Monthly Archives: December 2014

This experiment isn't my idea. It's based off something Jeff Larson does during his still life painting workshop at The Atelier. I've been wanting to do this for a while. I watched him do something similar during the workshop demo but wasn't able to take the hands on portion of the workshop. So here's my attempt.

Paint is limited in how it can reproduce values. I wanted to explore values and how they need to be adjusted in a painting to create the illusion of value relationships as they are in nature.

I started with the shiny gold ball, then added the matte one, then the deep red one. The idea being that I would have to change the value relationships. What appeared dark on the lighter ball would no longer appear as dark when the darker red ball was added. So I had to adjust the values a bit to get the value relationships to mimic nature.

Holiday Ball Study Start in oil paint
Holiday Ball Study Start

I should have started with the matte finish ball since it doesn't reflect as much light as the glossy one. I would have painted the matte highlight as light as I could. Then if I added the glossy gold ball next, it would have forced me to change the highlight value even more than I did. Oh well. Next time. I did have to adjust the darks though as I added the darker ball. I still got quite a lot out of it: understanding value manipulation, and especially the enjoyment of slinging painting around.

Here's the finished study

Holiday balls oil paint study
Holiday Balls Study done in oil paint on cotton duck canvas.

Have a great new year!

I don't know about you but when visiting art museums, after about the first few hours I start to get overwhelmed. There's just so much to take in: value control, composition, color, gesture, how the artist painted (a colored ground, direct, indirect, an underpainting), the list goes on.

I recently took a trip specifically to spend a day at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston  (took a bit of time in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum too). One of my former instructors, Dale Redpath, had a great suggestion. She said, "go with a question." Focus on one or two aspects of picture making that you want to work on. Look for answers in the paintings. So I did and I think I came away with quite a lot. I focused on value handling: How dark are the darks/shadows? How light are the lights? How different are they from each other? To do this I compared the darks to the dark cavity of my mostly closed fist and the lights to my very white pencil. I think this helped drive home the point for me that paint is limited. I can't copy exactly what I see but I can set up the value relationships within the painting to have similar relationships to what I see in nature. Plus, what I think is a "dark" is quite often more a middle value.

One painting I spent much time in front of was Calm Morning by Frank Weston Benson. The lights are quite light but they're a few steps darker than straight white. The values really help create the sense of a bright sunshine filled day. Also, I think the intensity of the yellow of the lights on the boat, combined with their relationship to the cooler, darker surrounding values is adding to that feeling of SUN. Frank Benson is one of my favorite artists so I was having a grand time.

When I exhausted a question I moved on to another. What a great day.

I've been reading a book recommended to me by Susan Cook, Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing by Margaret Livingstone (a neurophysiologist). In it she addresses many characteristics of human vision and how they relate to art in a very palatable way.

Recently, one section really caught my attention. In it she writes about how we see 3D vs 2D and how important luminance, or value, is to create the illusion of depth. I heard this plenty in school (judge values first, then color). I guess it's just on my mind a lot recently so this was a really great reminder.

Two examples really struck me. The Woman with a Hat (la Femme au Chapeau) [1905] shown below in color and then in grayscale. The colors look wild and yet there is some depth to the figure, some planes of the face defined. Viewed in grayscale it becomes more apparent that it's the relative values of the colors that give the piece dimension.

Woman with a Hat by Henri Matisse

Same with this painting, Henri Matisse by André Derain, [1905]

White Shell with Red Beads

Sometimes I just need to do something different. I like to play around with wire wrapping jewelery. It gets my brain thinking differently - 3D instead of flat. Plus I don't know any "rules" to follow when I do this kind of project so I can relax and just see what happens. Or my mind wanders and I start making up stories to go with the object I'm creating. I can take this mindset and the ideas back with me when I work on my drawing and paintings.





wire wrapped shell with beads and silk chord
Inspired by the nautilus. Sharks eye shell with wire and stone beads. This one is for sale. If you're interested, email me at
wire wrapped shell with beads on silk chord
Inside view. Inspired by the nautilus. Sharks eye shell with wire and stone beads.

shell, stone and shell beads, wire wrapping pendant