The painting above is my 50th and final painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. The objective of this lesson was to paint a complicated arrangement of objects by starting out with generalized shapes and working your way down to little details.
When I first started looking for a model for extra practice, I shopped around for some colorful candy. Then I realized that I would probably be tempted to eat that candy afterward, so I settled for some little colorful wooden shapes that I had on hand in the studio.
I was okay with the way this turned out but I’d still like to paint something else wrapped in cellophane like the candy in the example. Maybe some sugar-free Life-Savers. Or a giant lollipop! Or maybe some Peeps! Or chocolate-covered cherries!
The painting above is my 49th painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. The objective of this lesson was to paint a portrait in the classical style and use the limited palette available to the Old Masters – mostly earth colors.
For further practice I did another profile using the same palette and technique as the example. However, the only model with a beard I had available was our dog. He actually turned out to be a lot prettier than the Bearded Man.
This is my 48th painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson was about grisaille – applying shades of gray to create the illusion of form. The author used a classical statue as a model for his example. Instead of copying that, as I have in all the previous lessons, I worked from the reference photo below of Ekkehard and Uta, part of the Founders Collection at Naumburg Cathedral.
For my replacement example, I decided to focus on the face of Uta. In addition to switching models for this lesson, I also didn’t do the glazing which was suggested as part of the process, but blended the opaque paint while it was wet.
I first saw this Late Gothic sculpture when I was taking a course in Medieval art history. It thought then and still do that Uta had the most beautiful face and regal bearing ever rendered in stone. Since the sculptor probably never saw the real Uta, this statue would have been modeled after an ordinary woman. She may have been a commoner, but she did a sublime job of looking like a queen.
For further practice and some off the wall humor I decided paint a not-so-classical statue I saw by the roadside in Arizona last year. He (or she) was green but for the sake of the lesson objective I used artistic license and did him (or her) in gray scale.
The painting above is my 47th painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson is about painting light and shadow. The concept is similar to the one in Lesson 15. Basically, in order for light and shadow to be convincing you have to keep the relationships of the different values consistent. The book goes into greater detail about this.
For extra practice I decided to paint a familiar scene outside my kitchen window. It has some nice contrast between light and shadow.
The tree in the painting sees a lot of bird and squirrel traffic because of the seeds we put out and the bird bath. So as you can imagine, it also attracts plenty of cats. I named this painting Dinner Buffet because of the late afternoon light and because of the birds sitting among the branches while the cat waits patiently below hoping to make a meal of one of them.
The painting above is my 46th painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson is about using contoured brushstrokes to describe the roundness of an object – in this case the elephant above.
For further practice I decided to paint a tree that I photographed in Texas last fall. It’s not as fat as the elephant in the example painting but the trunk was covered with gnarly forms that could be rendered with contour strokes.
The painting above is my 45th painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson is about converting a complex scene into a unified whole. The author lists some practical design strategies that can be used to accomplish this. One strategy used in the example is to work with a limited palette.
For my own complex scene, I decided to work from a photo my son took on a business trip to Emerald Cove. The rocks are all different sizes and shapes. I tried to create a unified look by 1) keeping most of them similar in color and texture and 2) trying to keep the light and shadow consistent.
I would actually like to try this scene out on a bigger canvas and pick up more detail, especially on the mossy rocks.
The painting above is my 44th painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson is about advanced landscape painting with emphasis on atmospheric perspective. Dust particles and vapor in our atmosphere obscure details and color. The practical application is that if you want to create spacial depth, paint the things in the foreground with brighter colors and the things that are far away with softer colors and less detail. That’s how atmospheric perspective works.
For further practice, I decided to use a picture I took at Cathedral Rock in Sedona, AZ last fall. I have suggested distance by painting the far away rock formation blue.
If you look closely you will see my son standing on a ledge near the center of the painting. He was trying to find a way around to the other side of the main rock formation but the path had ended in a drop off. He actually appears tinier and farther away in the photo but I couldn’t get him any smaller for this painting even though I used an itty bitty paint brush and a magnifying glass. That’s one of the problems with these small paintings. Maybe I’ll revisit this scene later with a bigger canvas and try to do a better job of capturing the distance.
The painting above is my 43rd painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson is about rendering multiple planes – objects that have many surfaces pointing in different directions and getting different amounts of light. A ball of paper is a good thing to practice on but it doesn’t make a very pretty painting.
So for further practice, I made an origami crane and posed it on a pink background to get more color into the picture. Origami is excellent for practicing value drawing (pencil shading) as well as painting.
What I wanted to paint was an origami unicorn. I have one that my son made but it’s a bit out of shape from years of handling and it would be really hard to fold a replacement. Anyone remember the little unicorns that the cop made in Blade Runner from gum wrappers? Below is my slightly worse for wear but treasured unicorn.
Actually, after looking at this on the screen, I’m thinking that rendering a foil surface would be a nice variation for this project. Maybe later.
The painting above is my 42nd painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson is about painting a transparent object. As you saw with the blue bird in the previous lesson, there are layers of free form shapes that go together to create the illusion of transparent glass. Some of those shapes are from the background you can see through the glass. Some shapes seem to be within the glass itself. And finally, if it’s shiny, there are reflected shapes on the surface. You can simplify the process of duplicating this effect by eliminating some of the smaller details or by staging an object in simpler surroundings.
For further practice I painted the little glass container below with some colored eggs to brighten it up. These eggs represent my effort at Pysanky, the Russian art of decorating eggs with a wax resist process. They may look like what a first grader in Russia might have achieved but I like them anyway and will probably include them in some more still lifes. After all that work they need to be used for something.
The painting above is my 41st painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson is about painting reflections on a colored surface. The rule is that the shinier the surface the more reflections you have and the sharper the edges of highlights and reflected shapes. It’s also important to respect the distortions created by the curved surfaces and paint the reflections as you see them, not as you think they should look- that is, if it’s realism you’re after.
For further practice I decided to paint the little glass blue bird below. Because of the transparency of the glass, I experimented with different colored card stock for the background and finally settled on the light green. The multitude of tiny pinpoint highlights in the glass are due to the fact that I have six overhead light bulbs in my studio. Anyway, I was pleased with the way this turned out.