Cakes for all occasions

Cakes baked and delivered for all occasions (Jhb northern suburbs).

Chocolate, Vanilla, Red Velvet or fruit cake.  Egg-free and gluten-free cakes also available.

Send me an email to get a quote on

Yellow and blue christening cake

Yellow and blue christening cake

Two tiered rose cake

Two tiered rose cake

Treasure chest cake

Treasure chest cake

Snakes and ladders cake

Snakes and ladders cake

Rose buttercream cake

Rose buttercream cake

Rose and butterfly wedding cake

Rose and butterfly wedding cake

Pink wedding cake

Pink wedding cake

Pink christening cake

Pink christening cake

Pink and green frill cake

Pink and green frill cake

Pink and black cake

Pink and black cake

Pig cake

Pig cake

Clown fish cake

Clown fish cake

Monster cake

Monster cake

Minion cake

Minion cake

Minecraft cake

Minecraft cake

Mask and leopard print cake

Mask and leopard print cake

Marshmallow flower cupcakes

Marshmallow flower cupcakes

Ice cream cupcakes

Ice cream cupcakes

Baby booties christening cake

Baby booties christening cake

Girl's christening cake

Girl’s christening cake

Fruit and veg cupcakes

Fruit and veg cupcakes

Forest christening cake

Forest christening cake

Fire truck cake

Fire truck cake

Fancy shoe cake

Fancy shoe cake

Daisy wedding cake

Daisy wedding cake

Button and flowers cake

Button and flowers cake

Autumn Wedding cake

Autumn Wedding cake

Aeroplane cake

Aeroplane cake

Caterpillar cake

Soweto Fish & Chips

A trip to Soweto in 2014 (in Johannesburg) provided the perfect opportunity to collect subject matter to paint.  Soweto is a rich environment where you can find a work of art in the making behind every turn.  My husband, a friend of ours from the UK and I spent a morning on a formal tour taking pictures of everything.  Here’s the finished painting:

Finished painting website

Finished painting

Back in the studio, I poured over the 338 pictures that we took that morning.  I decided to combine the following photo’s:

  1. A picture of Inthuthuka Fish & Chips – a shop close to Walter Sisulu’s house;
  2. A man sitting on a rock on the side of the road – we took a picture of him from our bus;  and
  3. A car guard smoking a cigarette.

I compiled the photos on PowerPoint and started by drawing a grid.  I drew the picture onto the canvass with a terracotta pencil (it doesn’t give off on the paint the way that graphite does).

Drawing with pencil

Drawing in pencil

The next step was to “fill in” the major parts of the painting, adding some dimension with darker and lighter areas where possible.  In this step I figure out which colours to use and where I need to change.  I included a different sign (Beauty Salon) at the top to introduce a bit more colour and interest.  It’s crucial to keep the lines straight so that the composition is in balance at the end.

Blocked areas

Main areas blocked in

For the Coca-Cola sign, I painted the writing in grey first so that it would stand out against the white background.  Then I painted the red around it – red is very difficult to paint over once it’s on the canvas.  After the red had dried, I went over the grey with white again.

The next step was to put in the first layer of the two people.  I changed the colours a little bit – the blue jeans to viridian green and the red t-shirt to orange to bring in contrast to the painting.  With the first layer I already put in definition (dark and light) taking care not to go too light, because the highlights would be the last step.

I also saw that the top line of the roof wasn’t quite right – the left side was much lower than the right side (thanks, Carien for pointing it out!) and I fixed that as well.

During the next painting session, I added another layer to the sky and put in highlights for the clouds – I used Prussian Blue and white.  When this is dry, I’ll add shadows with Payne’s Gray.  I went over the yellow sign with Yellow Ochre as a second layer, and fixed the line of the roof.  I then put in the highlights on the Coca-Cola bottle using Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and white and lastly went over the white writing with pure Titanium white.  I filled in the notice board in one colour (Burnt Umber with White) and then put in the details of the posters next to the door.  The last step for this session was to paint the pictures of the burger and chips, dagwood and whatever that top picture is!  I’ll wait for it to dry before I put in the red for the ketchup.

Details on signs and people

Some building detail added

Next I started adding the details – the writing of the Beauty sign, the posters on the wall and the black board writing.  I dry brushed the “blackboard” with white to make it look like the chalk writing had been rubbed out.  I also used dry-brush techniques to create the inside of the shop by adding some fridges, sacks of flour and flourescent lights.

Posters and inside

Detail on the posters and the people added

The next step was to put in the burglar bars in front of the two windows.  I cheated a bit…I used masking take to get the bars equal and painted them over with white.

I added the details of the posters as well.  When I looked at the painting, the ground looked too light and the porch too dark, so I changed it around.  I also darkened the shadows that the signs threw on the roof because the photo was taken close to midday and the shadows (although not visible in the photograph) would be more pronounced.

Burglar bars

Burglar bars added

The customer requested to, instead of the window (which I must admit, looked a bit overpowering) include a copy of a beer brand.  I included a Carling Black Label wall sign, and thought that it came out quite well.  It actually became quite the focus point of the painting.


Family Treasures

Family Treasures

Always on the look for interesting articles to paint, I raided my mother-in-law’s cupboard the other day and what interesting stuff she had!  She gave me an earthen jug (which weighed a ton!) as well as a silver beer mug with an interestingly shaped handle.  Back home, I compiled a still life incorporating “treasures” of my own – my silver candle holder and my red Chinese server.  Coupled with some green bottles, a golden pashmina as a backdrop and a white rose it made quite an interesting picture. 

The photo was taken with only the three candles and no artificial light to get a golden glow in the painting.  I used a terracotta pastel pencil to draw the design onto the canvas because it doesn’t stain the paint like graphite does.

I started the painting with the background and focused on capturing the folds in the cloth.  I used Burnt Sienna and Yellow Ochre for the dark bits, Yellow Ochre and Orange for the medium colour and Yellow Ochre, Yellow and white for the highlights.  I realise that I made the dark bits too dark by using Burnt Umber (bad idea!) and re-did it later with Burnt Sienna – it looked less harsh.  

On the second layer I focused on blending the colour better – usually on the first layer the canvas is very “thirsty” (most of the oil paint gets sucked in) and it’s not possible to blend enough.  For the dark shadows I use Burnt Sienna (Burnt Umber in hindsight was too dark) and the highlights were done in Yellow and White.  Notice the form of the draping on the right and the sharp corner.  It was imperative to get this shape correct because it adds such interest to the painting.  I also focused on ensuring that all the folds had a “logical flow” – that is, every fold has a beginning and an end – it cannot stop in mid-air! 

The next step was to block in the main areas of colour in the painting and to ensure that all the white canvas was covered.  I focused on getting the shapes correct and started putting in the details on the bottles and the glass.  The bottle on the left (big green one) was tricky to get right because the left and the right sides have to be symmetrical.  When painting man-made objects in whichever style (photo realism like this, or impressionistic) it is crucial to get the shapes correct otherwise it will look odd.  The left side of the glass was also too round and I had to fix that.  The bottle on the right (small green) was also too round on the right hand side and I had to bring that in.

I kept on changing the angle of the red table and it took a couple of tries to get it looking right.  This was imperative for the perspective because it impacted on the angle that the viewer will see the painting.  I added the reflection of the bottle on the left and the rose onto the second layer of the red table.

 The rose is one of the focal points in the painting and I took a good hour or so to put in the details of the petals.  The shading is very important to make the rose look real.  I used Burnt Umber, Yellow Ochre and white just to block in the main areas of colour.

I also blocked in the candelabra just in grey (with a couple of darker accents around the shape.)  The candelabra is NOT grey and with the next layer I added the reflection of the cloth and the objects around it.  However, I wanted to get the shape correct, which makes it easier to put in the details.  I also had to ensure that the shapes of all three the candle holders were the same and to achieve this, I measured it.

I dry-brushed the glow of the candles in white with a little bit of Yellow Ochre, but realised that it will need a lot more yellow on the next layer.  I always take pictures of the painting rather than just relying on my own vision – it tends to show things that you might not otherwise see.  My husband is also a great source for feedback – he is brutally honest and usually shows out errors and inconsistencies that I cannot see.  It’s a good idea to ask someone you trust for feedback throughout the painting in order to improve it.

 The highlights on the bottles needed to be done next.  I used yellow and white to create the highlights.  The candle holder I painted exactly as I saw it – using a lot of black, yellow, burnt sienna and being generous with the white highlights.  The rose’s second coat used light green and yellow, the dark shadows were grey and the highlights white.  The shape of the wine glass was a bit wonky (the right hand side was fatter than the left) and painted over it with burnt umber.  The green bottle on the right got a second coat.

 The earthen jug looked a bit too smooth while in reality it is quite rough.  I used Burnt Umber and white and with small circular motions on the canvas “roughened it up” a bit.  On the beer mug I made a thin wash of Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber and Orange and used a very rough brush to create the marks on it.  The final highlights were done in white and voila!


Indian Bride

As an artist, I’m always looking for subjects to paint.  A colleague of mine got married in November 2011 and when she returned from honeymoon, I asked if I could see her wedding photos.  Obviously, I had an alternative agenda – she’s very pretty and I thought it would be lovely to paint her.  Also, the wedding was traditionally Indian and I had visions of beautiful outfits in bold colours, which would be great to paint.

Well, I wasn’t disappointed!  She showed me a beautiful photo of her in profile with a stunning red and gold veil, henna painted on her hands and stunning jewellery.  I asked if she would allow me to paint it, and she agreed. 

I printed the photo on a transparency and traced it onto the canvas with a terracotta pastel pencil.  The terracotta shows up very nicely on the white canvas and it doesn’t interfere with the colour of the paint like graphite does. 

I had to take a decision on the background – on the photo it is light, but I thought a dark background will make her face stand out much better.  Decisions, decisions.  I finally decided in a mottled grey/black background – darker on the left side than on the right.  Time will tell if it will work.

I started on the first layer of the skin.  I used flesh, made darker with Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber, and for the lighter areas, I blended with white.  The nostril’s dark colour was done with Burnt Umber and Alizarin Crimson – it makes a beautiful dark colour without being black.  One of my teachers always said that the only thing on a face that is pure black, is the pupil.  Good point.

The cheek had a decidedly red tinge to it, and I mixed Alizarin Crimson into the flesh colour.  The lips were done with Alizarin Crimson and Burnt Sienna for the upper lip, lightened with white for the bottom lip.  I did the shading of the chin and the background next to the neck with Burnt Umber.  Two layers completed the skin.

Next, I tackled the veil/scarf.  I used pure Viridian Green for the background behind the golden sequins.  The dark red was a combination of Magenta red and Burnt Sienna, with black to give it a shadow.  The blue/green patterns were outlined in a combination of Cerulean Blue and Viridian Green and filled it in with Yellow Ochre.  I started building up the patterns as I could see them on the photo and focused on getting the patterns correct – the detail would come later.

Then it was time to finish the detail on the face and hand.  I realised that the arm was too thick and made it thinner.  The process of putting the detail in on the hand (fingers, knuckles etc.) took two hours.  Initially I was concerned that the highlights on the fingers were too light, but I decided to wait until the veil colours were in before taking a final decision.  It turned out to be fine!

The veil took a long time!  I focused on putting in all the detail of the patterns.  It was crucial to put in the dot in the middle of each sequince, as well as the thread binding them together.  The henna on her hands was done in Burnt Sienna with a lot of turps.

The veil on the left of the painting is not quite in focus, so I didn’t put as much detail in there.  When it was dry, I brushed over it with a thin wash of Burnt Sienna to ensure that it doesn’t stand out too much. I touched up the highlights a bit more after that.

I am very proud of how this painting turned out!

A South African Breakfast – oil painting

I love painting still lives.  When browsing the internet I came across a photo of various foodstuffs and thought that something similar will make a great painting.  I identified a couple of real South African products and my husband and I played around with a couple of options.  We finally settled on the following photo.

Reference photo

Reference photo for still life

I liked the combination of the colours (blue, red, yellow) and decided to make the apple green to create a contrasting colour.  My teacher also suggested that I should include the Marmite reflection in the knife.

I started with the kettle and even in the first layer tried to get the shading right.  It just saves time later when you need to add the details.  The light in the photo is quite yellow, so I used a little Yellow Ochre mixed with white.  The blue is French Ultramarine.  First layer

The apple is Green Oxide with Payne’s Grey for the shadow.  The yellow highlights are Yellow Ochre.Apple done with Green Oxide, Payne's Gray and Yellow Ochre.

After that I did the writing on the Glenryck can and the Joko tin.  I realised that the “J” in Joko wasn’t quite right and had to re-do it.  In hindsight the writing on Glenryck was a bit too thick and I had to make it a bit smaller by painting red over it.  The red I used is Burnt Sienna (for the darker bits) and bright red for the rest of the tin.  The detail was very important e.g. see the thin yellow line around the tomato and the purple underneath the fish.  The fish was done in Payne’s Grey mixed with white and I kept to the shape and shading to make it look as real as possible.Marmite and pilchards

The Joko tin was done in Yellow Ochre and Burnt Umber, with white added to make the highlights.

I really had fun with the Marmite jar!  I used Burnt Umber mixed with a little bit of Ivory Black – just plain black would have been too dark.  The top of the lid is yellow, and the sides I darkened with a little Yellow Ochre.  I outlined the “Marmite” writing in a 0/3 brush with very thin paint.  The yellow sticker was a little darker than the top of the lid (mixed with Yellow Ochre) because it’s in a bit of shadow.  The writing in white was just scribbled – it didn’t make sense to put in all the words exactly, but I think it came out ok.

I struggled a bit to get the colour right for the peanut butter jar.  I started with Yellow Ochre and added bright red to it.  That made it too orange and when I added white, it turned peach.  Not good.  I started again with Yellow Ochre and a little bit of Burnt Sienna and then white and that seemed to have done the trick.  For the shadows, I added Burnt Umber and for the highlights white.  The lid was done in red with Burnt Sienna for the darker bits and I added yellow to the mixture to get the highlights on the side of the lid.  Again, the picture of the cat and the writing was done with a small brush and left to dry before starting the other colours.  The detail (again) was important – notice the yellow shading around the cat logo.  The highlights were done in white, through two layers – the first one the white was worked in while the paint was still wet, and then I put in the super-highlights over it in pure white.Black cat peanut butter bottle

The hilt of the knife was done in grey (white and Ivory Black) and again I tried to capture the shading.  The rest the knife I just covered in light grey and then did the Marmite reflection in the second layer.Knife on toast, with reflection of Marmite jar

The cup of tea was a bit of a challenge.  I had to get the colour right and again struggled when it turned to orange and peach.  In the end I went for Burnt Sienna and Yellow Ochre darkened with Burnt Umber.  I put in the first layer trying to get the shading right.  I then let it dry and the second layer was dry-brushed on top of it.  The secret with painting a see-through object like liquid or glass, is to paint exactly what you see.  That’s the only way to make it look real.

The object I struggled with most, was the bloomin’ Joko tin!  I just couldn’t get the curve of the lid quite right and had to do a lot of re-work to get the shape correct. 

I then focused on adding the details on the Marmite jar and the pilchards, and kept on adding and cleaning up.  Because these are man-made objects, they needed to be absolutely correct. 

When I hung up the painting to dry, my son (6) looked at it and said “Mom, it looks real!”  He couldn’t have given me a better compliment!  :-)

My Green Lady

I grew up in the 70’s, an era known for its kitch and bad taste.  :-)

Tretchikoff’s the Green Lady.

My grandmother was an ardent admirer of the painter Vladimir Tretchikoff.  Several prints hung in her lounge (the Lost Orchid, Pink Lotus and others) but what most intrigued me was a picture book that she had of his work.  This book was an A3 size with full colour photo’s of his most popular paintings, including the ones that he did during his stint in the Orient.  A particular favourite of mine was the Green Lady – probably his most well-known piece.

I found the colours of her skin (green and blue with a touch of red) absolutely fascinating and would stare at the picture for hours.  My grandmother passed away in 2003 and the prints and the book were donated to the old age home where she spent her last years.  I forgot about it until a couple of years ago at a bookclub meeting with my friends.  A friend of mine, Cristelle, was into making  jewellery and brought some pieces to show us.  One of them was a laminated picture of the same Green Lady on a scrabble tile.  I was immediately drawn to it because of the memory of my grandmother but when I turned the tile over and saw that the letter on the back was “L” (the first letter of my name), the deal was clinched!  I bought the piece and it has since become a favourite of mine.

A year or so later I bought a book on the art of Tretchikoff and the full colour photo’s of the green Asian ladies so inspired me that I had to try it out.  But where to find a model?  The opportunity presented itself not long after.  During a training course at work, I spotted a colleague whom I had known for a couple of years and thought she would make the ideal model.  She had the most interesting face with beautiful traces of Asian influences.  An artist cannot be timid, so I boldly asked her if she would mind posing for the photos.  She generously agreed and became the model that I worked from.

First I did a layer using Sap Green, Titanium White and Payne’s Gray.  The latter was used for the shadows because it’s a beautiful dark blue without being too bright.  I didn’t use yellow on the face, preferring white.

At first I wanted to do the face in an impasto style which I did over the first layer.  The veil was done in red, burnt sienna for the shadows and red mixed with white for the highlights.

When I showed the painting to a friend, she commented that the skin was a bit too rough – it looked like the lady had bad skin…  Fortunately the paint was still fairly wet from the previous day and I could blend the skin quite easily.  I must admit that it looked a lot better after that.  I’m quite pleased with the final product.  The background was done in Ivory Black and white and I made it darker towards the bottom.  I put additional white next to the head when the painting was finished, to make it stand out more in contrast.

Some friends said it was a bit “weird” for their taste, but I like it.  At the moment I’m working on a second painting in the series.  Keep checking the blog for updates.

Please leave a comment.  I’m looking forward to your feedback.

Ready to Trade

I started the second painting in the series of two for South African Breweries. 

Ready to trade - Final painting

I loved the setting of the woman looking back as if she’s looking for customers to come and buy beer for the weekend!  I also liked the red beer crates and the interest that the bicycle brings to the picture.

Original photo

I started with filling in the background first and spent quite a lot of time getting the container right.  Because it is a man-made object, and the style of painting is photo-realism, it is imperative that the lines are straight.  Skewed or wobbly lines would throw out the observer’s eyes immediately. 

The bicycle was a challenge.  It was important to get all the bits of it correct so that it looks real.  I filled in the major parts of it first to ensure that it was anchored to the canvas.  I must admit that I “made up” some of the details because it had a weird shape.  Then I did the background with two layers and finished it before tackling the bicycle again.  The details on the bicycle were the last thing to do. 

Close up of bicycle


The background behind the bicycle really competed with the bicycle and I wanted the bicycle to stand out much more – after the woman it was the second focus point of the painting.  So, I used a very thin wash of Black and turps and brushed over the background.  That ensured that the detail was still visible, but it became darker and receded into the background.  I thought that worked really well.

The beer crates got two layers of Burnt Umber and Primary Red straight from the tube.  I dry-brushed the highlights in white over it and included the imperfections to make it look real.

Close-up of beer crate

The woman’s skin was done in Burnt Umber, Flesh and Burnt Sienna.  Again, the Burnt Sienna is crucial in giving her a “warm” and “human” look.  I built up the flesh layer by layer – there are a total of 4 layers on the skin.  The highlights were done last with a light coloured flesh and finally white as a super highlight.

Close up of face

The clothes were a bit daunting.  In the end I decided not to include every little detail and really focused on getting the shape of the material correct.  To get the khaki colour, I used Burnt Umber and White, but added a little bit of flesh to ensure that it didn’t look too dull.

The background inside the crate was done in pure black with some detail of the shelves.  I ensured that the detail receded into the background by blending the colours well, in order to achieve the right perspective.  The bottle on the shelf was interesting so I added it.

The foreground was done in Burnt Umber, Yellow Ochre and White and I had to keep on lightening it.  I added some leaves so that the ground doesn’t look too plain and broke it up by adding lighter and darker sections, suggesting pebbles.

Close up of feet and crates

The shadows on the ground were important to get right and I ensured that the woman, the crate and the bicycle had clear shadows to anchor them to the scene.

Lastly I added the scuffed detail on the container and ensured that the lines aren’t too straight – notice the broken line between the yellow and the black paint.  There’s also red paint on the black areas.

Close up of container

I think this has come out very well and I’m very proud of it!  Your comments are welcome.

Supporting SA’s finest

Completed painting

Being a fledgling artist (!) I have been sharing my painting experiences with friends and colleagues alike over the last year or so.  Great was my pleasure when a colleague asked me to paint two works to hang in the corporate university of one of the biggest breweries in South Africa – SAB.  I was overjoyed that my work will be displayed in a public place for the first time.  Woohoo!

I immediately set out looking for suitable photographs as an inspiration.  I found a couple of great photographs taken for SABMiller (the holding company) by a photographer called (OneRedEye) and obtained permission to use them. This is the original photo for the first of two paintings.

Original photo

I titled the first picture ‘Supporting South Africa’s finest’ – because it shows both our national soccer team’s colour as well as the best-knows beer brand, Castle Lager.  The Soccer World Cup was hosted by South Africa in 2010 and it was a BIG DEAL!  The country really rallied around our soccer team and everyone was in the grip of national patriotism – something that is fairly rare in a country where poverty and crime are two biggest issues.  For a couple of weeks the whole country pulled together towards a common goal, and by all accounts hosted the World Cup in an exemplary way.

I started the painting on a 24 x 30 inch canvas.  The focus points were great – I liked the contrast of the yellow t-shirts to the blue background of the shipping crate, and the man on the right added life to what could otherwise been a very ‘dead’ picture.

I started with the shirts and used Zelcol’s Chrome Oxide green, with shadows done by mixing the green with Payne’s Grey.  The light yellow shirts were done in yellow and white.  To obtain the shadows I added a little bit of Van Dyke Brown and Yellow Ochre.  The dark yellow shirts were done in Yellow Ochre, with the shadows in Van Dyke Brown.  The towel on the right was done in Payne’s Grey. 

T-shirts had 3 layers, all blended well.

After that I put in the background of the blue shipping crate.  I used Zelcol’s Cerulean Blue Hue straight from the tube and put in the shadows.  Then I filled in the rest with Cerulean blue and white.  To create the corrugated iron feel of the crate, I did the shadows on the right with a dark cerulean blue and used a lighter shade of blue contrasting with a white to create the 3-dimensional feel.  The imperfections of the crate like the holes and damage, were important to create an illusion of realism.  The shadows of the shirts and the man was done in Payne’s grey, which made a beautiful dark blue straight out of the tube.  I love Payne’s grey – it is so versatile!

When the background was dry, I made up a very light version of the blue with lots of white and dry brushed over it to make it look like scuffed and flaking paint.  I used pure white on only a couple of the really light areas.  At the bottom of the crate I crated a white edge framed with a darker edge to make it look three dimensional.

The man was done in Van Dyke Brown for the darker bits of skin, Burnt Sienna and flesh.  The red of the sienna give the skin a beautiful warm tone, without it the man would look grey.  The highlights of the skin were done over 3 consecutive layers of paint – I had to wait a couple of days in between for the paint to be touch dry.  His t-shirt was done with a light mix of white and Van Dyke Brown and this, together with a little bit of burnt sienna, was used for the trousers as well.

Man with bottle

The red crate was done with Louvre’s Primary Red straight out of the tube.  It took three thick layers to really cover the canvas because the paint is a bit thinner than the others in the same range.  The white writing had to be done very carefully with a 000 brush, and I used two layers of white.  The shadows on the crate were done with red mixed with a little bit of black and the writing was done in grey.  His shoes were done in black (2 layers), and when it was dry I dry-brushed white over it to create the reflection of light.

Crate with shoe

The face took a lot of time.  I had to ensure that there was more detail on the painting than what showed up on the photo – it had to look real.  I put in more frown lines on his forehead and more detail on his eyes.  The white of the eyes were done in grey so as not to stand out too much.

The ground was done in a combination of Van Dyke Brown and white, with a little bit of black thrown in to create mounds and ‘valleys’.  I created stones (which weren’t on the photo) to make it look more real using Yellow Ochre, Van Dyke Brown and then with black for the shadows.

Grass and rocks

The grass was difficult.  I’m used to painting in a very precise way and the grass had to be very rough.  I used Yellow Ochre, green, Van Dyke Brown and white and the grass took about 30 minutes to get right.  I did a bit less grass than was evident in the photo.  The paint was very thin (with turps) and I went over it with a small line brush (0 and 00) a couple of times.  The key was to ensure that the background of the crate doesn’t show through the grass.

The washing line was done in white, but I added a grey shadow at the bottom of the line.  This made it look deliciously 3-dimensional.  The pegs were also very important and the detail on them had to be exact.  Because the sun is so bright on the photo, it made the shadows stand out quite a lot.  The shadows around the t-shirts, the man’s clothes and the washing line had to be done very darkly to get that effect.

Washing line

What did I learn?: 

  • Look at every detail in the photo and try to get it right.  This will ensure that the painting looks real.
  • Take your time.  It took about 2 months to finish this painting – I spent between 3 and 5 hours a week on it.
  • Keep building up the layers and blend, blend, blend!
  • Keep to the same colours e.g. the same blue and the same yellow.  This creates harmony in the painting.
  • Don’t just copy the photo blindly – add details that would make it look real.

Meet me in Paris

A friend of mine, Cristelle, got married in August 2011 and for their honeymoon they went on an extended trip through Europe.  It really was the trip of a lifetime – there’s no city in Europe worth visiting that they didn’t go to!  And they took in excess of 3,000 photos!  Always looking for new subjects to paint, I asked her to have a look at her photos and send me a couple that would work well for a painting.  She was very excited about the prospect but replied that it’s her husband’s department – she will ask him to sift through and send me a couple of options.

Unfortunately, about two weeks after our conversation, her husband passed away quite suddenly from a heart attack.  It was a great shock to all of us.  After the funeral she asked me to still do the painting because it would mean such a lot to her.  The picture that she chose is one that she took in Paris.  When coming out from the Eiffel tower, she spotted this woman sitting at a café texting on her phone.  She looked so deliciously “Parisian” that my friend couldn’t resist snapping a quick one.  It turned out to be a beautiful photo and lent itself very well to a stunning painting.

Original photo outside the Eiffel tower in Paris

 There was a lot of detail in this photo.  No, let me rephrase that:  there was an inordinate amount of detail in this photo!  The chairs alone were quite a challenge.  I printed the photo on good quality paper and also printed an overhead of it in order to trace it.  I had to decide which style to use and considered expressionistic.  However, with the amount of detail I through that a realistic style would bring the painting to life better.

First I started with the umbrella.  I decided to change the colour from red to green because I wanted the red beret to be the focus point of the picture.  Red would contrast very well against green, being complimentary colours on the colour wheel.  I used sap green and highlighted the lighter areas with yellow.  Next I used flesh colour for the woman’s legs and inserted the shadows with Van Dyke Brown in the first layer to get the shape right.  I also used Burnt Sienna to do the shading.

Legs and the umbrella first layer

Next I did the chairs in a Yellow Ochre and white and shaded it with Van Dyke Brown.  That turned out to look too yellow and I subsequently re-did it with a mix of Van Dyke Brown and white.  That created a pleasing cream colour that fitted in better with the colour scheme.  The woman’s dress was done with a very dark grey and I put in the shadows in black with the first layer so as not to lose the detail.  The shoes were done in black and the table legs in dark grey.

Chairs first layer (too yellow) and dress in dark grey

The two people in the background (right) added some interest to the picture, especially the lady in the far right looking back at the beholder.  It’s almost like she’s caught my friend in the act of taking the picture illicitly! I did her in light grey and the blonde woman’s jacket in Payne’s Grey (it makes a beautiful blue when used straight out of the tube).  The shadows were done in black.  The beret, being the focus point, was done in a bold red with the shadows in Burnt Sienna.  I initially thought of doing the backs of the chairs in pink, but changed it to green to fit with the colour scheme of the green umbrella.

People in background, tables and ground added

The foreground was done in various shades of grey, getting darker towards the background.  I had to pay careful attention to the details e.g. where the people’s clothes showed through the gaps in the chairs to ensure that it looked realistic.  In this picture you can see that I forgot to include the blonde woman’s right leg – which would have looked very odd. I also decided against putting too much detail into the reflections of the windows because it could distract from the main picture.

Backs of chairs and red beret

I spent a lot of time on the woman’s face and hands, using flesh, Burnt Sienna and Van Dyke Brown to do the shading.  The lips were done in Burnt Sienna, which makes a great dark red when used out of the tube.  I put in the highlights in dry brush with white and grey and created the highlights on the table legs with grey and white.  The detail on the shoes was done in Yellow Ochre,  yellow and white.  I decided to keep the fallen leaves in the picture (there’s a nice one in the foreground) and also added the ones in the back so that one leaf doesn’t look strange.

More detail and layers, layers, layers!

The next step was to put a second layer on the umbrella with Sap Green.  The highlights were done with Napium Yellow and blended while still wet.  The green squares of the chairs were done a little darker at the bottom to create the illusion of a shadow.  Some super highlights were added to the tables to make them stand out and I also added a bit more grey with a dry brush to shape the iron.  It looked like the girl was floating in the air, so even though the photo didn’t show it, I added the cushion of the chair that she’s sitting on.  This did a lot to “anchor” her to the scene.  I did the shadows on the ground in dark grey with a dry brush and added white and grey details in dry brush on the rest of the ground.

Highlights and shading

I left the cool drink glass for last – probably because I was a bit apprehensive about painting it!  To get into the detail, I looked at the highest resolution of the photo on the PC and painted just what I saw.  It was surprisingly easy! 

The final step was to touch up the whole of the painting to ensure that there is no open canvas showing and that all the smudges have been cleaned up. 

When I presented my friend with the painting, she professed to love it.  In fact, the blonde woman in the background looks a lot like me and 6 people (including my two children) asked if it was, in fact, me!  So, I told her that I’ve included myself in the painting so that she can think of me every time she looks at it.  I hope that it brings her much joy.

The final painting: Meet me in Paris