Lessons

Still Life "Flowers with Lace Tablecloth"

1) This is a picture that I found in a furniture advertisment. Frequently I find beautiful still lifes and flowers in advertisments and cataloges. I keep a pair of sissors beside my chair so whenever I come across an interesting image I clip it and put it in my reference file. Whenever I need an idea for a new painting I look through my file. I keep snapshots that I take for reference in a similar file. When taking your own photos do not use a flash. Natural lighting or spot lighting is much more dramatic.

2) First I make a drawing in my sketchbook the same size as the canvass I want to work on. This is to establish the composition and placement of objects. Notice how I change things around just a little so that everything fits nice and balanced in the space available.

My canvass was a little shorter than the picture I was working from. I don't want to "copy" the photo anyway. I just use it for reference and take my "artistic license" to improve on the photo.

3) Next I make a very simple sketch on the canvass itself. You can transfer your drawing from the sketchbook by scribbling on the back with a soft pencil until the whole area is dark. Place the drawing on the canvass carefully, lining them up. Press firmly with a pencil or stylis, tracing over the lines on the original drawing. This will transfer the design onto the canvass. If you have graphite transfer paper this will do the same thing. Don't bother shading this line drawing. You just need to know generally where things are.

4) Start by painting what is furthest from you. In this case it would be the window. I decided to make it look like you could see outside even though the photo doesn't show this. I paint an impression of blue sky and blurred green foilage. The colors I use for green are a mixture of Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Yellow Light and Titanium White. I use a little bit of Yellow Ocher and White for variations in the green. The sky is White and Ultramarine Blue. Don't get too fussy with details at this stage, just pounce with a stiff brush to give texture and interest. Soften any hard edges with a soft brush making it a little blurry. 

I paint the wall behind the table next. The color is a soft grey with a hint of yellows and violets. Mix White with the teeniest touch of Yellow Ocher, Ultramarine Blue and Alarizon Crimson. The shadows are a darker grey violet color. Take a little bit of the wall color and add more Ultramarine Blue and Alarizon Crimson to it until you have the right value. If it is too bright a violet add a touch of the yellow to it to grey it down a bit. I blend the wall with a fan brush or soft sable brush to get rid of any hard edges. 

5) Next I put in the details of the window, window sill and the table. I use a 20/0 script brush to make the thin lines needed to create the highlights and shadows that give the illusion of light coming through the glass. You can use a bigger sable round to put in the basic shapes and the fine brush for the details. I start with a middle value, next the darkest colors and then the lightest values last. The colors for the window are mostly white with a little bit of the shadow color that I made for the wall. Use White with a touch of yellow for the highlights. The table and the window sill are a warm brown color. You can use Burnt Umber and a bit of Yellow Ocher and Alarizan Crimson for warmth. Add white and yellow for the highlights. Add Ultramarine Blue to the Burnt Umber to make the darkest darks.

6) I paint the lace tablecloth on top of the table next. You might want to let the painting dry before you go onto this next step, that way if you mess up you don't mess up the whole painting. If you have the confidence to paint it wet on wet then great! Start by mixing a color a shade darker than the lightest value of the cloth using white with a touch of yellow and a touch of the shadow color I mixed for the wall. Then go in with a grey violet for the shadows. Mix some of the wall shadow color with a little Ultramarine Blue and Alarizan Crimson to make it a little darker than the wall. Next I paint in the details of the lace first with the dark shadow color and then with the original light color. Finnally I put in the lightest value to emphasis the highlights where the sun is shinning. I mix a touch of yellow in white for the lightest value.

7) Next I put in the basket, starting again with the middle value, then the darkest darks and last the lightest highlights. The middle value is close to the wall shadow color with a bit of white and blue added to it. The darkest dark is close to the shadows on the table cloth with a touch of blue added to that. The lightest value is a little yellow ocher with white. I put in the flowers by using a brush that is all worn out and splayed. I start with the darkest color and dip the brush in the paint just enough so just the tips are wet. Then gently pounce so that you get a stipple effect in the shape of flowers that grow in a spike like pattern. Every pounce should leave a pattern of small dots. Practice on a separate piece of paper until you get the hang of it. You can use a small pointy brush and make small dots with that. Whatever works well for you. Start with the darkest darks, then the middle value and then the highlights. I used a dark green (made by mixing ultramarine blue, alarizan crimson and yellow for the darkest darks). I had several shades of yellows and oranges for the middle values and yellow with white for the highlights. Be carefull to leave the side near the left brighter than the right to give the illusian of light shinning on the flowers.

8) Last but not least paint the tea cup. As you can see the one I did and the one in the photo are different sizes. I'd like to say I planned it that way but I didn't. That's just the way it turned out. If you didn't see the photo you would never know I goofed. I liked the way it turned out anyway so I left it. 
First I painted the inside of the cup starting with the middle value, then the darkest dark and then the lightest color for the highlights. I made the cup with some of the tablecloth color with a touch of Alarizan Crimson to give a bit of a pink feel to it. The darkest value is the same as the shadows on the tablecloth and I used white for my highlights. Finnally, I put in the spoon using the same colors minus the alarizan and I adjusted the shadows on the tablecloth to make it look like the handle was casting the shadow.

Framed copies of this painting "Flowers on a Lace Tablecloth" are available for sale here.

Trailer - "How to paint a miniature oil painting"

Trailer - "2nd How To Paint Minis"

Barbara Stanton's "Color Theory 1"

Barbara Stanton's "Color Theory 2"

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