View Full Version : Potato Plant

08-21-2015, 03:26 AM

Title: Potato Plant
Year Created:
Medium: Acrylic
Surface: Canvas
Dimension: 20x16
Allow digital alterations?: Yes!

This is from a reference: https://www.google.com/search?q=potato+plant&safe=strict&source=lnms&prmd=is&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0CAYQ_AUoAWoVChMI0fHiotG5xwIVBXceCh34xQvd&biw=360&bih=615#imgrc=J-Lu8O_OBWQiuM%3A

I was especially wondering if there are any ways to show more depth in the background, and about how to show more texture on the potatoes without doing fine detailing.
I would also love critiques on parts I haven't mentioned.
In addition, tips on taking straight on photos of paintings? Mine are always a bit slanted.

Mark Szymanski
08-21-2015, 04:09 PM

I used the transform tool in GIMP to straighten the image. Maybe this is how it looks?

08-22-2015, 12:13 PM
Cameras have distortion when up close. Scanners avoid that problem but whether or not they produce better images is another question; I've gone back to the camera. I work on reducing the parallax. You might also try using the zoom and standing back further. I use GIMP too.

I can not see how to give more depth by focusing on the background. How about lighter values for the potatoes? I like it a lot, impressive!

Mark Szymanski
08-24-2015, 04:53 PM
I have been chewing on this one for several days now. The painting parts are quite nice already. Most of the potatoes read to me as "potato", shapes are varied and seem to be done with confidence for the most part. There are a couple of them which seem a bit forced, but many are very well done. :clap:

This is a tough painting to do, since the original composition is rather lifeless. This much like a portrait of some nondescript person, in nondescript lighting, against a rather blah background. Potatoes lit by a flat, non colored light, perhaps too much post processing, or lit via an HD series. Bravo to you for tackling such a tough subject.

So if one is to tackle something like this, a mass of objects to be treated as a unit, I think first off, you need to figure out why you like this photo. Perhaps you like the potatoes themselves... perhaps you like the leaves... maybe the graceful arc of the stem work and the lace type lattice work within a potato plant. I don't know what YOU find interesting, so I will go with what I find interesting and maybe it will give you an idea or maybe not.

The problem for me with this so far is it just seems rather lifeless. Kind of seems to be three, more or less equal horizontal bands - potatoes bottom third, main bunch of leaves about middle third, back ground with the bit of protruding leaf in the upper third. Nothing within this design is jumping out at me as the "subject", all parts seem equally designed with equal amounts of detail and color (for what they are).

So for me, I would begin to focus on the "big" design. What is the focus of the painting... I like potatoes, they have graceful, yet powerful stems, an interesting design to the leaf and the attachment to the main stem gives some really cool opportunities for negative spaces. The colors in the stems and leaves react with the light differently allowing for transmitted light within the leaf. The potatoes themselves are boulders... strong, full to bursting with stored energy, oddly shaped by forces underground. When they are dug out from the ground there is always an anticipation of the unknowable quantity and quality of the potato. I like those properties a lot, so for the sake of argument I will focus my subject as the potato, and let the remaining elements of stems leaves and background support this idea. The trouble in this design, is the potatoes are front and center, making it more difficult to design the rest.

My idea is to think about what is the pattern I see within the potato pile. They are sitting randomly in the photo and rather evenly lit, but there is a pattern I will attempt to emphasize... what is the light doing within the pile...

I squint my eyes, and move around the potatoes and come up with something like this.


Just a quick sketch to find a flow within the chaos. Your flow could be much different. I did a half dozen sketches (though probably should have done more) and came up with this - maybe not the best design, but it will suffice for the illustration of principle.

Next is to attempt to overlay this onto the potatoes themselves.


I draw the light and dark pattern while attempting to lay it onto the potatoes. Where I increase the light, I will purposefully decrease the edges between the potatoes to make them less individual and more as a cohesive group. Receding some while bringing others forward to give as much depth as possible... kind of like the Syndics of the Drapers Guild by Rembrandt... the potatoes are lie in a line against a flat background.

In any event, I would next design the ground to support the potatoes to give the sort of lines to lead the eye in where I want it to be led in.

Following that, consider making the main stems of the potatoes a bit stronger, thicker, and more robust thereby giving contrast to the thinner more flexible leaf stems. By finding the straight within the curve of the main stem reaching towards the top of the picture, you'll help to counteract all of the roundness of the potatoes and the delicateness elsewhere within the plant. Making the stems a bit darker as they recede from you will help to give a feel to perspective... you could fuzz a few of the edges if you wish. Design the pattern of which stems and leaves you include (if the potatoes are the subject) so it is interesting as spots and yet leads you from thing to thing back to the subject.

I would really think about figuring out the background. Darken EVERYTHING, then bring out only those lines which lead you into and around the painting. I feel this background is a wall paper whose pattern is built to get you back to the front of the painting.

Just a few rambling thoughts on this... Sorry it was so rambling, I have been up a long time today.

08-26-2015, 05:52 AM
Here are the two absolute golden rules of representational art (art which aims to actually represent an object rather than interpret it):

1. Better grey than garish: Always mute colours - almost nothing in life is a pure chroma or particularly bright, especially a human or a plant surface....so tone down any bold colours by using a very thin wash of grey mixed with an oil/turps medium.
2. Anything in the shade always loses colour: Hold a bright object like an orange in a position where you can see a bold, strong shadow fall over half the object. What do you see? The orange in the shade loses most of its colouring and you're left with a dulled down tone with far less visible chroma.

The aim, therefore, would be to go back and start removing the colour from any parts of the painting which are in fact in the shade. I'd get some burnt umber and start adding in some really strong dark values at the horizon line of the painting. Another thing I'd definitely do is drastically limit how many of the front leaves are showing a strong reflected amount of light - by doing so you will create a strong, bold focus for the eye. That's entirely optional though.

Otherwise, it's a good effort and well observed.