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Why do My Ellipses look like Doughnuts? Plus 25 Solutions to Other Still Life Painting Peeves: Colour Theory, Tips and Techniques on Oil Painting Floral Art, Fruit, Crockery and More

Why do My Ellipses look like Doughnuts? Plus 25 Solutions to Other Still Life Painting Peeves: Colour Theory, Tips and Techniques on Oil Painting Floral Art, Fruit, Crockery and More

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Why do My Ellipses look like Doughnuts? Plus 25 Solutions to Other Still Life Painting Peeves: Colour Theory, Tips and Techniques on Oil Painting Floral Art, Fruit, Crockery and More

5/5 (1 peringkat)
199 pages
1 hour
Sep 12, 2011


Producing still life art is a popular pastime, for not only is the artist in control of the environment but also the subject matter. But a creative block may occur when it comes to rendering convincing orange peel, getting smooth effects for highlights, working under shifting lighting conditions or simply making a still life painting appear three-dimensional. How can such hurdles be overcome?

Inspired by my teaching experience, I have collated troubleshooting ideas for the aspiring artist or student who wishes to improve on still life painting techniques. Chapters include: ‘objects in my still life appear flattened and lack form,’ ‘how can I paint a still life without odours or mess?’ ‘the porcelain in my still life looks more like clay,’ ‘my still life looks as though a child had painted it’ and lots more.

Various aspects of still life painting are explored in depth including colour mixing theory, setting up a composition, effective use of light, understanding tonal values, oil painting techniques and strategic use of light. Avoid muddy colour mixes when darkening the colour of tomatoes; suggest rust or pectin by scumbling; avoid common pitfalls with backgrounds and add atmosphere by learning to look at tones.

This troubleshooting book for still life painting offer advice for most problems the artist might encounter whilst learning to paint a still life. This book has 26 chapters, a step by step demonstration on painting strawberries and approximately 100 illustrations, including numerous paintings and diagrams.

Sep 12, 2011

Tentang penulis

I have practiced oil painting from the age of six and have since been involved in countless projects and commissions. A graduate from Kingston University, Surrey and with a PCET teaching qualification from Warwick University, I have won competitions, taught life drawing and have written several books and many articles on oil painting and teaching art.

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  • Simplify the grapes into basic tones and shapes and record them onto the painting surface. Render the grapes as though without pectin, but see beyond it to the colour beneath. Use a little linseed oil to achieve a flat glaze. Brush out ridges and troughs.

  • The warm blues found on chinaware can be achieved by using ultramarine or introducing a little cadmium red or burnt sienna into the blue mix. Cool blues, as seen on yucca plants can be achieved by introducing pthalo blue into the green mix.

  • Applying paint in a series of translucent layers via a soft sable enables the artist to smooth over imperfections and modify the colour beneath. Each layer is applied as though it will be its last, i.e. as perfect as possible, and then allowed to dry.

  • The subdued blues of silverware can be achieved by toning down ultramarine with burnt sienna. Dusty pinks as seen on pansies can be recreated by adding a little burnt sienna, ultramarine and white with the red mix.

  • Burnt sienna, for example is great for emulating terracotta, bread or the skins of onions; ultramarine for silver cutlery or fish skins; lemon yellow for iridescent leaves on potted plants, and burnt umber for warm shadows pooling over tabletops.

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Why do My Ellipses look like Doughnuts? Plus 25 Solutions to Other Still Life Painting Peeves - Rachel Shirley


Introduction to Why do My Ellipses Look Like Doughnuts?

Producing still life artwork can be a very satisfying experience, as the artist is easily able to paint from life without the pressures of the shifting light or inclement weather. Not only that, any object can be selected, shifted about or the light source modified at will, meaning the artist has complete control over what lies in front.

But challenges are certain to present themselves during the journey. Examples might be why ellipses end up looking like doughnuts, why porcelain looks more like clay or why fruit looks plastic. Some of these challenges may prove more difficult than others and unchecked, might cause a creative block. This is where this book comes in. With down to earth advice on common practices at fault, each issue is tackled in-depth: a diagnostic of the problem, suggested solutions in the form of recommended art materials and remedial painting exercises.

In total, twenty-six common peeves associated with still life painting are tackled within this book. In six clear sections, a myriad of other matters relating to still life painting are explained, such as specialised painting techniques to suggest textures, composing a still life, lighting an arrangement and introductory chapters on the essentials of oil painting, in total, with over 100 full colour illustrations and twenty diagrams.

If the problem sought after is not in this book, it might be in one of my other Oil Painting Medic books within this series due to come out in 2011 and 2012. A list can be found at the back of this book.

Above all, don’t give up.

Solutions for Starting out in Still Life Painting

Chapter 1: How Can I Paint a Still Life without Odours or Mess?

The idea of producing still life art in oils may give the impression that a separate room, shed or studio with ambient lighting must be allocated to quarantine all the mess, odours and creative processes from the rest of the house. Further, a storeroom full of wild and exotic objects must also be a requisite for great still life art. The circumstance, from which I produced my own still life, could not be further removed from the conditions described.

I have found that with the right planning, great still life oils is possible, regardless of the accommodation or the finances available; it can be practiced in a small room, a bedroom, corner of a living room or even in the garden. Simple objects and minimal art equipment is often all that is required. But where should the artist begin?

Odourless Oil Painting

The still life artist is spoilt for choice when it comes to modern innovations in oil paint, designed to make it easier for painting in any situation. Low odour artist thinners, for example make high odours in a confined space a thing of the past. Sandador, Turpenoid or simply artist’s spirits, for example are kinder to the environment, the brushes and the olfactory senses. The artist may alternatively opt for water-soluble oils, such as Artisan, which can be thinned with water instead of spirits. Artisan provides a water-mixable counterpart to all the traditional oil painting materials, including linseed oil and impasto medium. At the end of the session, the paints need only be cleaned in warm soapy water.

Alkyds, although not strictly oil paint, is a quick drying alternative to traditional oils designed for the application of glazes in quick succession.

Traditional Oils

But if the artist wishes to stick to conventional oils, a choice of two grades can be found: artist quality and student quality. Artist quality oils are manufactured with organic pigments which makes them a little more costly. Student quality oils are made from synthetic substitutes, which make them cheaper. It is up to the artist to decide on which to go for, but I have found student quality oils more than satisfactory for my still life paintings. However, I always stick to tried and tested brands, such as Daler Rowney, Winsor & Newton or Grumbacher.

Essential Hues for Still Life Art

The inclusion of primary colours in the artist’s palette is essential for mixing any essential colour for a still life. But this does not mean any red, yellow or blue as one might first think, but pigments resembling those used in printing ink which are magenta, yellow and cyan. These colours almost match the purity of scattered light and will produce clean colour mixes. In terms of oil paint, alternative labels might be used. The word process or permanent for example, will denote a primary colour, such as permanent red or process blue. I personally have found pthalo blue, cadmium yellow (pale) and permanent rose close to be close to the mark and use them for producing most colour mixes.

But other pigments will come in handy when tempering the bright colours of fruit and vegetables or darkening colours for shadows. Burnt sienna, for example is great for emulating terracotta, bread or the skins of onions; ultramarine for silver cutlery or fish skins; lemon yellow for iridescent leaves on potted plants, and burnt umber for warm shadows pooling over tabletops.

More about colour mixing can be found in chapter 9. For now the following pigments form the core of just about any colour mix I use in my still life paintings: The colours are listed as shown on the diagram, from the top and left.

A large tube (120ml or 200ml) of titanium white and smaller tubes (37ml or 38ml) of the following colours:

Lemon yellow

Cadmium yellow

Pthalo blue


French ultramarine

Burnt umber

Permanent rose

Cadmium red

Burnt sienna.

Brushes for Still Life Painting

Good quality soft brushes made from the sable are essential for still life art, as detail and blending is often involved. The artist need not purchase the highest quality, but any good all-round sable brush that is soft, springy and converges to a sharp point. Sticking to an established brand will ensure the brush is robust and performs well.

Bristles containing a blend of synthetic and sable hair provide a cheaper alternative to pure sable if money is tight. But when purchasing soft brushes check that it is designed for oils or acrylics, not watercolours, as the bristles will not possess the right springiness to cope with the heavy properties of the oil paint.

Stiff brushes, usually made from ox hair, are designed for covering large areas of the painting surface, such as backgrounds, for applying an under-glaze (also known as an imprimatura) or for impasto (vigorous brushwork). Quality is not so crucial when it comes to stiff brushes, so the artist may purchase household brushes from a DIY store, although cheap bristles that moult must be avoided.

Essential Brush Shapes

I have got by with the use of just a couple of tapered brushes, known as rounds, and a few flat-ended brushes, (known as flats) but the artist may use other shapes as necessary. The illustration shows essential brush shapes. The fan brush is useful for soft blending or for applying thin washes of oil paint to achieve a smooth finish. The bright can be used for choppy brushwork. The filbert is useful for more rounded brushstrokes. The rigger is designed for illustrating ships’ rigging but can be used for illustrating anything linear such as the tines of a fork. And the round is generically used for detail.

Of course,

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