There’s a lot I really like about this painting.
It was always going to win my heart just by virtue of the subject matter, but there are a number of lessons I learned while painting this that will help me as I move forward. So I owe this ducky a small debt of gratitude.
Lesson 1: Know your paint.
Not in a take-it-out-to-brunch kind of way, but in a geeky, technical and theoretical way. I’ve been doing a lot of reading up on paint brands and pigment mixes over the last few weeks and understanding what pigments are used within a tube of paint can really save a lot of time and headaches during the painting process.
That’s all I’ll say about this now, but for those readers who thirst for more theory, look out for my next ‘First-rate Finds’ post. I’ll go into a bit more detail about the make-up of paint colours there.
2: 95% is actually 100%
There were a number of times during the painting of this that I ignored my inner painter’s voice (let’s call him Pablo) and paid the price.
Usually, I was about one brush stroke too late. I’d be painting away, get 95% through a section, and go to ‘touch up’ a line or an edge. Pablo would say, “You sure you need to do that, Fiona?” – just as I put that last brush stroke in. The paint would mix with the colours around it, and what definition was there would be lost – along with the spontaneity of the previous strokes. It would have been better left untouched at 95%.
Even as I wiped back and corrected these mistakes, I had to feel a bit encouraged: At least Pablo is audible these days. In the past, I’d faff around, over-correcting everything in sight and then wonder how I could ever achieve a more painterly looking painting. Maybe in another twelve months me and Pablo will be so in-synch we’ll be finishing one another’s sentences.
3: Trust your instincts and wait it out
At this point in proceedings I was on the cusp of feeling disappointed. My oranges seemed to lack pop. My colour mixing looked fine on my palette, but self-doubt was starting to swell. In much the same way as last week’s painting was only ever going to come together in the closing stages, I figured I wouldn’t know until I’d filled the background in. Backing myself was a good move. The background really made the difference.
4: Stop stewing and just fix it already
I knew when I mixed my background that I’d planned poorly. I’d made the background surface slightly yellow-grey, to offset the blues, but the shadows I’d painted in earlier were a blue-grey. The combination didn’t appear convincing to me. And the bluish shadows at the back were blending with the blue cloth too much for my liking.
I wanted this painting to be finished, but I knew I’d never look at it without hearing Pablo saying, “You know, those shadows would look better if they matched the tone of the surface area more… pity you didn’t just fix it when it was right there on your easel.” Maybe Pablo can be a bit too audible…
So I exchanged my blue shadows for yellower ones, and now I’m happier with the end result. So’s Pablo.
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