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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What did I learn?:
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.