Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Two Horses Grazing

This is for Virtual Paintout Nov 2011, Arles France challenge. It's oil on 12x16 canvas panel.

This is my second submission to the challenge this month. I've never really painted horses before, so when I saw this photo, I wanted to give it a try. (ref) I also liked the dusk sun light coming from behind so the horses would be in the shadow except for the edges where the sun hit. The reference photo was not too clear on the detail of the horses. Since I was making these horses the focus of this painting, I had to add more detail to the main horse, especially the face. I would have loved to spend more time to get the horses better anatomically precise, however I'm running out of time as I've been helping my younger son's school with their Christmas performance, so this would have to be it. Finally, I added some sun rays with a bigger brush to give the painting more interest.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Peony Peach Pitcher

This is for Rookie Painter Nov 2011 challenge, Peony Peach Pitcher challenge. It's oil on 12x16 canvas board.

The set up for this still life challenge is closer to a classical still life painting: multiple items cluster together, dark background, and light trying to come from one direction. (ref) However to me, this challenge reference photo had a number of issues that I need to work through. To get ideas on how to even approach this challenge, I revisited a book that I read last year, "Problem Solving for Oil Painters" by Gregg Kreutz, as well as classical still life paintings by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin.

I thought the reference photo was too heavy on the right side with the big peony flower and while on the left there was this little plum. Behind the plum it seemed like there were some grapes hiding in the back. So I decided to put a few grapes in the foreground with the plum, which I later changed into a peach, trying to balance out the peony. The peony was also too bleached out in the photo, probably due to the strong flash light. I gave the flower more pinkish peachy color and a little more depth. Also, in order to achieve color harmony, instead of the redish / purplish colored plum on the left, I changed it to more orange color peach to match the pinkish peachy peony.

The lights and reflections on the water pitcher was too confusing and too much, especially with the flash light, the box, and reflections of the photographer with another person. So I simplified the pitcher. Color scheme was also a big issue. I decided to keep the background relatively cool in order to contrast the warm colored peony and peach. Finally, with the whole box framing the still life items, it would have been interesting had I not have to change so many things. So I decided to skip it so I have one fewer thing to worry about.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Arles Alley

This is for Virtual Paintout, November 2011, Arles, France challenge. It's oil on 12x16 canvas panel.

There were several nice possibilities to paint at Arles. This one (ref) stood out because it reminded me so much of some of John Singer Sargent's Venice paintings with narrow streets. The lady in the reference photo was deep in thought, walking down the narrow street in the shadow, while farther down the street, there was strong sunlight. The walls enclosing the alley were aged and have characters, and also made people feel claustrophobic. I wanted to try to capture all these using Sargent style (well, my interpretation of). I added two more people walking from a scene not too far from this original scene. (ref).

Given the painting will mostly be in the shadow, I prepared my canvas first with black acrylic color, and then painted with successive layers of oil paint. At first I tried to paint the walls with brushes, but I couldn't get the roughness and texture I wanted, so I picked up my palette knives. The lady in sunglasses is walking through the narrow alley into a slightly open area in foreground, the it's a little brighter and warmer. The alley gets darker the further it is, until it opens up to the sunny area, painted with cool light.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Accordion Player in Paris

This is for A Day Not Wasted, Oct 2011 challenge. It's oil on 10x12 canvas panel.

This is actually not an easy challenge. (ref) The most difficult part is to sketch out the accordion player. I first painted the whole panel black and then sketched using a light color color pencil. For the background houses, I used relatively thin oil paint, so some of the black under-painting was showing through, and the color being different tones of grey. I also got rid of the railing, as I thought that was too much distraction.

For the foreground person and the road I used thicker paint and more non-grey color as well as bigger contrast in values. I also intensified the colors for the accordion player, such as his green sweater and red accordion, so that the whole painting is not all grey. I also got rid of the container for money, again I thought that was too much distraction.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


This is for Studio Atelier Oct 2011 challenge, Paint Your Pet. It's oil on 12x12 inch stretched canvas.

I'm so glad the deadline for this challenge has been extended as I needed time to finish this painting. When I saw this challenge (ref), I wanted to do it, but I didn't have a good picture of our dog. Then one day our dog did nice pose and held the pose long enough for me to snap a picture on my iPhone.

We got our dog earlier this year from the SPCA. I read in the newspaper in the beginning of the year that an illegal dog breeder had been raided, and there were over 100 pure bred dogs confiscated. These poor dogs had been locked up in cages for the purpose of having babies to be sold by the breeder. Some of these dogs were in pretty bad shape. The ones in better shape were up for adoption. My younger son and I went to the SPCA, and saw this beautiful Pomeranian, very gentle and very calm. She's eight years old and thus is already an old lady. When we got her, she had an ear infection, nuclear sclerosis, and just gotten spayed, but she's so gentle and such a cutie, so we took her home. We named her Charlotte because my younger son was reading EB White's Charlotte Web at the time so we named her after the nice spider in the story.

To paint this, my son helped me painted the background black using acrylic paint, and also the under-color for the dog an orange red color. The oil color I used for the painting included cadmium orange, burnt sienna, cadmium yellow deep, gold orchre, ultramarine violet, and white. I first blocked in the dog with big strokes of colors, but not too thick in paint. Then I used smaller brushes to refine the color, and finally a very thin brush to paint in the whiskers and suggestions of individual hair.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Bananas and Oranges

This is for Rookie Painter, November 2011 challenge. It's oil on 12x10 canvas board.

There were three reference photos given (ref), I chose this one because I liked the direct sunlight onto the fruits. I did change the color of the orange from green back to orange. The background is a cooler shade of grey in order to contrast with the fruits. The main colors included cadmium yellow light and dark, burnt sienna, sap green, ultramarine blue and violet, burnt umber, cadmium orange, lemon yellow, Paynes grey and white.