This gallery contains 7 photos.
This gallery contains 7 photos.
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:
Back in the studio, I poured over the 338 pictures that we took that morning. I decided to combine the following photo’s:
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
I grew up in the 70’s, an era known for its kitch and bad taste.
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.
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.
I started the second painting in the series of two for South African Breweries.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I think this has come out very well and I’m very proud of it! Your comments are welcome.
My domestic has been working for me for 8 years. She is 30 years old, with 2 children and runs my household like a professional! Not only is Shela a pleasure to have around, with a great sense of humour and a work ethic that is second to none, she is also quite beautiful. She has been watching my foray into art during the last year with a lot of interest. About 2 months ago she was standing in the studio (read: a corner of the study that my husband allows me some space to paint) looking at my latest endeavour when she said: “Mammi, you must paint me a picture.” “What would you like me to paint for you, Shela?” I asked, thinking that she’ll ask for a nature scene or maybe a painting of the ocean. “Me!” she exclaimed with a bright smile.
Well, I jumped at the opportunity to do a portrait. In fact, that was exactly what I had planned for my next project and Shela was the perfect model. We arranged for her to come through the next day, all dressed up for a photoshoot, and shot pictures of her in the garden, in the lounge on the couch, standing at the front door. She was brilliant! We finally chose a picture from the garden with her staring wistfully into the distance, face at ¾ angle to the camera. The light was great and I thought the picture made her look regal.
I printed the photo on good quality paper and printed a black and white transparency as well. The canvas I used was 20 x 30 inches. I traced the picture onto the canvas with graphite using the transparency and overhead projector to ensure that the dimensions were correct. The next step was to get the first layer of paint on. I used a combination of Van Dyke Brown and Burnt Sienna to cover most of the face. At first I tried the Zelco brand, but the Burnt Sienna was too “runny” – almost watery – and it didn’t cover well. My teacher suggested the “Louvre” brand, which worked a lot better. During this layer, I focused on getting the light patches and dark shadows in so that the form of the face could take shape.
After this layer dried (which it did within in a week) I filled in the irises in Van Dyke Brown surrounded by a black ring in Lamp Black. I also put another layer of Burnt Sienna and Van Dyke Brown onto the skin so that the canvas was covered well. Then I started on the clothes. I wanted to have quite a contrast between the skin (having a smooth texture) and the clothes, which I did very roughly. I used the red and blue from the photo, but didn’t blend it in at all, trying to get a rough finish where the brushstrokes could still be seen. I used colours that didn’t necessarily show up in the photo, like orange, purple and green, to create interest. The shadows and highlights were quite pronounced. I was very happy with the outcome and it went quite quickly.
When this dried, I started on the background. A green would make a nice contrast and let the face stand out more. On second thought the green that I chose was a bit bright and started detracting from the portrait. Time to fix it later.
The next step was to focus on the details of the face. I ensured that the skin was blended smoothly and focused on getting the shape of the nose right. With the many layers I had painted over the nostrils and it was imperative to get them right. The details are what makes a person look unique – the way that we recognise someone. I used a combination of Burnt Sienna and Flesh together with Van Dyke Brown. I found that the eyes and irises were too large (if you’re unsure, take a picture and look at the picture on your phone or camera. It usually shows the mistakes easier). I painted the eyes smaller and ensured that the irises were the correct size. The white of the eyes were done with a light grey, and I put in the shadow created by the eye lid. The pronounced shadows on the eyelid, under the eyes and next to the mouth, were done in Lamp Black and blended with Burnt Sienna. The lips were quite dark with a glint of pink. I used Van Dyke Brown and Naphtol Red, Titanium White and Burnt Sienna to get the pink shade right. Sometimes I also used Flesh to lighten the tint. The lips had to be blended quite well with a couple of layers to get it just right. The teeth were done in light grey (never white!) and the gap between the front teeth is a tiny black line. The highlights on the teeth were done with white. The highlights on the skin was also done with white, but blended very well into the rest of the tone. Where the white was too pronounced, I used Burnt Sienna to blend it in. The eyelashes and brows were done in Lamp Black, but when the brows looked too pronounced, I used Burnt Sienna to soften it. Also, be careful of not making the lashes too big or it will look unnatural. I painted a pupil in the eyes although it’s not visible in the photograph, but sometimes, for the sake of reality, you have to paint what’s not there. I also included Burnt Sienna in the irises to ensure that the eyes don’t look dead. Lastly, I added highlights to the eyes and that really brought them to life.
Finally the mouth had to be finished. I took care to ensure that after the teeth were painted, the lines of the top- and bottom lips were painted over it. Otherwise it looks like the teeth are protruding from the mouth – not a pretty sight! The earring was done with Cadmium Yellow and grey with white to highlight the reflection. The background was re-done in a dirty green but still kept some of the light green from the first layer to give it depth and interest.
When I presented Shela with her portrait, she was stunned! Although I had shown her the progress (I was too excited to keep it to myself!) I don’t think she expected the finished portrait to be so beautiful. We will frame it with a simple wooden frame and she has assured me that it will have a place of honour in her house.
I’ve always wanted to be an artist. I’ve often imagined hosting a fancy dinner and a guest pointing admiringly to a masterpiece on the wall asking who the artist is. I would then (modestly) confess that it’s me… This became a reality this year.
I’ve never been able to draw. This is what I was told in primary school, when the apple I drew in art class more resembled a red baseball than a fruit. The art teacher patiently explained that an apple is not round and that was the first time that I realised that the appearance of things wasn’t actually what I thought it was. It took me another 34 years to muster up the courage to try my hand at another apple. At the end of last year I was stuck at home for the holidays with 2 boys under the age of 5. It was great spending some time with my kids, but towards the end I thought I was going out of my mind. I just needed something new and creative to allow me to feel human again. So, I borrowed my sister’s book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” by Dr Bettie Edwards. I painstakingly did all the exercises in the book and was actually quite surprised at what I managed to achieve. Instead of thinking about how something should look and then trying to draw it (which is nigh impossible), I really looked at an object and drew what I saw. The outcome was rather amazing. I drew the likeness of an old woman holding a cigarette in her mouth.
Encouraged by early success I then set out to find an art teacher. I found a studio close to home that offered classes on Tuesday evenings, covering a variety of mediums. On the first evening the art teacher, Isa, set us up with charcoal and chalk and told us to choose a picture from a magazine and draw that. The result overwhelmed me so much that I seriously thought of framing it!
I tried to learn what I could from both the teacher and the classmates and had a thoroughly good time. We learned how to draw without stylizing (that is drawing what you THINK it should look like instead of drawing what it ACTUALLY LOOKS like!) and although I still struggled every now and then, I found myself improving. A couple of months later I created an oil painting over a photo printed on canvas. This I did frame and it’s hanging in my corridor. It’s one of my favourites.
But I felt frustrated. I wanted to work with oil paint and the classes were focused on exposing students to various mediums. I dropped out and bought a book called “Oil Painting for Dummies”. Sounds like it could teach me a couple of things, right? It did! It covered the basics around materials, mixing colours and creating a picture. Again I didn’t cut corners. I did all the exercises – still lives of vegetables, cans and bottles. I tried different techniques and brushes. I painted from life and from photo’s. Some paintings came out better than others, but I learned something with every effort.
Again, I found myself frustrated. After I worked through the book, I had even more questions. I set out to find another art teacher, one specialising in oil painting. The one I found (Carien du Preez from www.paintitblack.co.za) specialises in creating realistic paintings in oils and acrylics. I started weekly classes with her. First I chose a landscape because I’ve always wanted to do landscape. It wasn’t my favourite picture in the world, but again I learned about painting in layers and using the contrasts in the painting to your advantage. The result was given as a Christmas present to my mother. She professes to love it!
All throughout this, I would check out painting tutorials on YouTube, read articles on About.com about painting and practise, practise, practise! After the landscape scene, I wanted to do a still life. I found a beautiful photo and Carien and I started working. I did cheat a bit – I traced the picture onto the canvas from a projector to keep the perspective and the proportions correct. For me it’s the outcome that matters and not so much the journey there. Is that wrong? The still life came out beautifully! My best work yet. I was overjoyed that I managed to create something so awesome!
It has been framed and hangs in my dining room, just waiting for that dinner guest to point out how beautiful it is. What have I learnt from the experience? Anyone can paint. If you can hold a pen with enough dexterity to sign your name, you can create a masterpiece. Sure, I won’t be the next Van Gogh or Picasso, but I don’t have to be. The satisfaction of creating something that is beautiful and can be admired is exhilarating. It does take time and effort, but if you are focused on the outcome and willing to put in the work, it will happen. My next goal is to actually “sell” a painting!
Keep on checking my blog for updated pictures of my art work.