View Full Version : The Spotlight - January 2014 - Back to Front

12-31-2013, 08:41 PM
Welcome artists!

Here is a quick recap of what The Spotlight is all about!

The Spotlight is an activity thread for pastel artists of all experience levels working from photos chosen by a monthly host. Most months, the host will choose photos from only one subject, putting that subject into “the spotlight,” so to speak! For example, one month the subject will be painting water, another month will spotlight flowers, etc.

Some months, rather than spotlight a subject, the focus will be on a challenge of some sort. In those cases, we might have a wider variety of photo references, but “the spotlight” will be on the challenge itself.

Since this is a group activity, we can pool our knowledge and resources, and grow as artists in a fun, “no-pressure” atmosphere.

And, remember, no critiques unless specifically asked for.

The intent is to have fun, try new things, experiment, and perhaps most of all, to see what our friends and colleagues are painting from the same reference material!

Please note: The photos this month were taken by me or are from the Reference Image Library. You have permission to use the photos as reference to create your artwork and to sell them and/or exhibit them. The actual photos still retain the copyright of the photographer. So you cannot copy the photo to your blog, for example, without the permission of the photographer, or digitally alter or reproduce the photo for any purpose other than for your personal use, with the exception of crops, digital alterations and posts of these photos within "The Spotlight" thread.

This month’s Spotlight is on…Painting Back to Front!

There are many ways to begin a painting. Over the next couple months we will look at two basic techniques that might help us when we start a painting. The two techniques are “painting back to front” and “negative painting.” Usually, both techniques are used in each painting we create, but the one we choose to begin with may make a difference in how the painting proceeds! This month we will concentrate on the first technique mentioned, and put the Spotlight on…Painting Back to Front!

I think most of what follows will be pretty obvious to everyone and you may already be using these methods without necessarily thinking too much about them. For those who are just getting started and may be unfamiliar with the terms, painting back to front is pretty much as the words describe. The most distant area or background is painted first and then each next distant area or object is painted next. For anyone who watched the TV painters Bob Ross or Bill Alexander paint their oil paintings, they normally painted back to front. The sky came first, then the most distant mountains, then the trees in front of those mountains, then the nearer trees and bushes, etc.

Negative painting is painting the foreground object or area first, then painting the background color after, such as painting in a fairly solid shape for a tree, then painting the sky around the tree and adding “sky holes” within the interior of the tree shape.

Neither technique is more “correct” or “proper.” There are advantages and drawbacks to each method. The technique you prefer or use more often is totally up to you! There are times, in my opinion, where one technique may work better than the other and that is one reason why we are exploring this theme here on the Spotlight! As I mentioned, both techniques are usually used in a painting, no matter how one begins. Shapes are often refined by painting both the negative area around the shape and painting the shape of the object itself.

As in most things regarding painting, the materials that are used will produce varying results. So my comments will be general in nature and you may have different results! How’s that for a disclaimer!

Here are some things that I may look for in my subject that will convince me to start with the “back to front” approach:

1. If I look at my subject and there is a lot of background showing through – such as a tree without leaves, a tree with sparse foliage, transparent objects in a still life, etc., I would tend to work back to front and put the background in first.

2. If I look at my subject and see that there is a lot background going all the way or most of the way around it (perhaps a still life or portrait), then I know I run the risk of creating a halo where foreground and background colors meet. Once again, a good choice for doing the background first.

3. If my foreground object has lots of detail at the edges (such as pet fur, tall grasses or reeds) then trying to paint the background colors around those details will be problematic.

4. If my area that is behind has some gradual gradation of color that needs to painted with long interrupted strokes of color, or areas that need to be softened or blended (like sky or water), then it is easier to paint those areas first rather than try to paint around already painted foreground objects. Here’s an example where I blended and completed the water first, before I painted the foreground reeds. I guess it is pretty obvious that trying to blend around the reeds would have been difficult!


Now, in some of the examples given, such a pet or human portrait, or painting fairly solid object with lots of edge detail, it is not necessary to paint in the background color or colors over the entire paper or board. All you need is some overlap of the background color and the foreground object to avoid probably the biggest problem that comes from doing the background after – and that is the dreaded “halo.” Here is how you might begin a portrait to make sure that the background color is in place before you paint in the upper body and hair – allowing you to create details and wisps of hair at the edges and allowing background color to show through where the hair may be thinner or have some gaps.


The same idea can be used with landscapes – just a small amount of overlap is needed to prevent halos where areas meet –such as where the background sky meets mountains or trees.


You can see where I sketched in the tree/mountain line and overlapped the sky color. In comparison, below is an example of painting in the mountain and trees first – and then negatively painting the sky color.


I’ve tried to exaggerate some of the potential problems with negative painting. On the left – around the trees - I’ve left a gap, or halo, around the trees where the paper color is visible. In the middle area, I placed the sky color directly up to the mountain, but my edge is a bit harder than I might want. On the right, I have a few spots where my sky color goes into the mountain color and actually appears as if it is in front of the mountain. Putting the background color in front might ruin the illusion of depth and distance that you are trying to convey.

So, some of the advantages of painting back to front are: reducing halos, helping the illusion of depth, and avoiding hard edges where two colors come together.

You may be asking, “If working back to front solves all these problems, why not do all paintings back to front?” Well, there are some drawbacks, too! By layering the foreground objects or areas on top of the pastel that was used to create the background, there might be some unwanted mixing of the pastel colors. And if the foreground object or area is very intense in color, it might not be possible to get the intensity you want because the color may be dulled somewhat by being placed on top of the background color. It may depend somewhat on the type of paper used and the softness of the pastel – softer pastels being more opaque in general and harder pastel having less covering power.

Using fixative or starting with a wet underpainting may be ways to overcome some of the pastel mixing or lack of covering power problems that you may encounter when working back to front.

So, how will we know if painting back to front will work? Only one way – and that is to experiment and try it out! That’s one reason the Spotlight thread is here every month - to help us experiment! And next month we will continue the discussion and experimentation with Negative Painting!

Here are the refs for this month which (hopefully) are well suited for painting back to front!

Photo by Lady Carol

Photo by Sylph 14

Photos by me



As always, feel free to modify, rearrange and/or crop the references.

Enjoy...and Happy New Year to everyone!


12-31-2013, 11:30 PM
Purr! Thank you for starting off with that lovable kitten among your references. I'm sure I can have fun doing that one back to front. Definitely needs it because of that light fluffy backlit fur. All of these are wonderful references. I might experiment with combining textures too since I still have my Pan Pastels out and going over them with sticks is fun. The wet berries are intriguing too!

01-01-2014, 09:32 AM
A wonderful start to the New Year, Don. Thank you for all your hard work writing and putting together each month's spotlight. I'm mostly a lurker but have learned so much from your spotlights. Your efforts are really appreciated. Happy New Year!

01-01-2014, 12:46 PM
Thanks, Don. Great explanation, examples and reference pics. I really appreciate the effort you put into this. Now that the holidays are over, I will definitely get to one of these, which, I guess, is my segue into thinking of my January goals......

01-01-2014, 01:34 PM
Wonderful! I just learned about this last month, and really need to work on using that technique. Thank you!

The reference pictures are great, I'm not yet sure which one I'll select, I agree with Robert, the cat and frozen berries are probably my favorite two. All of these are a little out of my comfort zone, but that's one of my goals for this year!

Good luck everyone on your paintings! :-D

Happy New Year, by the way!

01-01-2014, 01:44 PM
Thanks Don for the lovely references. I do intend to be more active in my art this year and that includes the spotlight. The first I'll probably go for is the trees - see what I can do with them. I would have done last months if I had no chores to do for Christmas - the trees with Christmas lights and baubles :lol:

CM Neidhofer
01-01-2014, 03:37 PM
I am sooo ready to try some of these this month! Along wih a host of others I've missed over the last year!

01-01-2014, 08:51 PM
Thanks, all, for the nice comments! Looking forward to seeing your paintings this month!


01-01-2014, 10:55 PM
Thanks for the great lesson Don. I haven't picked up a pastel stick in nearly two years due to life changes, but I'm back & sorely in need of some practice.

Ref pic is from the RIL thanks to Crias. I went off of the back to front method here and the practice in water reflections in Painting with Pastels by Maggie Price. I'm trying to work in a looser, more painterly approach but tend to get bogged down trying to fit every detail possible in the photo and I end up with blobs.

Mix of Nupastel and various softies. 9x12 Wallis Pro in Belgian Mist

http://i8.photobucket.com/albums/a50/LitlJaimo/WaterreflectionsstudyJan2014.jpg (http://s8.photobucket.com/user/LitlJaimo/media/WaterreflectionsstudyJan2014.jpg.html)

01-02-2014, 12:48 AM
Nice! I like your sky holes in the foliage, it's lacy and gorgeous. Interesting line at the water's edge and good reflections too. Well done!

01-02-2014, 03:47 AM
Another great lesson Don! I usually start with the back to front method, especially in landscape but, funnily, not so much with portraits. But I tend to mix it up in each painting, without really thinking about it. So this lesson will help me to think about it, about which way is best in a given situation. I hope to get at least one done.

Jaime, I love the trees and the contrasting sky. Painting from back to front helps with the illusion that the trees are in front of the sky.

01-02-2014, 06:03 AM
Like a few others, I too must make the new year's resolution to actually DO some Spotlights - have been lurking and watching for months but haven't joined in for ages (Good work everyone though!!)
I agree with Ruth, I tend to swap between the two techniques as I go along, only really thinking about the first layer.
I have a yen to do some monochrome pictures, so may go for the reeds, but that kitten has to be tackled!!
Happy New year to all and thank you Don for all your excellent work throughout 2013.

01-02-2014, 07:25 AM
That looks fine to me Jaime. You seemed to have caught the autumnal colours just right. Adding the water was a brilliant idea being able to show the colours off even more.

I have started the new year well and have taken the plunge with the trees. I have altered the layout somewhat to suit my interpretation/composition.
Done from back to front so that I produce no halo and skyholes are as left – not added in.
scanners size (it is actually a little bigger than the scanner which is A4).
Pastels a mixture of Derwents, Inscribe, Daler Rowney and Unison.


01-02-2014, 09:01 AM
Definitely no halos there Jim!

I've done one....first painting of 2014!

The reeds one really lent itself to the back to front approach. However, I still did a little "cutting in" as I call it. I was practising on a piece of mountboard which I had covered with gesso and pumice powder, leaving a lot of texture. Not sure I can really find the correct approach to using this kind of surface. I had to rub the pastel in in places because the light grey of the ground showed through too much. It was also very difficult to get the stems of the reeds straight and well defined....fine for the reflections though. :)

10x14" right to the edges. Sorry about the clamps being in the photo! The ones I took of the painting on the floor were not good photos.


01-02-2014, 10:54 AM
Thanks Ruthie for your comments no my trees.

I see what you mean about the ground interfering with the stalks, yes that's fine for the reflections. Perhaps have pumice only where you're going to put reflections? :angel:. How's that for a suggestion? That water/ice looks cold though and certainly no halo.:thumbsup:

01-02-2014, 12:09 PM
Great idea Jim....but that would mean preparing a board specially for a specific painting. And then waiting overnight for it to completely dry and then, maybe, deciding I don't want to do that specific painting after all!!

01-02-2014, 12:34 PM
Thank you Robert, Ruthie, and Jim, for your kind comments. Having a lot of fun picking up the dusties again.

Jim, I love the soft white of your birch trees. The muted foreground really makes the defined trees and flowers pop forward.

Ruthie, I'm envious of your depiction of the ice skimming over the water!

01-02-2014, 01:06 PM
Ruth, Your work on the icy water and the cat tails is wonderful, you always get us off to a spectacular start each month! - - quite intimidating as this is also my choice for a try this month, but it is always fun to see different versions. Trying to get organized for a start to the new challenges (putting away holiday decorations, clean up gift wrappings and feast leftovers, and straighten up after holiday visitors that I miss already).

01-02-2014, 01:13 PM
Owen and Jim, nice jobs done on the landscapes. Makes me want to be out en plein air, you have both put some lovely atmosphere in your work!

01-02-2014, 03:46 PM
Thanks Jaime and Linetta. Linetta, you should certainly not be intimidated! I have seen your depiction of water etc and you are very good at it!

01-02-2014, 05:39 PM
Jim, your painting of the trees has a soft dreaminess to it that I like. I especially like the softness at the bottom. Great sky holes deliberately left. I'm still fighting myself over those.

Ruth, wow! Love the way you handled the ice reflections. Gorgeous atmospheric scene.

01-02-2014, 08:17 PM
Wow!! You folks are off to a great start this month!

Jaime, Nice painting and very vivid!

Jim, Nice job on those trees!

Ruth, Very nice! The difference between the ice and the water is so subtle and you handled it beautifully!


01-02-2014, 08:46 PM
Quote Ruthie - Great idea Jim....but that would mean preparing a board specially for a specific painting. And then waiting overnight for it to completely dry and then, maybe, deciding I don't want to do that specific painting after all!!

Methinks you are putting obstacles in the way Ruthie :lol::cat:

Thank you Owen. I have had great difficulties with trees. The smaller they are the better at the moment. This one was a bit big.

Thank you Linette. The weather here is not conducive to going outdoors at all. It's blowing a gale and persisting down. :eek:

Thank you Robert. I am just about able to do a passable tree after all my efforts. From what I've read the sky holes need to be toned down a bit from the sky colour but I'll perhaps get to that stage at a later date.

Thanks Don. I hope to get to another before the month is out. I don't know which one though. Perhaps the "critter"?:angel:. That'll be a first for sure in soft pastels - besides the C&C of our resident cat experts :D


01-03-2014, 08:22 AM
I love what you've done with the cat tail pic.
I quite liked the subject myself but haven't quite figured out how to approach it.
Strengthening the blue gives the brown/blue contrast lots of interest.
Lovely drift of the spikes across the page....
but it is all the subtle textures really make it!

I'm going back to bed now..it's all tooo intimidating!

01-03-2014, 11:04 AM
Ruth, I love your painting, you are so good. I am jealous of your amaze skill.
I am going to paint the fall trees this afternoon.

01-03-2014, 11:29 AM
Jaime, wonderful colors and nice handling of the reflections.
Jim, the softness in your painting is wonderful.
Ruth, I also am drawn to the icy shore. Like Leslie and Linnettalee, trying to figure out how to approach it....how to really make it look like ice. Guess I could just let this month slip away like Dec., without doing any and then I wouldn't have to figure anything out... :)

01-03-2014, 03:55 PM
I tried it on Canson pastel paper 8x10in. Gallery pastel. I am not happy with it . :( http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/03-Jan-2014/1111142-image.jpg :(

01-03-2014, 08:24 PM
Thank you Linnettalee, Don, and Peg! Going to take a stab at either the kitty or the tree branch/berries.

Yannse, I think your landscape is nice, especially the way you changed up the foreground. Are you using the Mi-Teintes paper?

01-03-2014, 09:06 PM
Hi Jiemin, I, too, think your landscape came out very well! The trees with their orange leaves look great against that vivid blue sky!

If you are using Canson Mi-Teintes paper, then I would recommend using the smoother side, not the rougher more textured side, if you don't want those "bumps" to show!


01-03-2014, 10:51 PM
Thanks! I should try next time. I didn't know it! Thanks a lot!

01-04-2014, 10:12 AM
Jiemin, I really like the group of birches to the right, the way they stand out against the shadowed area behind. I tend to use sanded paper so I don't have to deal with "bumps". Just checked out your finearts page. Love the swan (so "feathery") and lion.

01-04-2014, 12:21 PM
Jiemin, haven't "seen" you around for a while. Glad you're back. This is a really well done painting. I think you have actually used the texture of the paper to advantage, it's vibrant. I love the dark twigs and branches!

01-04-2014, 05:15 PM
Well, I just took a deep breath (and a bit of a "gulp!") and have started the cat picture. I am VERY uncomfortable with real life pictures and have only ever done three in my life time. One of which you've seen already (in December 2013 goals).

I'm a bit shaky on it, but have done my sketching (the first time I've done THAT before! :-) Aren't I terrible?!), and have been looking at the picture all day, marking out where different shadings and things are.

The problem I'm running into, that I know many of you have had, is that I don't really have all the right colors. I've got a couple I'm going to try blending, but they still don't look right. What do you do in these situations? My guess is that the answer is "make do with what you have", which is what I'll be doing.

Next question is this: since I'm going to be doing quite a few layers, I'm using my harder pastels, (I don't have great paper, I just ordered some, but it hasn't come in) but there are a couple colors that I could use that are very soft pastels. Do I use the soft pastels for better colors at the risk of filling my paper too much, and messing up because of it, or stick with the harder pastels?

I hope this make sense to somebody, because I'm not sure if it makes sense to me! :-D

01-04-2014, 07:16 PM
Here it is!!!

I did NOT think this would be done today, but I was "home alone", and after cleaning house, was ready to jump into my pastels after having refrained myself during the week. It took me about two and a half hours to do.

I was VERY uncomfortable starting out, but I'm thinking that it is more fear of the unknown and fear that, since I've never had any kind of art lessons, I just can't do what other people can. (God's teaching me a lesson in that!) Really, I've not done that much art, why should I expect my paintings to be fabulous when I've not yet learned all the techniques?

I'm having a lot of fun here, and I can already tell a huge difference in my art after being here for only two and a half months! Thank you everyone for your amazing help!

Here's my "Quaint Kitten".


I'm open to any critique or tips anyone can give me!

Things I know:

-The paper I used really can only hold three or four layers. The paw suffered because of it.

-A bit of the paper shows through on the kitten, but I knew this would happen because I did not really have a good color selection. I tried to pick a paper color that would complement the kitten.

-The eyes aren't quite right. I started with a green, then added grey, then blue on top of that (for the color). The pupils aren't looking in the same direction. The shapes are not quite the same for both eyes. Can anyone tell me what went wrong? Any suggestions?

01-04-2014, 07:42 PM
Rebecca, Your kitten looks great! Lots of the questions or problems you discuss are very common and happen to everyone. Personally, I started using pastels with about 64 sticks. I had no idea that people had hundreds...at least! So, I never really try to match colors. I do some mixing and as long as I am reasonably close, that's fine with me. Sometimes close isn't even necessary. In the end, all people see is the painting and can't compare with the reference.

You can mix using hard and soft pastels if the one that you need happens to be soft. If the soft pastel is the "final" color, then it doesn't matter that much if it fills the tooth. Some people use the "softies" almost exclusively, but not me. I need more control! As you get more experience, you will have a better feel for what works on what paper.

Choosing a paper color that will work if some shows through was a good idea! I almost always have some of the paper show through, so it's perfectly OK - and can be used effectively. Planning for it was smart! As far as the eyes go, it looks like the one on our left, the black is almost exactly in the center, while the one our right, the black is slightly to the right of center. The highlights look well placed, so notice that on the eye on our left, the highlight just touches the black. On the other eye, there is a small space between highlight and black.

The color of the eyes is great - especially as you have mixed three colors to get it! The small wisps of fur look very nice against the background!


01-04-2014, 09:48 PM
Now that my "scary" painting is done, I can sit back and enjoy everyone else's!

Jamie - What I really loved about your painting was the water reflection. That is one area I've struggled with, so I tend to notice when it's done well. I love the bright fall colors too!

Jim - It might sound silly, but I LOVED your tree trunks! The white trunks stand out to me as the focal point of the picture, add that deep blue sky...(sigh!) Love at first sight!

Ruthie - WOW!!! You did an AMAZING job! I was wondering how anyone could get such an "icy" look out of that picture! Interesting technique you used...I'm going to have to look into that more myself.

Jiemin - Your picture is absolutely beautiful! I love the color palette you've used. (As I've said before, I'm a sucker for good colors!) I've had the same problem with my paper texture coming through my painting. Sometimes I do it on purpose to get a certain look. Now, I'm setting aside a little money from each paycheck to get nicer paper that doesn't have those issues.

Don - Thank you so much for your comments and helpful tips. I'll have to work on the eyes, and do you think I should lengthen the lighter fur along the top of the foreleg portion?

I can't wait until I have more colors (I think I've got almost 64 colors!), but I just have to build them up little by little. Right now I've GOT to get some better paper.

01-05-2014, 02:09 AM
Jiemin, if you're not happy with it, then you're still growing and see things you can do better. I love your birches, that's gorgeous and a big improvement. Looking forward to more since you're so determined! Doing a series is exciting. Try the smooth side if the bumps drive you nuts, they do me except on larger paintings.

Rebecca! SQUEE!!! Kitten! So cute! Love that little round face and fluffy fur. You did a kitten! Not exactly the same kitten but you did a kitten with good proportions! Coloration is excellent, they do sometimes come that yellowish, it's okay to slightly shift color in something like this or even dramatically shift color. If I were that stuck on hue I might have tried using grays and gray-blues to turn it into a gray and white kitten instead.

If that frustrates you, you can get the right hue and value starting from rust and white, using the ochre a little into the mix in more golden areas but not pure, using grays into the mix in places. Try out the overlay mixes by layering thinner or heavier layers - blend the first layer in the value that you have and start going over it lightly with other colors till hue and value are right. Add fur textures in the last layers. You still came pretty darn close except for the most golden areas and some lightening of some areas. It's remarkable already.

The kitten's features are a little different. She looks a touch more like Pretty Kitty down the hall must have when she was a kitten. A long hair with an apple head anatomy has become a pansy-face kitten, a not-extreme Persian (These do exist.) There's variation and all of it is within the range of Healthy Cat Facial Structures. The eyes are big enough for the face! The muzzle is a perfect little short cat-muzzle! This is a great kitten!

Hair length could be longer, however, hair texture looks exactly right for "We clipped the poor kitten so that she won't overheat." My neighbor DID trim Pretty Kitty's fur when it got hot - not cutting it real short, trimming about that much and giving a very similar effect. If she were gray rather than light-ginger and didn't have white bits, she'd look like little Pretty Kitty as a kitten.

Why do I say her fur's clipped? Two reasons. Measure the features against the outer contour of the fur. The photo kitten is an unclipped long hair. It hasn't grown into its fur yet and the face is relatively tiny, the face is only a third of the apparent head volume. The day I first got Ari at six weeks old, his face width was 1/4 of his head width. Yeah. Face was 2/8 and on either side of his eyes was 3/8 of head width. He wasn't big enough for his hair.

Also, reinforcing this, your fur strokes are a little bit straight and end bluntly rather than trailing off. Some new guard hairs are poking through but the great mass of hair is trimmed - it looks like it's growing in from having been previously trimmed. Pretty Kitty's hair is like that - and the kitten's whiskers are in proper proportion to the real proportions of that little body and face. They are accurate. All this contributes to realism.

Direction of the hair strokes is accurate. Ear shape is nice, ears are larger in proportion to the kitten head than in the photo - because that excess fur has been trimmed away making them more visible. You seeing how this comes out looking so real? The hair's shorter, the breed's a little different, the color's natural but not the same individual - the kitten is right there in the painting looking just as adorable as the photo.

It's okay to do a nice kitten that's not the portrait unless it's a commission by the kitten's owner. If you want to try the commission, remember the hair volume on long hairs is going to be ludicrous. It may help to pre-sketch the pose drawing a baby Sphinx in to represent the tiny little kitten inside the giant fur coat and think of the giant fur coat as exactly what it is. Not solid. A luminous flowing fluffy volume around the kitten that moves, parts, changes direction and clumps together in places.

When it's clipped shorter like that it does look more plushy like you've painted. The long hairs of a long hair cat break like human hair. Look close at the photo for the shadows of locks of hair. They come up as pointed shadows between clumps of light hair highlights. I sometimes sketch light colored long cat hair just by dropping a few of those shadows into an area and leaving out all the mid value shadows on the volumes of blocks, implying them, if the drawing is just black and white.

Kitten's features: A+ they are all accurate and feline. I'm not even that sure of whether the subject kitten is an apple head like Ari or a pansy face itself. I'm going to have to study it when I do the kitten and I may well reinterpret it as a baby applehead because I love my cat so much and the photo reminds me of him. In person I'd find out easily - one scritch to the cheek would tell me how much of that face is fur and how much is kitten.

In a photo, there's easy confusion abotu that combined with one other truth about kittens. Like baby anything, they grow oddly. One day it's got tiny ears and the next it's got bigger ears to face ratio but its nose is too small. If the muzzle's a bit shorter it may mean two days of growth didn't extend the muzzle as much. So you're still way within even portrait range with it depending on the kitten's owner and so on.

For a true portrait "my kitten Peachy" it would have to be a touch more careful in hue, markings and proportions. But for "Squee!" you did a sweet kitten and I love it. You asked for my analysis and there it is. Quaint Kitten is aptly titled.

The background's nice, frames the kitten well and the carpet texture under the kitten is just right. It looks like pale carpet, that is so cool. I would put some gradation in that dark background, shading it lighter and cooler in one direction over the other - not a lot of value steps or hue steps but just going over lighter and warmer to the upper left, cooler and darker to the bottom right. Blending the background is a nice touch that pushes the kitten forward.

Shadow and light describing three dimensional space - the light direction is very clearly established so the lighter area of the background is to the left and above, a good direction for the gradation. Going over that with yellow ochre and blending, then shading dark blue-gray or deep green and mixing it in at the deepest part nearly overlapping so that no part of the background is the pure hue of a stick could work. Go lightly over the red-brown. A touch of olive over it will knock down its distracting redness.

But test mixtures over the background color if you want to do that, the kitten's worth taking some care. Try combinations on scraps of paper (same color paper) and hold them next to the kitten to see how they look. You kept it simple, which is good, but there's better depth if the background is muted and echoes the direction and hue of the light. The yellow cast of the sunlit kitten could read true if you use that same ochre shading the background lighter toward the light. Then you've got kitten in golden light.

The eye color is utterly beautiful. Without an actual pale yellow pastel, it'd be too hard to modify the eye-glint by making it just a touch yellow, that's what I'd do if I had my own pastels. Or a Cream color pastel pencil - go over the eye highlight with that rather than pure white and the afternoon sun's more golden.

Incredible for a beginner. Amazing cat portrait for a beginner. No lessons, ey? You're spot on right. Nobody's born knowing how to paint. You get born wanting to and learn what good paintigs are by seeing them and painting and drawing and taking classes and reading art books and hanging out here. I'm not as good as the artists I admire here, but always striving. Most are better than me at something. I am a self appointed Cat Expert though after years of studying my cat and hundreds of cat life sketches, sold cat portraits, always improving my cat portraits and have an eye for good cat portraits.

Every lesson is an eye opener. There's tons of free ones in Pastel Library. There's good ones down in Animals and Wildlife too. Might be some up in Drawing and Sketching too, I haven't checked the topics there, pretty sure Fur is on the topics list for the basic drawing classes. Eyes, you have it. Nose, that is a sweet little nose. Muzzle, I could kiss the kitty. Whiskers cute and a little down, giving a slight Grumpy Cat look. Expression, quite real, it's Dim Kitten Innocence. My suggestion in white whiskers - get the angle going right and let them vanish against the white on the side they do, show the ones going over darker colors and the ones over white will be assumed. Looks like you turned the whiskers down so they'd be seen. Good curves on the whiskers, only thing that doesn't match direction and might mean they got bent.

Lovely kitten. Date and sign this and be proud of Quaint Kitten. She's a triumph. If you try again you're going for Individual Likeness and fur length and advanced fur texture.

And yes, the more pastels you have the easier it is. The better I get, the easier it is to work with a limited palette. Color mixing and changing hue and value is its own study. You'd have had color perfect with a larger set and been able to deal with that later.

As for beginner, the sheer number of cool things to discover right now is exhaustive and each of them is wonderful. I was selling portraits to real people for money and living on it before I really got mixing color in pastels. I just bought more pastels and matched what I saw best as I could. That's good enough learning to observe but I understand much better now why it worked - you can see more colors and variations of them than any of us own in pastels, and I include the ones with 5,000 pastels in their studios. But they're the ones less likely to need to use all of them at once and be able to do it grabbing a small plein air sketch kit of their favorites.

But you can expand a bit mixing the ones you have. Try making swatches of the colors mixed with the other colors on a big sheet of paper. Row across the top and across the side and then mix them going over them. See what you get in the mixes. It gets amazing doing that and makes a small box a lot more useful just seeing what your two-color mixes become. There will be a diagonal row of pure color when each one mixes with itself if you line them up in the same order left to right and top to bottom. Why that grid is because you lay down swatches of all the ones in the side row first or the top row first, then do the other row. You'll see the mixes by which one's on top. Mark that when you start, Bottom for the row you do the bottom ones and Top across or down depending which you choose. That shows which one to use for underpainting to get the mix. Blend half of each swatch with your finger for "blended texture next to unblended."

Be sure the white and black sticks are on those rows, because that's where you'll get tints and shades of the other colors. Also where with light colors like pink or sky light blue or cream if you have it, light colors can make tints too that are a little more complex. It's not a Color Theory color chart but a "your box" Color chart and could be separated into groups if it won't all fit on one sketchbook page. I use sketchbooks for that to see it on white pure, testing a chosen combo on colored paper adds paper color for a three color mix.

01-05-2014, 11:25 AM
Rebecca, your kitten is great....definitely looks like and "feels" like a kitten. As for the eyes, Don may have hit upon it...the spacing between the highlight and the black on our right, makes it seem as though that eye is looking outward and the other is straight ahead. This is a fine job; the last feline I tried to do (many years ago which tells you why I haven't done one since) looked pretty canine...some sort of a hybrid creature, I'm afraid.

ural jones
01-05-2014, 12:01 PM
Rebecca, you have painted a wonderful representation of the pretty little kitten! Way to go.
The reason the eyes are a bit different is simple, really. The eye on the right (cat's left eye) is a tiny bit too large.
To show you what I mean, I reduce the larger eye just a tad and , well you can see the difference.
Once again though, Good job, animals are tough to get!

01-05-2014, 10:57 PM
Here is my attempt at the birch trees.
Critique and areas of improvement are very much required and welcome

1.How does one do a better job on the front foliage?
2. And a better way to paint trees? :) - if there is a thread on this, it would be lovely
3. I realised (a bit late) that the front to back could be used to depict the 'forest' background...will work on that in the next attempt.

Oh, yes here is the picture -

ural jones
01-06-2014, 07:09 AM
Suni, we use the term 'lost ' edges. You have only to use a few 'hard' edges and that will emphasise the birch trees. But, just do it where you see fit as an artist. Your rendition is the important thing.
And, if you like, the closer the objects are to the viewer, the warmer and clearer they become.
Mind you, these are only suggestions, your work stands on its own very nicely!

01-06-2014, 08:33 AM
Sunil, Thanks for joining us! This is very nicely done! I think your trees look fine!

3. I realised (a bit late) that the front to back could be used to depict the 'forest' background...will work on that in the next attempt.
Yes, the front to back is not just for the sky in a landscape, but can be used with each area that is a different distance away. The sky is behind everything, but there is a "layer" of forest behind the nearer tree trunks and leaves. And then, pretty much everything is behind the nearest foliage.


01-06-2014, 01:51 PM
I can't post a new thread in WIP, but that's kind of what this is. Art in Progress.
Since part of it is from this month, I decided to put it here to encourage (and maybe brag about how wonderful this place has been for me!) you.

This was done three and a half years ago. I found it, and was so excited to be able to compare!

This was done last month.

This, of course, was done Saturday.

See the difference? You guys are amazing!

No, I have not yet had the time to make any corrections in my last picture, but I think I'll just fix the eyes, and leave the rest. After all, I've got to leave some stuff undone to compare with the next ones!

01-06-2014, 02:49 PM
Sunil, I like the birch trees foliage, not too fussy and yet conveys the tree well.
Rebecca, what progress you have made! You should be very very happy with your most recent "kitty".

01-06-2014, 06:29 PM
And here is the glass and bowl.
It took a few hours and I had a lot of fun, but of course, I would like to do better.

Your critique please.
I love looking at all the posting and reading all the comments. I am too intimidated to make any comments at this stage..so apologies!

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/06-Jan-2014/1144142-GlassnBowl2.JPG ogies.

I would like to know what I am doing wrong or can be improved in each of my painting (granted that this may require more space than practical to write up in detail :) )....

Question: what can I do to improve the reflections on the table-top?

Thanks to Ural, Peg and all of you for your feedback/critique.

My heartfelt thanks to everyone for making this such a lovely place to visit and learn..


01-06-2014, 06:53 PM
Rebecca, great kitten! I love seeing the progression pictures of your paintings too.

Sunil, the trees look great, but it's your still life that blows me away. Great reflections.

01-07-2014, 07:55 AM
Rebecca, Wow, what progress you have made!

Sunil, This is very well done! The glass and the wood are handled superbly!


01-07-2014, 01:05 PM
Test it on Heavyweight vellum Drawing Bee paper. 9x12in. Gallery pastel.http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/07-Jan-2014/1111142-image.jpg

01-07-2014, 01:52 PM
Sunil, your trees are great. I like that birches scene, you could play more with soft and hard edges to give more dimension to it but without that it's still gorgeous. Layering back to front through successive groups of trees is fun and I'm tempted to do that for mine later this month. I probably won't get to do a Spotlight till after the 15th.

Your still life is interesting. You got the glass effect! It's great, especially the glass with the dark base. Reflections are subtle and look pretty good on both objects. The two things I'm about to point out are subtle.

On the glass - ellipses on anything like that, first it's hard to get them symmetrical. Second, perspective means figuring out eye level and making the curve deeper the farther from eye level it is. This is stuff to work out in the sketch, but I would slightly deepen the oval of the base of the glass to give a "pop" of a bit more three dimensional. Getting them the same is okay, it sort of gives a sense of dimension because it's not that far off on a short object but that close up, it would be visible. Look close at the reference and measure it. I'd say about a line width difference at the center of the bottom curve, maybe two, but I'm not looking at the photo.

The other problem's with the bowl - the exact lines of the curving swooping indentations meet. You got a little lost in them which is not surprising sketching freehand. Something that complicated it's sometimes best to make a light sketch and measure each line carefully, many artists will enlarge and trace the photo reference on something that's both complex and geometric. Or semi-trace, like tracing every third or fourth one and doing the fill-ins. It's somehow almost impossible to get something like that freehand so do not feel bad that they got a bit tied up in the right where they'd start vanishing into the scalloped front edge of the bowl at slightly different curves and angles.

I've seen that kind of thing done in realism many times and it's always either gridded, or traced, or tick marks, mechanical measuring is the only way to get something like that unless you painted that one a few dozen times and got so used to it you know it. And then it might screw you up on one that was similar but had different curves.

Another way to approach it is to do a preliminary drawing in detail, line drawing, and then transfer that. But use mechanical measuring like grid method in doing the preliminary drawing. This is basically "enlarge the image to get the line drawing down" but doing it manually gives your hand the practice of Drawing The Curves freehand while you do. Just the fact of going over them will help your hand remember how they go. So if you do trace, transfer the tracing manually. It is not cheating. If you watch ArtistsNetworkTV tutorials in any medium with the "fancy crystal and glass" subject in realism, you'll find the artist doing some form of intricate line drawing of the entire subject before painting.

They don't always show how that's created but it's often done just by tracing the photo reference after enlarging. Then transfer that. The interpretation comes in the painting.

What you got beautifully in it is the glass effect itself. That's gosh wow stuff. I love doing glass for that. The highlights and occasional dark reflections and the distortions created by the curves are beautiful. It reads true as glass and is so striking. Nice dark background with good variegation. The painting is lovely - the drawing error doesn't distract from its impact on the first glance, I looked at it and then started analyzing for critique. Date the effort and try it with mechanical drafting at the layout stage and you will be stunned at the results, which will be a salable painting. I'm serious, that drafting issue is the main reason if it was mine I wouldn't pop it on ebay for some cash.

I would go ahead and list the birches for sale or put them in an art show or something, the landscape is lovely and someone will fall in love with it. So glad you joined us! Don't mind my lengthy blather, that's just me in the corner being a novelist who doesn't know when to stop typing. lol

Jiemin, omg what you did with the ice is wonderful. I love the way you simplified the reference. It's haunting and beautiful. You mastered soft and hard edges, light and dark values - I think it's the Notan that has me gasping and going wow wow wow.

It's like a classic Chinese or Japanese brush painting - the lines are graceful and varied, textures varied, subtle color variations and broken color flow into smoother passages and the ice reads true as ice. But there's also a perfect focus, the background as it fades into the distance is vast distance that wants to stay in peripheral vision. It's hard to study that background because the negative space is so stubbornly negative and the reeds in their complex beauty are so attractive.

The composition is wonderful and having the focal area in the lower left while still leading me off to wander into the distance and back, again and again - looking into the distance where it's less detailed is very serene. I look at the ice and then the reeds and the distance. I look at the ice and out into the distance and back to the reeds. My eye wanders like it would on a scene in nature and just looking at it reduces my stress.

This is exactly the painting I would buy to hang over the desk of someone who's got high blood pressure or fibromyalgia or any medical condition that demands lowering stress, because it is meditation in pastels. I'm very moved and may not know all the tricks of art you used to create that mood. You just did. Wow. I wish we could arrange a swap or I had money to buy it, because this one is so - I can hear birds looking at it, it's one of those "I'm not in my room, I'm out in nature" landscapes.

You bent a rule with a line that might be a horizon at the center, but, it's not, it's just an accent and subtly darker. It's there but I didn't see that midline division till I was analyzing. It's light enough that it still reads as part of the light area. It's also a pointer heading inward right back at the attractive reeds. There's a patch of rough white-over-turquoise that's gorgeous in the background. So when I do look into the distance there's beauty to find there... and this strong pull, all these things that make me wander away from the cool bit I just noticed to the next cool bit.

Less is more. Your painting is resting on its notan.

01-07-2014, 04:59 PM
Jiemin, This is a really lovely painting! The soft color gradations and the soft edges are really well done! This is excellent in so many ways!


01-07-2014, 05:19 PM
Sunil - I LOVED the texture of your sky!!! Skies are one of my favorite things to look at, so naturally I notice them in every painting I see. I know many people have given you advice for your trees, and I am not near as good as them, but one thing that I do is to do the trunks that are close to each other in slightly different shades. The ones that are behind the others I might VERY lightly go over with a blue or grey. But I LOVE your painting,just the way it is!

You were VERY brave to do the picture of the glass dishes. I must admit, I wasn't really comfortable trying that picture. I don't feel like I've got the right colors yet, but even if I did. That's a big step! The rim of the cup looks especially good to me, almost real!

Jiemin - Your reeds and ice picture are AMAZING! I can't wait to do a picture like that! I especially like the part around the bases of the reeds. Amazing work there! You really are motivating me! :-D

Thank you, everyone, for your kind comments. But a good portion of my success is due to the generosity of everyone here being willing to share their knowledge at no cost. I never could afford lessons, so this place is a very special blessing to me. Thank you so much!!!

01-08-2014, 09:28 AM
Jiemin, awesome painting! (what more can I say?)

01-09-2014, 06:57 PM
Jiemin, beautiful icy feel in your painting.

I attempted the trees by Sylph14 twice, both on brown Pastelmat with various softies. Not very happy with either results. I'm really struggling with picking values. Maybe I just need more pastels to flesh out my mid and dark selection :evil: Colors aren't quite so stark in reality, but I took the pictures in poor light.

http://i8.photobucket.com/albums/a50/LitlJaimo/Drawings/SpotlightJan2014.jpg (http://s8.photobucket.com/user/LitlJaimo/media/Drawings/SpotlightJan2014.jpg.html)

http://i8.photobucket.com/albums/a50/LitlJaimo/Drawings/SpotlightJan20142.jpg (http://s8.photobucket.com/user/LitlJaimo/media/Drawings/SpotlightJan20142.jpg.html)

01-09-2014, 11:21 PM
Jaime, You should be happy with these! They are very nicely done - and I really don't see a problem with the values. In fact, you have some nice, well-defined value groups in each painting!

Odd thing, I thought I replied to this thread with essentially the same comment an hour ago, but it seems to have disappeared. I hope that doesn't mean the gremlins are back. Keep your fingers crossed, everybody!

Or maybe I forgot to hit the post quick reply button? We'll see what happens to this post...


01-10-2014, 10:06 AM

My first contribution to a challenge...
I'm new to pastel but have been spending a lot of time working on trees so it's not too far out of my comfort zone.
This is Nupastel and Rembrandts on watercolour paper.

There's nothing like taking a photo to highlight weaknesses and I see my trees are rather too firmly planted :angel: and the tree profile a bit solid :(.

Otherwise I'm happy...C&Cs welcome.

01-10-2014, 06:38 PM
Hi Leslie, I think your painting is lovely! There is a certain unity and organic wholeness to it! I can feel those trees and grasses growing! if I had any critique at all it might be to add a few darker values in the tree (denoting the deeper, more shadowed areas) to make the brighter colors stand out! I see that you are working on watercolor paper which probably means that you won't be able to add too many layers of pastel.

Nicely done!


01-11-2014, 09:08 AM
Leslie, I love the foliage and how the whole picture flows together.

01-11-2014, 11:44 AM
Thanks for the feedback, Don! I may need to go back to using a sanded paper because the Pastelmat wasn't giving me as many layers as I would've liked.

Beautiful trees, Leslie. A few sky holes might open up the foliage a little, but they're very well defined as is. There's a nice sense of movement in your foreground.

01-11-2014, 06:51 PM
Wow Jamie! You did a great job! I can't say exactly what it is, but there's something in your paintings that really draw me in. I mean, I could see you illustrating children's books all over!

I love the look of your painting, Leslie. So soft and inviting. It almost has a watercolor look! I can tell you've been working on trees! You did an amazing job with them!

CM Neidhofer
01-11-2014, 07:56 PM
Ok...my very first, very rusty Spotlight piece!! First thing I've painted in probably close to two years. The coloring is way off. Took this with my phone. I was too excited about finally being able to paint something, I didn't want to take the time to dig out my camera! And the lighting in here at night seems to cast a yellow hue to everything. I'll get a better pic at some point. Anyway....just couldn't wait!!


Nope, definitely not happy with the lighting!!!

01-11-2014, 09:02 PM
Oh! But it still turned out very nice!

I'm certainly no expert (I'll leave that to Robert when he gets on here), but I think if you would have used darker colors for the body and under the chin, and lighter for the top of the head and paw, it might have helped with the lighting.

It certainly looks like a more mature cat, but it's still gorgeous! I absolutely LOVE the eyes! So real! Amazing job!

CM Neidhofer
01-11-2014, 09:20 PM
Oh! But it still turned out very nice!

I'm certainly no expert (I'll leave that to Robert when he gets on here), but I think if you would have used darker colors for the body and under the chin, and lighter for the top of the head and paw, it might have helped with the lighting.

It certainly looks like a more mature cat, but it's still gorgeous! I absolutely LOVE the eyes! So real! Amazing job!

As I mentioned, my lighting is off at night. The whites in the actual painting are much whiter than they look like here. Thanks for the comments! I'll try to get a better pic soon!

01-11-2014, 10:20 PM
Christine, Thanks for joining us! A very nice painting of the cat! The painting has a nice warm glow - hopefully regardless of the lighting!


01-12-2014, 03:13 PM
Thanks Keepingpure! :)

Christine, great cat. The fur is lush and those eyes! :cat:

01-12-2014, 04:20 PM
Well, it doesnt look like a success, but it was a great lesson and I am learning so much. I started by smudging my background. I finished the drawing and it wasnt working, then I decided to fix the background by brushung it with water. This worked great and ill remember for next time. Although my drawing has become overworked, I decided to upload anyway. I hope tomtry again before the month is up.

thanx for looking and critique welcome



CM Neidhofer
01-12-2014, 08:16 PM
Ok...my very first, very rusty Spotlight piece!! First thing I've painted in probably close to two years. The coloring is way off. Took this with my phone. I was too excited about finally being able to paint something, I didn't want to take the time to dig out my camera! And the lighting in here at night seems to cast a yellow hue to everything. I'll get a better pic at some point. Anyway....just couldn't wait!!


Nope, definitely not happy with the lighting!!!

I have decided kitty's head is too big and his nose is too long! May try this one again. But I really like the frozen, marshy ref as well. See how much time I have this month.

01-13-2014, 07:20 AM
Wendy, I like your painting! It doesn't look overworked from here! Lots of movement in those reeds!


01-13-2014, 02:24 PM
Wendy, great painting, love the reeds.
Christine, that cat's eyes are wonderful.

01-14-2014, 08:38 AM
Thank you Don and Peg. Looking at it again I dont think it's that bad:) I did like the lesson, and always learn something from participating.


01-14-2014, 02:10 PM
Congratulations on some fabulous pieces of the fall tree scene, the kittens and all the icy ponds - they are all wonderful :thumbsup:
I have left my comfort zone behind and finally been pushed to go ahead and do a cat instead of just oohing and aahing when someone else does. I actually enjoyed this process and have learned a lot. 2014 is a good year, I have done two animals already (including one with fur) Not a normal type of work for me. Used PanPastel and Pastel pencils on AS Colorfix Suede, approx 9-1/2x12"

01-14-2014, 03:13 PM
Hello Jiemin, your trees are wonderful, I cannot see why you would not be happy with it. Such lovely autumnal hues :thumbsup:. Yes I do prefer the smooth side of the Canson as well – it frequently catches me out if I do not remember to check. Anyone seeing the paper would realize what you did. Some people prefer to use the honey-combed side.

Hi Peg, thanks for the nice comments :wave:. I'd like to try another before the month is out but we will see how the month pans out. I am rather pushed with all I'd like to do.

01-14-2014, 06:43 PM
It looks like I have been missing a page or two whilst a mistake in my daily viewing was being corrected. I hope the following enables me to catch-up.

Hi Rebecca, I like your 'quaint kitten'. He (assumption) looks as if he has a personality already. You have caught a lovely expression. Thanks for showing your progression – doesn't that encourage you.

Sunhil your forest looks fine from here. How does one do better trees? :lol: that was my quest ...all last year....... I am not sure that mine are any better now. Yours look fine to me. Certainly your foreground looks well and hearty. A nice tangle of growth.
The glass and bowl are difficult subjects which you have done admirably. Robert has explained ways to get symetry in these articals so suffice it to say a valient effort. You got a lovely wood grain effect.

Hello to you Jiemin, that is not an easy pic to do. I have thought about it but have decided that I'll do something else for the moment. You have captured the moment and coldness well. The reflections are good and the colours cold....brrr ….it's freezing.

Hi there Jaime, your trees are better than mine were when I started. These are fine and some good colours. Also you are able to alter it as you have to make it your own. Great.

Hello Leslie, there is little wrong with those trees, but as you say, you have been practicing. And you got the season correct – I altered mine to summer green :angel:.

Wendy, lovely go at the reeds. It does look cold and bleak out there.

Christine, what a lovely go at the cat. I am no expert when it comes to animals but I'd like to be able to do this kitten. I think it's a terrific 'out of comfort zone' success. Well done.

Linda you have done a marvelously furry kitten. He looks like a baby ball of fluff. You should be very pleased with this. :thumbsup:

01-14-2014, 10:43 PM
Linettalee, what a great cat, so soft! Quite frankly, everyone who has tried the cat has done a wonderful job on his/hers/its eyes.

CM Neidhofer
01-14-2014, 11:11 PM
Congratulations on some fabulous pieces of the fall tree scene, the kittens and all the icy ponds - they are all wonderful :thumbsup:
I have left my comfort zone behind and finally been pushed to go ahead and do a cat instead of just oohing and aahing when someone else does. I actually enjoyed this process and have learned a lot. 2014 is a good year, I have done two animals already (including one with fur) Not a normal type of work for me. Used PanPastel and Pastel pencils on AS Colorfix Suede, approx 9-1/2x12"

This is beautiful!! I see now where I made my mistake. I've added TOO much fur detail...too many individual hair strokes. You've give me something to aspire to! Thanks!

01-15-2014, 08:24 AM
Linetta, Wonderful job on the cat!


01-15-2014, 11:08 AM
Jim, Peg, Christine and Don: Thank you all so much for your very nice comments. It was such a thrill to get back to a bit of normal time-wise this month and be able to join in again.
Christine, I can relate to what you are saying completely. I generally have left the furred animals alone because the first (and only) one I attempted was a dismal disappointment. That was in watercolour, and I thought the eyes, nose and mouth would be the hard bits. But, I got those really well and then it all fell apart with the hair. I had done what you said and put in all these individual strands that did not translate well at all. After seeing and studying techniques of others here, I noticed what you say. You need the tone of the fur/hair and then just suggestions of all the individual hair (as they say, the viewer will supply all the rest). I will be trying more in the future and Thank God for all the wonderful help on Wet Canvas!

01-16-2014, 08:07 AM
Linetta, ooooo PURRR beautiful kitten!

Christine, not bad, you turned kitten into older kitten or cat but still pretty good. Yes fur texture can improve but is reasonable. Sketchy but cute, very much a cat, don't beat yourself up!

Purring at both of you!

Shower, that icy landscape is good and love the reflections!

01-16-2014, 03:19 PM
I tried the icy reeds pic...arghhhh! I am even more in awe of those who did it.

01-16-2014, 07:45 PM
Wendy, Great job on the reeds in ice. I particularly like the snow and ice gathered at the bottom of the reeds. I can definitely tell the difference between water reflection and your ice reflection. AMAZING job!

Linettalee, I LOVED your kitten! I especially liked the colors and lighting you used on the face. The eyes tend to stand out a little, but I can certainly identify with "stepping out of the comfort zone". Congratulations on a successful "step"!

01-22-2014, 10:56 AM
Wendy- glad you found a new tool for your next painting. Your painting conveys the chilliness of that icy water!

Linettalee- what an adorable kitten!

01-22-2014, 03:32 PM
Thank you Robert and Jaime for your encouragement!

01-24-2014, 05:41 AM
Here goes with my first attempt at the cherries. With this effort, I was just trying to understand the 'problem' or challenge if you will.

One thing I have come to realize. The camera is a brutal evaluator. If I can make my paintings look good for the camera, I will have improved a lot.
Actually I realised a few other things. To get really bright colors in the front, I first need to spray the background with a fixative.

Please feel free to throw in your suggestions for improvements. I certainly intend to give the cherries a few more efforts, so would appreciate any suggestions which can help improve :)


01-24-2014, 05:04 PM
Sunil, Very nice painting of the berries! Indeed, it can be difficult to get really bright colors in "front" when having a layer of pastel in "back." That is why next month we will experiment with negative painting - or painting the front first in some circumstances.


01-24-2014, 06:56 PM
Oooh, that sounds good Don! I can't wait. It also makes me a bit nervous! :-D

I really like your painting, Sunil. It makes such a beautiful winter painting! I don't know if it was your intent or not, but I LOVE how it looks like the berries are sticking out in a winter storm. So beautiful!

I actually started working on the same picture Wednesday evening, but I didn't get further than the background because I had to leave for work early the next morning, and had to head to bed! Lord willing, I'll be able to finish it sometime next week.

Did ya'll see my picture in the "goal post" for January 2014? I need some critique on it please! :-D That was one that I also did working back to front, so I'd love your input!

01-25-2014, 03:55 AM
Sunil, Very nice painting of the berries! Indeed, it can be difficult to get really bright colors in "front" when having a layer of pastel in "back." That is why next month we will experiment with negative painting - or painting the front first in some circumstances.


Now you tell me! :lol: Thanks anyways. The reason I did try the painting though was because of the thought 'If you don't try the challenges here, then when?'
So i have to try and improve on this...have some ideas. Will leave it to you all to let me know if they improve or distract ... Be back shortly :)

Thanks 'KeepingItPure' appreciate your kind words.

01-25-2014, 09:21 PM
Did ya'll see my picture in the "goal post" for January 2014? I need some critique on it please! :-D That was one that I also did working back to front, so I'd love your input!
Rebecca, I went to take a look - the painting looks good! I will say that you have painted a very difficult and complicated scene, but the shafts of sunlight are definitely the type of "subject" that can be painting back to front most efficiently!

I see that you have gotten advice to post paintings for critique in our studio and gallery. That's the best place and the place where the most people will see them! (Alas, not everyone takes part in the Spotlight...or the Goal post for that matter). When posting in the Studio and Gallery, just let people know that you want critique (usually abbreviated as C&C) - or if you don't! You can start a new thread for each painting. If you have updates to the same painting, just add them to the original thread.


EDIT: I see that the painting is already in the Studio and Gallery! I guess I should have looked there before I replied here!

01-26-2014, 09:23 PM
Great cherries, Sunil. I especially liked the flecks of snow you got, was that a scrape and press the scrapings in technique? You captured the water or ice sheen around the stems perfect. Well done!

01-28-2014, 05:49 PM
"Spring Thaw"


This was done on Canson MiTienes 9"x12" Paper using Sennelier, Rembrandt, and NuPastels.

I like parts of this painting, but there's a lot, I think, that's wrong with it.

Here's what I've noticed:
1.The stems of the berries are too thick
2. The water drops aren't all hanging in the same direction
3. I think I used too much white in the water droplets, especially the ones on the dark "mini berries"

I'm sure I've missed some things, so please! C&C to your hearts' content! I wasn't really comfortable with this subject, but wanted to continue working outside of my comfort zone. Water drops and the "wet look" are entirely new to me.

As I said in another post, I'm not sure when I'll be able to do more paintings, because I've injured my wrist, and as yet we don't know if it's broken or badly sprained. We're snowed in (Imagine! In Louisiana!), so I won't be able to go to the Dr. till at least tomorrow! :-(

01-28-2014, 06:13 PM
Rebecca, so sorry to hear that you hurt your wrist. Here's to a quick recovery!

I like your painting! I think you've done an excellent job! The stems may be a bit thick, but it wouldn't be noticeable without comparing it to the photo. I actually like that the water drops are not all hanging in exactly the same direction. The directions are not so different as to be noticeable and reality is never "exactly the same" since the wind, the shape of the berries and the location of the snow and ice on each one might make the drops slightly different. I don't see too much white in the drops either. They are important in the painting, so contrast is good!


01-28-2014, 07:29 PM
Well done Sunil on the berries. The snow looks good as well.

Rebecca you did the berries as well. As Don said the ice on the berries may well have affected their weight and thus the angle of dangle - very realistic.

01-29-2014, 09:05 AM
Rebecca, yes the direction of the drops is off here and there. But there isn't too much white in them, the contrast is perfect. Trust your eyes on this sort of thing! I love the way you got the atmosphere and mood of the piece.

Shape of the twigs could be tweaked along with narrowing them. I can see how you had a hard time getting them thin enough, but with work I think you could trim them down and get their lines cleaner.

01-29-2014, 11:14 AM
Okay, please tell me how I can go about thinning the stems without leaving that tell-tale smudge! I like the picture, but those stems are the one thing that's bothering me!

01-29-2014, 12:51 PM
Okay, please tell me how I can go about thinning the stems without leaving that tell-tale smudge! I like the picture, but those stems are the one thing that's bothering me!

Well, next month we will be working with negative painting - which is the use of the background colors to shape (and trim) the foreground objects! I'm not sure there are any tricks to use negative painting to trim your stems - just carefully use the background colors to narrow the stems. In all likelihood, some of your negatively painted strokes will trim the stems too much, in which case you will need to go back and fix-up the stem. Alternating between "positive" and negative painting is the norm when trying to refine shapes in a painting, it seems to me. Worst case scenerio would be using the background color to cover the stems and then repainting the stems with a thinner (or sharper) pastel.


01-29-2014, 02:00 PM
Aaaah, I see! I'm going to have to try that. Unfortunately, it will be a little more difficult because my background is a blend of colors, but I REALLY want to fix it, so I'll try my best!

01-29-2014, 04:56 PM
well, I don't know if anyone could tell the difference, but here is the picture revised:

It was taken with a phone camera so apologies on the quality!

01-29-2014, 10:03 PM
Looks good to me!


01-29-2014, 11:39 PM
Very nice! I like the tweaks and even with the phone cam, they're visible. Love those rain drops! Beautiful light in this painting, Rebecca. Frame it.

01-30-2014, 02:06 PM
It's been a great month of contributions... I've learned a lot and look forward to the next challenge!
Thank you all!

01-30-2014, 05:35 PM
Nuts, I've just seen this challenge but it's a bit late to take part since it's the last day of the month tomorrow!! I'd like to join in next month so will make sure to look at the thread!! :)

01-30-2014, 07:09 PM
Nuts, I've just seen this challenge but it's a bit late to take part since it's the last day of the month tomorrow!! I'd like to join in next month so will make sure to look at the thread!! :)

Yes, we move on to another topic next month - and this thread will be closed - but feel free to use the references and post your paintings in our Studio and Gallery anytime!

And, actually, since next month's topic (negative painting) is related to this month's, you might want to compare techniques. And I won't mind at all if someone posts a back to front painting as part of the discussion!


CM Neidhofer
01-30-2014, 08:47 PM
Yes, we move on to another topic next month - and this thread will be closed - but feel free to use the references and post your paintings in our Studio and Gallery anytime!

And, actually, since next month's topic (negative painting) is related to this month's, you might want to compare techniques. And I won't mind at all if someone posts a back to front painting as part of the discussion!


Darn, I lost track of time also! I wanted to try the kitten again, and maybe a couple of others. Ah well, try again next month!

01-31-2014, 06:34 AM
I'm sorry I haven't commented or been around since the beginning of the month. Now I've run out of time as I'm going away for the weekend in an hour or two.
I just want to say it's been a great month, lots of participation in the challenge and much learned I hope.
One I must just pick out for comment is Jiemin's Ice and reeds. It's absolutely brilliant Jiemin! I thought mine was good but it is well surpassed by this one. Great work. See you all next month for the next lesson!