(My “On the Easel” posts give you a behind-the-scenes look at what I am working on, what went well, what went wrong, and lessons learned.)
Let’s take a look at how I painted Chontele and Elora in the Garden. This was only meant to be a study done in preparation for a larger work, but it turned out to be quite charming in its own right.
Below is the reference photo I painted from. Feel free to paint it for yourself. Here is a link to the full-size image.
- Oil on Ampersand gessoboard, 8 by 12 inches.
- Main colors: Ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, cadmium red, alizarin crimson, cadmium yellow, cadmium yellow light, viridian green, and titanium white.
Refer to my supplies list for more details on what I use.
Notes and Lessons Learned
- This subject is particularly meaningful to me. It features my partner, my daughter, and the backyard of my parents’ home (and my childhood home). I leaned into this bias as I painted; that’s what makes a painting unique and personal.
- The most difficult aspect was painting the reflected light in the shadows, which I wrote about in a previous newsletter.
- I also found it difficult to capture the essence of the scene whilst retaining a consistent and painterly style. If I did too much, the study looked overworked and awkward. If I didn’t do enough, it looked unfinished and unrealistic. I needed to capture the look, feel, expression, and essence of Elora and Chontele without rendering every little detail. Not easy to do.
- I painted the background first and then worked on Chontele and Elora. I’m more comfortable painting nature than I am painting people. Painting the background first allowed me to build up some confidence and momentum before stepping outside of my comfort zone.
- The background provides context and acts as a point of contrast for Chontele and Elora. It’s full of rich color, sharp contrast, and painterly brushwork, whereas Chontele and Elora are conveyed with delicate colors and careful brushwork.
- You can see Elora with a dummy in her mouth and a bunny in her hand. This is her classic “I’m ready for a nap” appearance. Her bunny in particular has been her favorite toy since birth.
- I’ll be having this painting framed and will gift it to Chontele (who will probably end up passing it down to Elora).
Step 1: Rough sketch, then quickly paint in the background.
Step 2: Roughly block in the colors of Chontele and Elora. Notice how timid my strokes are. I want to be sure of the direction and colors before I truly commit to my strokes.
Step 3: Refine the light and dark shapes and add nuances. I pay particular attention to reflected light and value contrast.
Step 4: Finishing touches, sign, and photograph.
I plan on doing a large-scale version of this study when I get a chance. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
Want to Learn More?
You might be interested in my Painting Academy course. I’ll walk you through the time-tested fundamentals of painting. It’s perfect for absolute beginner to intermediate painters.
Thanks for Reading!
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