Personal Art Blog

Sharing the lessons I teach at the Artist Guild and the personal discoveries in my art.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Classical Still Life with Demo of Changes

Classical still life

20"x16"  oil on canvas  - unfinished

When I do a workshop I like to have the artists
bring in an old painting they are not satisfied with
to re-work in the new technique.
I do a demo on one of my own paintings to start them off.
Here are the steps on this one. It was an older, larger
painting I had never learned to like very much.

This was painted
after taking a
workshop from
Qiang Huang
back before
I started to use my
fracturing technique.
The only parts I
liked were the
brush marks
on the lower cloth.
I love Qiang's

Look at the way
it is all lined up.
what was I thinking!
Have to learn to watch
out for the tangents.

I lightly sanded
the old surface then
rubbed a little
linseed oil with a
small amount of
Gamsol added.

I changed the
shape of the vase so it
would curve into
the painting and also
moved it in from the
edge. I lowered one
of the peaches and
got rid of the middle
lemon.  I brought
forward the base of
the small dish holding
the lemon slices by
making it deeper so
it no longer lined up
with the grape.

Then I made the back wall
lighter so the jug would fit
into the passage of light.
I needed to move the
eye around and away
from the top right of
the painting so I
added a slice near the
left edge. I intend to fill
out more of the eucalypti
stalk later. I added fresh
paint all over so I could
start to fracture.

At this point the painting starts to speak to me and I listen.
I have to ask myself what I like and what I do NOT like.
Looking at it in the mirror I decide I should dump it.
BUT...darn it, I have an audience. I will have to ...
excuse me, but I cannot resist...

I realize I do NOT like the dark area of grapes PLUS
the lower two dark corners. It was like having an arrow
pointing down off the bottom!

What to do? Does it matter?
I decided it did - if only as a valuable learning experience.
I wanted more color...and for it not to be so stiff.
This was a personal taste issue more than correction.
I already had some clementines
so I changed the grapes into an orange and lemon
then automatically the peaches appeared to change
just by using the leaves to make them become clementines.
I took the cloth all the way to one corner and
added the fringe to break up the large dark area
...still to be perfected.

The image above shows developing the fringe.
I ended up taking it further back on the table
Placing the glass to see the correction

I know I have to do some finessing in
several areas to satisfy my
unresolved feelings about this painting.
I think we all have paintings like this and it can be
a great way to discover our reactions to many
aspects of our artwork.
In my case - style change and knowledge growth.
Look what has happened since I did the very top
pic. An "off with its head " moment and got rid of the fringe.
Made the background lighter too. Will this EVER be finished...
Does it matter?
Am I enjoyed playing around with it?
You betcha! I learn a lot by risking ruining a painting than
having the attitude of trying to save it, just to sell.
Maybe this one will never be completed.

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  1. I think you are right-the whole thing is an opportunity to learn. And really, you get the chance to do it over and over with this painting since there are so many variables to change (not things that are wrong but variables). I would guess too that you could just keep this painting hanging around, to try out ideas here to see if they worked in other paintings that you have or are working on. It's a pretty good idea.

    1. You nailed it, Lindy. As long as I remember to keep to the "fat over lean" rule all will be well. I definitely learn more about how my my personal taste and art knowledge has changed by working over an old painting.
      Congratulations on having such a large class of students in your drawing class.

  2. I need to read this post again. So much good information. Thank you for taking the time to post this.

  3. Very generous post Julie and the final outcome wonderful(so far?):-) thanks!

    1. Thanks, Cathyann. Loved your advice and painting on your post. Coconut frosting ..yum!

  4. Thanks for sharing the journey, looking promising and looking forward to the final result.

    1. I notice your single apple has a lot of power, Roger. Your style is wonderful

  5. There are so many good composition lessons in this post, very useful progress shots too. You have punched up the colour nicely as well, thanks so much for such an excellent post :)

    1. Glad you liked it. Thanks.
      You are doing some printmaking - how exciting. will look forward to see them

  6. Well my dear, you've blown your old workshop piece right out of the water and a swan was born. One of your best blogs and paintings to date. (no pressure here). I love the adventure you shared and now, off with a few heads of my own. I shall now go on my own mission for older paintings. Thank you, thank you Julie.

    1. Would love to see what you do so please take some progress shots dear Blanche.
      Love your comment - thanks.

  7. Like your process..Thanks. It looks pretty complicated and complex and beautiful

    1. It doesn't seem complicated to me because it is only making changes
      based on the previous choices to choices made NOW.
      Love your guy on the beach.

  8. I can not tell you how liberating just reading this blog post was for me. I enjoyed your explanation of the entire process...lovely painting.

    1. Very pleased you enjoyed it. Thanks Linda.
      Your paintings with figures are wonderful!

  9. what a great post! Timely for me...because I went over an old painting today and I "fractured" it! yay! Now, I wish I could report that I had this sort of beauuutiful result. I didn't...but I really feel the more a person does this sort of thing the more of a chance one has to get a great result! I have miles of uptight paintings I can experiment with. One question...what is "the glass"? I guess I've missed exactly what that is. I love the new painting!

  10. Good to hear you sounding so upbeat Celeste. You are correct - the more you do it the better it gets.
    The piece of glass is what I place over my painting to make corrections on before I do it on the painting. Works great.

  11. I'm so impressed with your process here Julie! The changes that you made and why you made them... that's invaluable information for the rest of us to read and see! I also admire your outlook, in that you're approaching this painting as a learning experience, an exploration and experiment. You're going to make great advances in your skills by doing this! Thanks for setting a good example for the rest of us!

    1. You are very generous Katherine. The standard of your work is very high and I am in awe of your latest post.

  12. A beautiful painting and I love all these ideas and lessons earned. Tangents! Oh they can really creep up on you (meaning me) Thanks for another super post.

    1. Hi Mary- how nice you are to let me know the tangents sneak up on you too. Love your grape painting. Beautiful.

  13. What a great post Julie - you could have entitled it No Guts, No Glory!
    Such a great amount of information and perfectly illustrated at each turn.
    It is looking glorious!

  14. Julie, I read your post twice and each time more sank in. I will read it again. There is so much to learn. One thing I noticed is how rich your colors ended up. Beautiful. And great compositional changes. I am sure there is more..............

    1. I always appreciate your support Helen. Thank you. I thought your atmospheric tree today was lovely.

  15. Thank you for posting this valuable information. I am going to spend some time rereading and studying the before and after photos. Your painting is just beautiful!

    Thank you, too, Julie, for showing how much fun it can be to paint!

    1. Thanks Sue.
      It isn't always easy to grasp a written concept. I usually have to ruminate a while on it.
      After saying that I have to add the learning is the fun part for me. I get the feeling we are similar when I follow your stepping stones. I can't wait to see what happens after Carol's workshop.

  16. Thank you for sharing this very interesting post. Very Beautiful composition !!!

    1. Thanks so much for the complement. Your compositions are always good and your new post of the old sailing ship is quite amazing

  17. I like to relate to my paintings that I am not happy. I learn a lot from this.
    Time passes and changes the way you see and do . So is exciting to follow all of your thoughts and see all the changes that have been made effective from you on this work!
    Watercolor is not easy to resume if not for small corrections or resorting to interventions of a bit 'invasive (such as collage with rice paper). I like to do is get back on the idea doing a watercolor painting again ... as sometimes behind a successful job with a spontaneous technique, there are 5 or 10 is not too precious ... so much so that they end up as paper to test the color, on the reverse side.
    Your words on the composition and changes is a very good lesson on still life,
    dear Julie. Thanks!

    1. Hello dear Rita. I can relate to the watercolor being difficult to change but I found making the changes in gouache worked really well and I often loved the mix. Ever since I saw Turners watercolors where he used Chinese White I have loved a bit of opaque with the transparent paint. Your flowers on your blog are vibrant and full go wonderful color. I love the way you push yourself. Congratulations on your blog award too.

  18. Excellent lesson here, Julie. You are the best instructor! Great post!

    1. Nice of you to say - thanks Carol. I enjoyed seeing the bird you drew. Happy little fella and he made me smile.

  19. Wow....the beautiful fringe drew me into it right a way. So classic and comforting. I am still scratching my head at the comment you made about the line up of the original piece. I thought it looked fine, but my eye is not so trained. It is amazing though how even subtle changes can really transform a painting. I am in awe of this. Thanks for sharing with us!! I always learn from you!!

    1. Hi Lisa - do you mean the tangents? To avoid a stodgy or stiff appearance it is desirable not to have too many things lined up on the same line of flow. It happens a lot and you see clouds in landscapes following the
      the shape of the mountains. The curve of a leaf ending on the edge of the curve of a bowl. In my case they were pretty obvious.
      Thanks for returning to your Sunday focus. I enjoy them very much.

  20. This painting leaves me speechless. Its a beautiful still life. It amazes me that small changes in a painting can make such a difference. Love it.!

    1. How nice YOU are - thanks Hilda. I find in my own work it is the small details I do not do right that could make it a better painting...sigh...I do not always see them.

  21. Such an honor to have had you comment on my "Sisters" painting..thank you!! Enjoyed reading your insights and resolutions as you worked through this painting.

    1. Why - thank YOU Elizabeth. I am honest in what I wrote. I liked the painting a lot.

  22. It's so interesting to watch you problem solve. Great you could remember to take photos along the way! I love seeing how your choices and preferences reveal your unique style. Lovely.

    1. I took the photos because when I am making changes it is a good record for me to see how I solved a problem. I can never quite remember so the photos help.
      Love your bright and happy flowers in front of the window.

  23. Thanks for sharing this progression. Somewhere along the way I decided it was better to ruin a painting trying to fix it than to never feel happy with it. Love your fearless attitude--it truly paid off.

    1. Good for you Stephanie - you are fearless too.
      I agree - it is important to like what we paint.
      Your mushroom paintings has great paint quality and I love the color of them.

  24. This post is so informative! Thank you for sharing your process. As a watercolorist, I was focusing on the "problems" you wanted to change and wishing I could apply your process directly. THEN I read your suggestion to try using gouache (in one of the comments). I am so excited to try it! Thank you again!

    1. I am pleased you read the comments. I always do when visiting blogs.
      I am confused by Kris Bell and Dana. Are they both you?
      I left a comment on the one with the dog, mentioning my dog - I did not know then that she would not live out the year. I had a heart tug when I read my older comment.

    2. Kris is a friend of mine & great artist who lives in a neighboring town! I know we both commented on the loss of your sweet dog! On the gouache front, can you recommend a good brand?

  25. wow! it looks like a classical beauty to me!!

    1. Hi and thanks Myra.
      Love your new blog - is running two at the same time a lot more work?

  26. You never cease to amaze me Julie! I LOVE this demo of changes!!- so helpful to understand the thought process along the way...and take a 'nice' painting to a 'stellar' one! You have my eternal gratitude on your 'blog demo's!! You are as cool as they come!

    1. How generous you are and I thank you Roxanne. I loved seeing your palette knife paintings. What fun for the lucky students.

  27. There's so much I love about this painting and the metamorphosis it's gone through. So much info to digest. Thank you!

    1. You are welcome, Sharon and I thank you.
      I love your palette knife painting of the cuties!

  28. One of your most valuable posts Julie, I will read this post many times more! You are such a strong leader to follow, being able to learn from ones own painting with fearlessness is such a wonderful opportunity that lies with us, a precious way to learn.The still life evolved in to a different level.

  29. How nice for me to know you found the info valuable. I do think that losing the desire to "save" a painting and replacing it with the desire to "learn" is a huge help for growth.
    Your Buddha is wonderful.

  30. A great post Julie! Thank you for passing on your thought process and I couldn't agree more, it's important to take risks and not get too comfortable with a certain formula that seems to work in order to sell.

  31. I agree with you when you say that this was a personal taste issue rather than correction...and this was a great lesson, but I loved the painting right from the beginning and through all the changes . I think you can do no wrong !

  32. Dear Julie - so interesting to see your changes - I really loved the top painting but your finished one at the bottom is gorgeous too. I do love the lighter background in the redone piece. Always though your paintings seem to breathe life. Thanks for sharing your process of redoing.


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