract that i did!

this one & the abstract both went well, so well that i had to keep reminding myself to pause now & then to take a photo for you to follow along - that's the kinda painting time i like - when you feel that putting paint on canvas is one of the best things that could ever happen to you!!

thanks for stopping by - take care till next time!


p.s. just checked out the other submissions for the aha challenge - they're all so very good! - & my little plums are going to join them - oh dear! quite nerve-wracking! *gulps*!


  1. Report to work fine fruit tree painting the table, a great blog story, big thank you also Teuvo images visit the blog and thanks for posting. Teuvo Noormarkku Finland

  2. thank you! i really enjoy your photos, too!

  3. Oh how beautiful! Oh to be able to paint thusly!

  4. What a lovely painting. I believe you met the challenge of the dark background! Congratulations.

  5. thank you! it's always such a good - & surprising!! - feeling when a painting comes out how i plan it! of course, it helps (a lot!) that oil paint is the most forgiving of mediums, allowing changes ad infinitum - & then some!

  6. thank you, elizabeth! it was pretty scary putting those first very dark strokes down, but they immediately started doing great things to the reds of the plums (why i put the plums' basic colors in first) so i forged on!

  7. Very nicely done. I really enjoy the variety of luscious greens that you have created. You handled the dark background very well!

  8. thank you! i had so much fun with the greens - especially the olive & the sap - really nice colors!


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