The painting above is my tenth painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson is about mixing tints and shades. Tints are light values of a color made by adding white. Shades are dark values of a color made by adding black.
This is the first lesson in which I have been able to get a handle on the relaxed brushwork demonstrated in the example. My biggest problem with acrylic has always been that I tend to be really fussy and over work the paint. I think the key to getting a fresh casual appearance is to put down a brush stroke and leave it the heck alone.
I really love poppies so this was a fun subject. I actually had some pictures of different kinds in my visual files. This one is an Oriental Poppy.
Before I decided to blog about this book, I had already gotten to this point in the book and painted a 6 x 6 version of the poppy. When my granddaughter was here visiting from out of state, she loved it and I gave it to her. So when I decided to do the blog, I had to do another painting to replace it – the 4 x 6 with the foliage. It actually turned out better than the rest because, by then, I’d had some more practice. I’m making progress! Yay!
The painting above is my ninth painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This one is about painting simple reflections in water. As in some of the previous lessons, a photographic model would have been valuable in order to see where he came from with this. I just copied his brush strokes the best I could and came up with the above result.
In taking the lesson further, however, it was necessary to look at some photographs of actual boats with reflections. I also looked at other things that cast reflections in water, such as swans, etc. Like the moon reflection in lesson one, the effect varies widely depending on the light and the movement of the water. The quieter the water, the clearer the shapes. The choppier the water the more the shapes are broken up. Sometimes there is no reflection at all like in the bottom example.
As you can see, my version is fussier than the author’s example. I had to repaint the reflections several times and still didn’t much like the result.
Also some of the boat details are guesswork so I hope I don’t annoy any sailboat experts with my inaccuracies.
Art students will often balk at having to paint something plain like this. The subject, however, was wisely chosen for its simplicity so that the student can focus on learning the concept being taught without getting bogged down with a complicated drawing. The idea is that you learn from the simple exercise, then use what you learn to do what you want. It’s similar to learning a musical instrument. You start out learning scales. Later you learn the tunes.
So I painted the cardboard box according to directions and then drew myself a castle and painted that using the same palette, but rearranging the light and shadow a bit. Did I mention that I love castles?
In lesson 4, Deep Blue Sea, the color of the sea changed gradually from dark to light as it goes toward the horizon. This effect was achieved by blending paint directly on the canvas. In this painting the different values are mixed on the palette and then applied to the canvas creating separate shapes of differing values. I highly recommend using a palette knife instead of a brush to do that kind of mixing.
Two things I’d like to mention about this painting: first, the use of atmospheric perspective to create a sense of spatial depth. The concept is simple: if you want something to look farther away, make it lighter with fewer details. That’s because our air is not perfectly clear. It’s full of dust particles and vapor that gradually obscure things that are far away from us. Most people notice this when looking out over a mountain range, but the effect is everywhere, even looking across a pasture. It also varies with the weather and time of day.
The other thing I’d like to address is the rendering of edges around shapes. The use of soft or hard edges in a painting can make a difference in the overall mood or feeling. I think the author used hard edges in his example so that the learner only needs to concentrate on mixing different values. However, softly blurring the edges of the peaks would have created a mistier effect on these mountains.
Unfortunately I didn’t think about that until I started writing this post so I don’t have an example with soft edges.
The painting above is my sixth painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson is about applying a simple glaze. A glaze is a translucent layer of paint applied over a paint layer that has already dried in order to modify it in some way. It may be used to make the underlying layer look darker, lighter, or duller. Or it can change the actual hue. For instance, applying a thin coat of red over yellow will make it look orange. In this lesson the application of the glaze over the bread and butter seems to be for a softening effect which I thought looked very nice.
In previous posts I have mentioned the importance of creativity – doing something original in a work of art, and that is why I’ve been doing an extra painting for these posts that is at least slightly different from the author’s example. To achieve some originality in my personal versions so far, I have only been adding details to the author’s idea or rearranging some his elements. This time I tried to think of a completely different subject that would still fit the recommended color palette and glazing technique. Below are my two resulting artworks. These eggs don’t look very appetizing but they fit the bill.
The bookmark is actually a cut out canvas shape. I had to scan it on black paper so that the top edge of egg white would show up on this background.
Sometimes, being creative just involves doing something you love. Because of my cholesterol issues I only get to eat actual fried eggs once a week. Saturday is “egg day” at our house and we like them lacy edged, with a side of crispy bacon and buttered toast. Pleasant thoughts create nice visual images and fun art work.
What I want to talk about is the model. My example above is similar to the example in the book but I cleaned up the edges. It looks a bit awkward because A) I don’t know much about rowboats and B) the author’s example is loosely painted so that the broad strokes don’t define the form very well.
The problem is not the author’s free style of painting. If you go to his Facebook page, you’ll see that he’s used it to produce some beautiful work. The problem is that learning how to do that loose brushwork well can be harder for some people than staying inside the lines. In the context of this lesson, however, I think it would have been better if he had worked from a model and then put a photo of it in the book along with his example. That’s because sometimes it’s important for a learner to see how the teacher got from Point A to Point B. Doing that would also have given him an opportunity to talk about how to work creatively from a photograph. Maybe I’ll cover that subject myself in a future post.
Anyway, for my second painting (the one below), I found a picture of a rowboat to use for a model. I used the same process and palette, leaving the white areas unpainted.
This one is a very hard-edged because that’s easier for me to do, but I’ve noticed that as I work through these lessons I’m beginning to loosen up a bit as you will see in later posts.
The painting above is my fourth painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson introduces simple gradations – specifically, gradation of value created by blending different colors of paint together on the canvas while the colors are still wet.
Value is the lightness or darkness of a color. Changes in value are created by adding white or black to the pure hue ( color). Gradation of value, (also called blending or shading) is used to create different effects in an artwork. For example, it can make an object look three dimensional.
The purpose of gradation in this lesson is to create a sense of spatial depth. In this case it makes the beach look close and the horizon look far away. Having the blue get darker also conveys a sense that the water gets deeper as you go farther from the shore.
The book gives a good explanation about the problems and solutions associated with blending in a medium like acrylic that dries quickly. As you can see from the example above, my transitions are not perfectly smooth. The importance of smooth gradation depends on your subject and the level of realism you want to achieve. For example, if I were trying to accurately depict the surface of a rounded object like a china cup or an egg, the transition from light to dark would need to be more even than what I have achieved here.
Below is my own version of Deep Blue Sea in which I’ve tried to exercise some personal creativity. (See note on creativity in the prior post) Sometimes you only need to make a few changes in order to make something your own. In this example, I just changed the shape of the shoreline and added some little details.
I liked this subject well enough to use up the leftover paint on the smaller versions below.
Before talking about the lesson, I want to point out my caption below the top picture. In each post the top painting will my copy of the author’s model in each lesson. It’s painted accurately as possible according his directions with no embellishments on my part. Because of potential copyright issues I can’t post his model painting, so unless you actually have a copy of the book, you’ll have to take it on faith that this looks just like the demonstration model.
Also, as I mentioned in my first post, the author of the book did not publish his own resource photos – if indeed he used any. The reason for that is clear in this painting: if he had inserted a photo of a real pasture like the one below, his beginning painter would have gotten carried away with trying to depict all that visual texture (foliage and grass) realistically. By eliminating those details and simplifying the outlines of the shapes, he allows the beginning artist to focus only on the intended process – mixing believable earth colors.
So in keeping with that objective, I did my own version of the pasture scene using the Smoky Mountain vacation photo above as a model, but reducing it to basic outlines. I also used the same color palette demonstrated in the lesson, but changed the format to a rectangle.
I didn’t do any extra little paintings of this one, however, because I didn’t like it very much. It’s kind of plain. Later on, however, I probably will do a more detailed version of that beautiful Smoky Mountain pasture.
A note about creativity: The author’s intent in Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings is ( in my opinion) to help hobby painters develop some skills and make some little paintings to hang on their wall. There is, however, no mention of creativity in the titles, glossary, or index. However, the person who wishes to take up painting as a serious hobby should be concerned about creativity. That is why I’m doing my own version of each of these paintings. I’ll be bringing up the subject of creativity in later posts.
The painting above is my second painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. Like the painting from the prior post the objective is basic paint application. This time the palette includes color ( hue ) as opposed to just black and white. However there is no mixing (changing of value or intensity) – you just use the paint as it is right out of the tube.
The painting below is my own version of Simple Sunset. I call it Desert Sunset.
I used the author’s process and prescribed color palette but made this painting into a desert sunset by adding a cactus and some scruffy looking grass. While looking at reference photos of sunsets, I noticed that sometimes the colors form an arc around the sun like a fiery rainbow. So I did that in my version of the painting and blended the colors on the canvas while they were still wet. Blending actually doesn’t come up in the book until Lesson 4 but I couldn’t resist.
By the way, all 50 of paintings in the book are 6″ x 6″, a popular size with daily painters. (More about that later.) You can get canvases of this size on Amazon as well as at art supply stores like Hobby Lobby and Michael’s and even at Walmart. They come pre-stretched or on cardboard. I’m just using some floor canvas I had on hand.
One other thing: since I always tend to dispense too much paint I decided to use the left overs and do a 6″ x 4″ painting, an artist trading card and a book marker.
This kept me from wasting the extra paint and canvas scraps, provided some additional practice, and left me with some items to give away and (ahem) sell.
Here is my painting from lesson one. It’s called Moonrise.
The objective in this lesson was just basic paint application using Titanium White and Mars Black. I followed directions and tried to make it look like the painting in the book but I was a bit dissatisfied with the effect of moonlight reflecting on the water. The problem is that the author doesn’t include any of his models in the book in the book so you can’t see where he’s coming from. (Actually, he may have just used his imagination.) So I looked at a lot of photographs of moonlight on water and discovered that there are many variations: the shape of the moonlight’s path, soft or hard edges, and how different kinds of ripples cause the image to break up. I chose an effect and painted another version of Moonrise using the author’s process, but with my own moonlight path and a different skyline. I call mine Moonscape. Now it just needs a dragon swooping down.