Online Painting Class: Week 3

I'm officially halfway through the Premium Painting Track currently being offered by Art Prof. In case you haven't read through previous posts on week one or week two, I'm taking an online painting class and sharing my experience right here on my blog. This particular "semester" will run for 6 weeks, and we're following the curriculum laid out in the Painting Basics Track. For more info, I'd definitely read through the first couple posts, which are linked above.

This week's assignment is to paint a still life comprised of all white objects. Why? Because painting white objects is actually incredibly difficult. White objects aren't ever actually pure white. They have subtle tints and shifts within them, and this exercise is meant to train your eye in noticing those delicate transitions and colors. If you can do it with an all white still life, you can do it with pretty much everything else.

We were only planning on spending one week on this assignment, but all of us in the painting track felt we needed more time. Prof Lieu was tracking that and decided to stretch this one out over two weeks. Setting up a still life isn't easy, and it takes a lot of time to get the composition just right. Then come the thumbnails. So this past week, I set up the still life, made several thumbnails, and put down the first layer of my painting. I'll share the thumbnails this week and the painting next week.

My materials and supplies included the still life objects, an index card, scissors, a pencil, and my sketchbook. Very basic stuff.

So for the still life, I found most of my objects in the kitchen. I also pulled out some heirloom pearls and a ball of handspun wool yarn. Now, for simplicity's sake, I'm only going to share the images related to the final piece I'm working on. Otherwise, we'd be here for days.

This was the first image I shared, and Prof Lieu was so helpful. She immediately spotted that this needed some more dramatic lighting. So I placed a desk lamp on a chair and experimented with the shadows.

Just look at the difference between this first iteration and my final version. It's crazy how much lighting is part of the still life process.

After I finalized the lighting, I started on some sketches. These are the original thumbnails I worked through. To make these, I created a viewfinder with a 3"x5" index card. I measured my canvas and cut a rectangle out of the index card at the same scale as my canvas. I then looked through it at my still life to locate different points of interest.

I chose 4 very different focal points, so I would have options and plenty to talk about in the critique on Tuesday. The setup for these thumbnails is a little different from the version directly above, but not by much. I think the pearls are the only thing I changed.

I shared these in the Discord Premium Tracks channel on Monday, and a lot of folks really liked option 3 and 4. Prof Lieu suggested I make some value studies of these two and decide from there. And that's exactly what I did.

Then came time for Tuesday's critique. I got some really great feedback regarding the lighting in my setup - which was all thanks to Prof Lieu! The shadow in the 4th thumbnail (directly above) was specifically called out as something I should incorporate in my final piece. I was encouraged to make a couple more thumbnails with that big cast shadow, and I set out to work on those the following day.

The above image is the setup that my final painting will be based on. And I have the associated thumbnail below. I decided to move the pearls over to the gravy boat so I could have a smaller object in the still life for some variation. Shadows are important, but so are the size, overlap, and interaction of the objects within the composition. Incorporating these qualities adds interest and energy to a still life piece.

After sharing these in the Discord on Wednesday, I felt like I was ready to start painting! In fact, I put down the first layer. But I'll save my painting process for next week's blog. It'll be much easier to follow that way.

So that's where I'll leave you this week! I know it seems like I got nowhere, but this lengthy planning process has made making the actual painting so much easier. If you need some encouragement to include more planning time when it comes to your art, this is it. It's not glamorous, but it's beyond helpful! I'm already looking at how to incorporate this process into my abstract work.


That's it for week three! I'll be back next Monday with a review for week four. I'll be sharing my painting process for this still life along with all the associated feedback.

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Thanks for reading and happy creating!