On the Easel: Chontele and Elora in the Garden

(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.

Dan Scott, Chontele and Elora in the Garden, 2022
Dan Scott, Chontele and Elora in the Garden, 2022

(You can download a higher-resolution photo of the painting here.)

Reference Photo

Below is the reference photo I painted from. Feel free to paint it for yourself. Here is a link to the full-size image.

Chontele and Elora in the Garden, Reference Photo
Chontele and Elora in the Garden, Reference Photo


  • 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).

Progress Shots

Step 1: Rough sketch, then quickly paint in the background.

Dan Scott, Chontele and Elora in the Garden, 2022 WIP 1

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.

Dan Scott, Chontele and Elora in the Garden, 2022 WIP 3

Step 3: Refine the light and dark shapes and add nuances. I pay particular attention to reflected light and value contrast.

Dan Scott, Chontele and Elora in the Garden, 2022 WIP 4

Step 4: Finishing touches, sign, and photograph.

Dan Scott, Chontele and Elora in the Garden, 2022
Dan Scott, Chontele and Elora in the Garden, 2022

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!

I appreciate you taking the time to read this post and I hope you found it helpful. Feel free to share it with friends.

Happy painting!

Dan Scott

Draw Paint Academy

About | Supply List | Featured Posts | Products


Dan Scott is the founder of Draw Paint Academy. He's a self-taught artist from Australia with a particular interest in landscape painting. Draw Paint Academy is run by Dan and his wife, Chontele, with the aim of helping you get the most out of the art life. You can read more on the About page.

Enjoyed this post? Join over 123,000 artists who subscribe to the Draw Paint Academy newsletter.