The house we used to live in had a kitchen window overlooking a big back yard with shade trees and grass. It was like a mini Peaceable Kingdom with all sorts of birds, squirrels, butterflies, and lizards going about their business. Ducks and rabbits also resided there from time to time. And a few stray cats who were mostly “peaceable” but had to be monitored to make sure they didn’t eat anyone else in the kingdom. Sometimes as we looked out the window, the animals would stare back at us. One day the cat in this drawing decided to hop up on the window sill and have a closer look. I took a picture of her with my Android camera and worked directly from the phone screen image to create this portrait.
As I mentioned in a previous post, smart phone cameras are wonderful resources for artists. You can keep a whole gallery of images to work from. You can crop awkward compositions to balance them and you can use the edit features to get creative effects. I used a color enhancement setting on the photo for Stray and tried to capture the effect with my colored pencils.I liked the result but think it would have looked better on smoother paper.
Below is a small painting of the same kitty. Or a close relative.
The invention of the camera was both a curse and a blessing to the art world. It was a curse at first because artists had to find other reasons to paint in order to make up for some of the market taken by photographers. That effort to find new direction was one of the springboards for the art for art’s sake and the self-expression movements in modern art.
Before long, however, artists began to find ways to actually exploit the medium of photography. For example, the Hyper-Realists of the twentieth century used cameras to create extremely realistic paintings that would have been impossible before due to constantly changing highlights, shadows and reflections.
When slide projectors and overheads were invented, artists were able to project their subjects directly onto the canvas and produce super accurate drawings. (Some traditionalists disapprove of this practice, but the use of a projection device by professional artists was not unprecedented. For example art historians believe that the great eighteenth century scene painter Giovanni Canalleto used a camera obscura to project his cityscapes onto his canvases. The accuracy of his paintings are considered to be extremely valuable to cities like Dresden Germany which suffered so much destruction in World War II).
Cameras also provide a convenient source of subject matter. Today’s artists don’t even have to wait for pictures to be developed before using them. We can work directly from the screens of phones, tablets and laptops. The pictures above and below are examples. They were drawn from the screen of a smart phone.
As I mentioned in the previous post, drawing animals or anything in motion requires a quick action technique or gesture drawing. One way to practice this is to get a photo of an animal and use it as a model to create a series of eight or ten quick drawings. Be sure to do some warm-up scribbling first, work small, use a black ballpoint pen to get dark lines, and limit your time to ten or fifteen seconds per drawing. Try to keep your eye on the model and use free flowing lines to describe what you see. When you’re done, pick one of your drawings and enlarge it on a photocopier. That’s how I created Kat. Later I went back and tweaked the eyes, added the patterns inside the scribbles and colored a copy of it.
Recently I ran across this drawing in a file and realized that it resembled some of the material flooding the adult coloring book market. If you’re into that and you like my Kat, feel free to download a copy of it and color it any way you want.
I got the idea for this drawing exercize from a book called Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists by Carla Sonheim. It contains several other good ideas for loosening up and some creative ways to create finished products from your practice work. I highly recommend it.
In the previous post I showed the first two in a series of paintings of mushrooms. Those were done with watercolor crayons. However, I felt that the texture of the paper was too rough for the crayons, and since I didn’t have any smoother paper with me I decided to do the next ones with some regular water color paints.
Since the texture of the paper doesn’t stand out so much on these, they look more natural than the first two in spite of their unusual colors. Mushroom 4′ s color is a bit exaggerated but Mushroom 3 is actually that color of blue.
The models for these mushrooms came from a copyright free image site called Pixabay.
The painting above is my 32nd painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson is about accenting with complementary colors. Complementary colors are opposites on the color wheel. This concept is similar to the one in the previous lesson. Both lessons are about using contrasting colors for effect. This one is a just bit less dramatic. Its harmonious blue and green color scheme is simply livened up a bit by the bright rust color which is derived from orange.
For my own example I did another Grand Canyon scene which is dominantly cool like the example. The distant orange rock formations create the warm colored accents.
I have to say that I’m very happy about the way this one turned out except for the way the orange rock formation is sitting too close to the center. This brings up three points to consider.
The first is that in an informally balanced composition like this you should never place an object directly in the center.
The second is that, even if you took the photo yourself, you may still need to tweak your composition a bit in the painting process.
The third is a problem with the medium: acrylics dry a shade darker. This can make “tweaking” a bit difficult because it can be hard to match the original colors. Which means you sometimes have to choose between the risk of ruining the whole thing or just leaving it alone.
I liked this painting enough to just let that little rock formation stay there in the center.
The painting above is my 31st painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson is about creating contrast with temperature. Temperature refers to the idea of warm and cool colors. Warm colors are usually reds, yellows, and oranges and are associated with things like sunlight and heat. The cool colors are the blues, greens, and violets which are associated with water and sky. If you look at a color wheel you will see that these are grouped on opposite sides. Putting both warm and cool colors in a painting creates an eye-catching contrast.
For my original work below, I used a rose which was growing at my mother’s house. The contrast in this color scheme is not as great as that in the example because of the deep reds of the rose. The bluish grid you see in the background is the cast shadow of a trellis. I loved the pattern created by the rectangles of sunlight. My son says it looks like the rose is sitting in front of a space station. Nice thought. I did this over a red underpainting which shows through a bit to help unify the painting.
The painting above is my 29th painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. Like the previous lesson, this one is about massing shapes in nature. In the example above, the river, the land mass, and the sky are all treated as generalized shapes. This type of simplification unifies a composition. The author points out, however, that looking past all the details in a complex scene can be challenging.
For my original effort at solving this problem I used for a model a photo I took at Bellingrath Gardens near Mobile, Alabama. I got through the “massing” step just fine as the overall shapes of the sky, the water, the land and the trees are clear. The problem arose with finishing it. It was one of those situations in which an inner voice kept saying, “Stop! Don’t add that detail! Don’t blend that stroke! Quit tweaking those trees and rocks!” But I just kept on adding, blending and tweaking. As a result, my finished product is way more overworked than the example for this lesson.
See the person at the bend in the walkway? I don’t know who that is.
The painting above is my 27th painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This is another lesson about unifying a complex scene. This time it’s done by simplifying shapes. Notice that the snow scene is divided into two simple parts: a shadowed foreground with one tree and a sunlit middle ground with only suggestions of more trees and snowy slopes.
My painting of the Grand Canyon, like the example, has a shadowed foreground and a sunlit middle ground. However, it also has another layer of depth with some distant slopes indicated by a few brush strokes. It’s not as simplified as the example, but as you can see from my photo below I did reduce some of the detail.
The vastness of the Grand Canyon is impossible to capture in a photograph. We saw clouds float over the distant rock formations and drop rain showers. Hopefully in the future I will be able to do some paintings that convey a sense of the awe I felt in this place.
The painting above is my 26th painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson is about simplifying a complex scene by loosely painting large shapes and creating a focal point by clarifying small details. In the example, the buildings are barely discernible from one another whereas the car in the foreground is brought into focus with sharper edges and bright red tail lights. The saturated red is repeated in the traffic lights which shapes are only suggested.
For my Texas windmill, I used a photo taken on a road trip. In keeping with the lesson objective, I painted all of the landscape elements – the sky, trees, and pasture – as simplified shapes. The sharp definition of the windmill makes it the focal point of the composition.
The painting above is my 25th painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson is about painting complicated things like bird feathers by treating clusters of similar colored feathers as single shapes rather than trying to render each feather individually. This method can also be used for other subjects that involve a lot of detail like different kinds of foliage and grass.
I have to say that I did not enjoy painting the rooster. However, I do love birds so I painted the one below plus two more which I will share in the next post.
This is my Nanday conure. I named her Pepper because her colors reminded me of a partly ripened chili pepper. Below is the photo of her that I worked from.
See how the plumage is broken down into color groups? This is an easy technique for acrylic because it dries so fast. If you want to blend those edges you’d need to work faster or add retarder. Or just pitch the acrylics and work in oils.