I'm back with another review of the Art Prof Premium Painting Track! This week, I'm sharing what happened during week four. If you remember last week's post, I was working on the setup and thumbnail sketches for my white on white still life painting. But this week was all about painting! So lets get into how I approached this piece and the feedback I got from Prof Lieu, Jordan, and Cat!
Like my other pieces, I used Liquitex heavy body paints, Liquitex matte medium, and a canvas for this painting. I used mostly filbert brushes for this piece, but I got the basic shapes blocked in with a flat brush. I also used some colored pencils for my final thumbnail sketch.
As for struggles, I definitely ran into some this week. The most challenging part of this assignment is being able to see the subtle color shifts in the still life. Because everything is white, it can be very hard to see that one object has a slight pink hue while another is slightly yellow. But that's the entire point of this exercise. That challenge along with unrealistic expectations of perfection led to a few frustrations along the way.
I posted about my issues in the Premium Discord channels, and Prof Lieu gave me some great feedback. First, she reminded me that it's okay to deviate from the reference photo. It's just a guideline, and what looks good in the photo might not actually look that great in the painted version. Second, she encouraged me to focus just on the color rather than trying to make a perfect copy. She said that trying to focus on too many artistic skills at once can be overwhelming and that sometimes we have to let go of other skills so we can hyper-focus on the one at hand. It might mean that our other skills take a backseat for a moment, but it will allow for us to develop one at a time. I can't tell you how much that helped me. After that, I let go of my expectations for this painting, and focused on training my eye to see the colors.
Before I started getting into the nitty gritty of the painting process, I did one last thumbnail drawing. This one was focused on the warm and cool aspects of the painting. One of my peers had posted theirs, and I thought it was such a good idea that I wanted to try it, as well. So here's my super rough sketch where I determined where the warms and cools would be.
I also did a couple value scales based on the colors I was planning on using (although, you'll see I deviated from them quite a bit).
With those two exercises done, I moved over to my painting and put down the first layer of paint. The most important thing at this point was getting the composition right. And you'll see there are some issues with it. But I know that the first pass on every piece never looks great, so I posted my progress in the Discord for critique at the end of week three.
For critique, I was reminded to focus on the hierarchy of my piece. Not everything in a painting will have the same level of detail, because not everything is equally important. And that goes for the highlights and the shadows, as well. So when looking at this next to my reference, Prof Lieu noticed that there wasn't one focal point when it came to a highlight. But the hard work I put into my thumbnail sketches was quickly noticed, and I was so glad I had spent a lot of time planning for this painting.
After that, I started by blocking in some basic colors. By removing the details, I was able to focus on the temperature of the shadows as well as where they would fall within this painting's hierarchy. But this is where I started to get too concerned with perfection, and I was trying to match my colors exactly to my reference. That's when Prof Lieu stepped in and told me what I needed to hear. And that's exactly why I've enjoyed this class so much! Every time I've run into an issue, I've been able to get tailored feedback and move past it.
This is where things finally started to loosen up a bit. I stopped trying to make an exact replica and just let myself hone in on the colors in the reference. I even allowed myself to bring in some colors that aren't actually present in my still life.
I don't know what it is, but as soon as I stop caring about what my painting will look like, things always end up looking better. It's weird that abandoning my concern for my work leads to better results, but I think it helps by alleviating the pressure of perfection.
I posted this for critique on Tuesday, and I got some really great feedback! First, everyone felt the cast shadow was a really great aspect of this piece. The one thing I was encouraged to do with it was to soften some of the edges and allow for some subtle shifts within the shadow to reduce the "stuck-on" look. I was also encouraged to further define and separate the yarn from the cloth around it in the areas they overlap. Lastly, I was reminded to deviate from the reference photo whenever I need to. It's merely a suggestion, and sometimes paintings look better with some changes.
This was the final version I shared! I continued to work loosely, and let the colors drive this piece. I mainly focused on some of the more delicate touches, so there aren't any major changes from the previous version. But, as Prof Lieu said in my critique, the invisible work is incredibly important within a piece. Without it, the rest of the painting wouldn't work.
Here you'll notice I added some warmer areas to the shadow behind the cup, and I added in some gradation to the big cast shadow in the background. I also finished up with the gravy boat and added in the pearls.
Overall, I'm pretty happy with where this piece ended up. I'm not sure it's completely done, but I'm going to take a break from it for a while. Stepping back from something you've been working on for a while can help give a fresh perspective.
This assignment was much more challenging than I anticipated, but I feel like I learned so much while working on it. It's an incredibly useful exercise when it comes to training the eye to see the subtleties within tints and tones. And it's great for developing skills when it comes to understanding lighting! And, even though I don't work representationally as much these days, I still feel like I'm walking away with knowledge I can apply to any painting I work on.
That's a wrap on week four! Next week, I'll be working on an abstract painting inspired by a sound effect. I'm so excited to work on something abstract again! So be sure to check back to see how that assignment goes.
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Thanks for reading and happy creating!