Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Stone Patio

Day 14 - Stone Patio

Photo from Loisaba, a reserve in Kenya.

Lessons Learned:
This is a work in progress ...

Monday, December 17, 2007


Day 17 - Sundowners

I don't know about other places, but in Sweetwaters, a conservancy in Kenya, there is a thing called "sundowners." Where you get some alcohol and friends and drive out to some lookout point to watch the sunset and drink. On once such excursion, I took this picture.

Lessons Learned:
This was a nice lesson: When you have a picture with both an evening sky and the earth, the earth will look dark, but rich. And the sky will still look bright. In fact, if I replaced the grass with a more lighter, faded color, you would think it was a totally different time of day.

Also, I learned something about painting trees. Usually, to make trees, I paint blobs of green overlapping in a circle shape. Those blobs represent the sides of the canopy where, from a side view, perspective forces leaves to overlap and making solid shapes. In the middle of those blobs would be lines of varying thickness representing the trunk and branches. After that it was sort of fuzzy. But then I realized that there would be some blobs in the middle too, from thick branches, on either side of the tree. But most important, there should be some area where you can see the other side.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Plant from Panama

Day 12 - Plant from Panama

A picture of a plant I took while in hiking in Panama.

Lessons Learned:
I really liked the way the leaves came out. Once again, it was all in the highlight. I also added very faint, thin white lines along the leaves. In the smallest, topmost leaf, I added tiny white lines in the highlight to imply a bit of texture. I think that worked well.

The flower, which of course commands the most attention, was turning out to be a disaster. I was following the photo quite religiously and it just wasn't showing any shape. So, on a whim I added some strong highlights to the tips of the petals and Voila! it looked much better. It seems as if I may have learned and then applied something! Yay!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Girl with Bonnet

Day 13 - Girl with Bonnet

Photo of a painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (American Paintings).

Lessons Learned:
I really wish I had taken more time with this one. Once again, delicate white highlights, strategically placed, give the painting it's dimension. Also, look at the bump just to the right of her nose. A dark area separates the lip area from the cheek area. What really kicked it up a notch was adding bit of highlight to the area underneath the shadow to imply the area slopes downward before entering that shadow. And also to the left of the nose I added highlights to imply a slope. It was a very exciting discovery.

I also finally saw for myself something I had read many times: adding red around the eyes, nose (especially nostrils), and ears really gives the face a warm feeling.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Day 10 - Ecocamp

An all wooden facility in the mountains above David, Panama. I can't really say much about it. But when we were there as part of a field course in college studying biology. It had such a campy feel we decided to dub the place, "ecocamp."

Lessons Learned:
Disaster. Unlike the Kurita Museum Hallway, this was intended to be a quicky, and it looks that way. There's nothing wrong with quickies I think, but I really didn't pay attention to the lines or the perspective the way I should have. That is soooo important. If the perspective doesn't work, the whole thing falls apart.

Also, that's not snow in the background. I don't know what I was thinking, but I had decided to just copy the over-exposed background of the photo exactly as shown.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Horse in Front of Gunma Museum of History

Day 9 - Horse in Front of Gunma Museum of History

A giant horse statue standing in front of the Gunma Museum of History (Japan).

Lessons Learned:
I have a tendency to just go in and throw dark and light shadows all over the place creating paintings with indistinguishable light sources (aka they look bad). So, with this one, I tried to block in the obvious blocks of shadow and light, not worrying about the bits of highlight within each value block. This was fun to do that with because it was all one color. Once those blocks are set up, you can add dark and light values relative to the block value. One light, medium and dark hue are not going to cut it for the whole thing.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Bone from Gunma Museum of History

Day 8 - Bone from Gunma Museum of History

A bone from the primitive people's section of the Gunma Museum of History.

Lessons Learned:
I thought doing something small would be fun and simple, but it turned out very difficult! I don't know what went wrong. It looks a bit overly smooth. Some subtle texture might help. And the edges don't make it stand out from the background enough.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Kurita Museum Hallway (Part 4)

Day 7 - Kurita Museum Hallway (Part 4)

See previous post

Lessons Learned:
Finished! Finished, at least, because I'm tired of working on it! Yay!

In the area of orange light on the far wall, something interesting happens there. The mortar area, being a sunken area, becomes very dark and the brick is very bright, the opposite of the rest of the picture.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Kurita Museum Hallway (Part 3)

Day 6 - Kurita Museum Hallway (Part 3)

See older post

Lessons Learned:
Today began the very pain-staking process of gently going over each brick with a deep dark blue and a light touch. I went over each one to give its brick shape and blend it with the mortar. It also blended out the gray reflections from the window which I was happy about. Overall the effect seems to be coming along nicely. There are still some places where the lines aren't soooo straight ....

Monday, December 3, 2007

Kurita Museum Hallway (Part 2)

Day 5 - Kurita Museum Hallway (Part 2)

See last post

Lessons Learned:
To get the brickwork straight, I created a rectangular grid in Flash with about the same number of bricks high and wide as the photo. Then I exported the grid as a transparent png. In Photoshop I free transformed the grid to align with the perspective of the photo. That was very tricky and took several tries. Then setting that grid layer to a low opacity, I went over it with a yellow color to make the mortar of the bricks. It's hard to draw straight diagonal lines!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Kurita Museum Hallway (Part 1)

Day 4 - Kurita Museum Hallway (Part 1)

We stumbled upon the Kurita Museum of Tochigi Prefecture by accident. We were heading for an art museum in Tatebayashi, Gunma. After a long journey with many train changing, we get to the right place, but we're not sure exactly where it is. A very nice Japanese man not only shows us the way, but drives us there. The place turns out to be closed, for that day only, so the man takes us to this museum, the Kurita Museum. It's a beautiful museum made of different buildings and gardens and it was a really lucky find. This dark and mysterious hallway was in one of their more unusual buildings.

Lessons Learned:
This turned out to be less of a sketch and more of a big, multi-day painting. The reason being that I wanted to really make crisp clear edges to everything, giving it more of a finished feel. After laying down a quick sketch, I went in to add detail to the stairs. I used guides to make sure the lines were straight. Otherwise, nothing new learned.


Day 3 (afternoon) - Heron

Your standard, "omg, it's a heron! where's my camera, where is it?! Shoot, I gotta change the batteries! It's going to fly away ... ahhhhh!" animal picture.

Lessons Learned:
I wanted to experiment painting under a very fine-lined drawing. I realized that even if I erase the heck out of my drawings, (unless I draw super big, which I don't like to do) even fine pencil lines look too thick when scanned. So instead I redrew the lines in Photoshop. At first I tried a stylized line style with varying thickness, but it looked too thick. So instead of really erased and erased until I had very very fine lines, maybe only about 1-2 pixels thick. And then I painted. I'm not so impressed with the result ... I think I'll try it again at a later time.

What I actually like is the water, which I never intended to do. All of it was done as a patchwork of short horizontal strokes (tough on hands!). First, I added really dark, blackish stokes in random places in the shadow of the heron. I used a zig-zag path of stokes to make the shadow of the thin legs. The legs are so thin the shadow looks better broken up by the water. Then I filled out the rest of the shadow with more brownish stokes. I filled in the rest of the water by gradually increasing (about 3 times) the whiteness of the blue base, and then making short, long ^ shapes. I made on side of each ^ consistently lighter than the other side to give it some depth. Finally I tied some of the ^s together by going over them with a very whitish blue and a very light touch.

Full Moon

Day 3 - Moon

I always look at a gorgeous full moon with a pang of regret since it's so blooming hard to take a picture of. But finally, I got a good one: I set the camera on top of my bike to stabilize it, set the light value very low to eliminate the glow and set the timer. Ten seconds later I had a picture of a black sky and a moon, although unnaturally colored, covered in delicious textured awesomeness.

Lessons Learned:
Not much to say here. There were a lot of sparkly bits, but no strong highlights. So, I increased the lightness/whitness of the base color slowly and sprinkled that color in various places. If any started to stand out too much, I'd smite it was a little blending action. Finally, I made the moon yellowish. I had done the whole painting in gray tones (matching the unnatural lighting of the picture) but with a touch of yellow blended on a separate layer felt right. It's hard to go wrong with painting the moon. It's inherently abstract and immediately recognizable to the human eye.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Tree Ring Shelf

Tree Ring Shelf painting

A nondescript store in Uenomura (see previous) had an amazing selection of wooden furniture. Wooden doesn't seem as appropriate a word as "made out of trees." Beautiful chairs and tables and so forth with prices to match. This dresser/shelf thing was sitting in the doorway as I walked in.

Lessons Learned:
Glazes: When I first start out painting, I block out the shape in some color, but usually that color is not so close to the reference color. Whether it's laziness or not, I think it works out better in the end (maybe) . The plan has been to layer very low opacity glazes of strong colors - in this case it was reds, yellows, oranges, and browns to get the rich color of the wood. This has been one of my favorite new techniques. I can throw down all these crazy colors, and then glaze it over with another to tie all those areas together as a one surface.

They polish and glaze the heck out of that furniture and so highlights were really important to seeing that. And this is the first time I just grasped how important - how really important - those white highlights are. A dash of white in just the right place can make a blob of paint akin to cat poo look like a delicate piece of Japanese lacquer (demonstrations to come).

Those white highlights running along the edge gave shape to the otherwise messy area underneath. I had thought that, "no, I must define the edges perfectly before even considering adding the white ... " but I've realized since that that's hogwash. I think you should at least put in "dummy highlights," even if they are eventually blended in. Especially if speed is important, like in sketching. I've found if you define those highlights early, the piece looks finished earlier, and then you don't waste time fussing to make something look good before adding that which would really help.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Bus stop in Uenomura

Bus stop in Uenomura painting

This photo is from a village in the mountains of Gunma, Japan, called Uenomura.

Lessons Learned:
This is was my first painting after a very long artistic dry spell. While I didn't learn anything new technically, this was my first stepping stone in starting this series and regaining confidence. It's an old lesson, but probably the most important: just pick up your pencil/stylus and get to work, dammit!