Friday, January 11, 2013

Learning From Past Experience

While looking for photos that I thought might sell on my Etsy store ( I was also paying attention to the next photo idea to paint. There were several cactus shots that I used to paint my "Flowering Cactus" painting. I had forgotten! The original is one of my favorites and the closest I have come to reaching the style that I am aiming for. The irony was that I achieved it using acrylics, not oils.

I stumbled again on those photos taken with my brand new iPhone 5 and realized that I wasn't done with that series. I am slowly beginning to understand why painters revisit the same scene several times, from different angles or perspective. There is something more there that they want to master. I felt the same thing.

A friend urged me to concentrate on a type of painting...still life, florals, whatever I wanted, but to work on it until I had mastered it. I love to flit around and it shows. So I picked the  cactus again.

I remembered the mess I had the first time around and am amazed every time I see that painting (it is now the screensaver on my iPhone and iPad and hangs on a green wall in my bathroom) that I was able to create order out of the real chaos I had created. It was a black and pink blob. From the looks of the other painters I could tell they too felt there was no hope.

Its not often you get to see how an artist works so here is what I do and how I do it. I know this goes against the grain of many artists, but I can do what I want and it works for me.

Taking the photo I first drew in pencil an oval for the flower trying to put it where I wanted it in the painting. After several tries I got it placed. They I drew the cactus that surrounded it and added or subtracted what I thought would muddle up the painting. There are some amazing greens and pinks here and I wanted to be sure those areas would be included. Then came the petals so I would know where the whole picture came together.

Once the sketch was done, I then started painting in the black that would be the deepest color in the background. Only this time, I left a small unpainted space between the sections so that I knew where things were. Then I added a mauve color that would give me the missing separation of before, but would also be there when the various greens were added. Many of the ends of each section have pink edges, yes, pink! so I decided it would be easier to just add pink to fill all the gaps between each edge and then worry about that when I started putting in the green. As I learned before it all works out and this time I may save a lot of heartache trying to figure out where things are. At least now I can see all of the flutes of cactus and worry about the colors next.

I left it yesterday with about half of the pink edges filled in. In case your wondering, like last time, I will work with the flower last. I used a light green to fill it in then built it up with layers of white, a layer of two with some very pale green then back to white again. The beauty of acrylic is that those layers can be put on in minutes NOT days as it would take with oils. Blending can be a challenge but dry brushing those pesky blends works just about every time. Screw up? It'll be dry in a few minutes and you're good to try it again.

For those of you curious enough, go to my Oct. 20, 2012 post to see the original FLOWERING CACTUS painting. You will see that it turned out pretty good. Here the emphasis will be on the many flutes of cactus with far more greens and only one flower. It still should be stunning when finished.

As for the photos I've added, check out my Etsy store at Then click the Photography category. You never know!


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