Sunday, 28 April 2013

Still life painting tutorial

A very simple subject this time for my new still life oil painting: here's a still life painting tutorial of a piece of bread and a small milk jug on cloth. With this still life painting I want to go back to basics and spend some decent time observing and painting light and dark. I also want to bring back some drama and contrast in my still life paintings and create something people wouldn't mind having on their wall!
Below is a still life painting tutorial and update on progress on this painting.

Setting up
The lighting is traditional, coming from the top left. This is the first time I've used my new Daylight table lamp, which of course produces daylight-like light and warm shadows. I've used a piece of cardboard to cast a dark shadow across the bread, an idea picked up from LoriMcNee's "3 Tips to Set Up & Light a Still Life Painting" youtube video. Using chiaroscuro, I can achieve high contrast and drama in my still life painting.

Sketch on linen
I'm using a 24x30cm Belle Arti linen canvas (although I may restretch it to a 20x20cm format, not sure yet). I really like the Belle Arti fine linen range, as the weave doesn't distract from the still life subject and it's a delight to paint on.

Following a few thumbnails and moving the bread, jug, lamp and piece of cardboard around to find the right composition, I sketched the setup onto the linen. I paid attention to the rules of perspective.

 Starting the painting process: tonal/value study

What followed is the most exciting stage of painting a picture, for me anyway. Taking my time, I'm now working on the underpainting, creating proper tonal ranges (value study) and mapping out the composition. Since the colour of the bread is a red, I decided to paint the value study in a verdacchio. The use of verdacchio, a greenish-grey tint, was very popular in Renaissance times and was described by Cennino Cennini, in his 'Il Libro dell' Arte' (The Craftsman's handbook). These days some of the suggested pigments (e.g., white lead) can be replaced, resulting in the following palette:
  • yellow ochre
  • mars black (a fast-drying black)
  • titanium white

To make sure this first layer is lean to prevent cracking later on, I used Zest it oil paint dilutant. I use Old Holland oil colours.

Colour layers and glazing

I spent a lot of time slowly and carefully layering colour in this step. My palette for the bread consisted of raw umber, flake white, yellow ochre, burnt sienna and phtalo blue (Old Holland oil paint). For this part of the painting, instead of blending the mixtures, I dragged, dabbed and scumbled the paint. To soften the appearance of the cloth, I added some of the colour used in the bread. The jug has a glaze of ultramarine blue.

I've put the painting in our lounge so I can find out over the next few days what I need to do to improve it. There is a danger of overworking the painting, especially the bread.

Tanja Moderscheim_Still life with bread
The still life painting tutorial continues soon!
Check for updates on this still life painting tutorial soon! (and keep and eye on!)

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