View Full Version : Resuming work on lion cub painting after 20 yrs
05-14-2011, 09:38 PM
This is the painting that became my roadblock for many years. I began it, and did most of the work on it, way back in '88 or '89. Then I started to struggle with it and put it away. (I did not have Wet Canvas back then!) In 2007 I pulled it out again and repainted the background and then struggled with the foreground, and again the painting was put away. I foolishly told myself that before I could play with oil paints again I needed to finish this painting. (Finally just a few months ago I decided to ignore that "rule" and I'm glad I did. I've enjoyed making three more paintings, none of which were so difficult as this one.) But I do think this painting has potential and it is once more on my easel, and I hope that you can help me with some critiques.
My reference material is a photo taken by my mother in Kenya, in Maasai Mara National Park. The other cubs and some lionesses were relaxing in the grass but this cub was sound asleep in a little "cubby" hole in the tree root.
My reference photo -- a 4x6" print -- did not have that background. There was a distracting round bush and not much else. I chose the trees from another Kenya photo I have. Now I wonder if it throws my lighting all off? I am not sure, but it seems I ought to be having cool lighting, with warm shadows. What do you think? Should the background have some violet and cool browns rather than the "golden glow" I thought I wanted? And maybe the lit areas, like the top of the tail, ought to be cooler to reflect the sky? Maybe the first thing I should do is try out some options in my graphics program.
Making the foreground grass, as perhaps you can tell, is something that scares me as I'm not at all happy with my attempts so far. I may try to find examples in books on oil painting. It seem like I should be able to indicate massed areas of grass believably, rather than painting individual grasses.
Please feel free to offer any other thoughts. I welcome all the help I can get and hope to make a good painting out of this.
I should mention that it's a 20" x 27" canvas, painted in oils.
I think I had better wipe it down with a damp cloth to clean it before beginning to work on it. Any other suggestions? The paint has been kept quite thin.
That knot hole on the side of the tree to the left of the cub has been added boldly with the expectation of being modified, and the side of the tree will need some of the gray texture added to integrate it with the root. (The original tree had much less texture to that area of it than on the root, but I realize I must do what the painting requires even if it means departing from the reference.)
05-14-2011, 10:00 PM
Karen, I get the feeling that you are putting details from the reference in that draw the eye away from the cub. There is almost too much busy-ness and detail going on with his environment, and I agree with you about needing cooler colors. That would emphasize him and his warm coat a lot better. That soft gold you have in the sky and in the grasses is lovely, but it distracts from him as well. You will want to keep some of it to maintain color harmony throughout the painting, but the browns in the tree shapings should be softer-edged and the textures more loosely applied. The tree's browns could be cooled down by adding ultramarine or gray to the mix.
It's going to be difficult, considering his size in proportion to the big canvas, to make the cub stand out, unless you really de-emphasize his surrounds, and he is key to the painting's success. Do not make anything in the painting have more contrast than is within your cub.
Could you upload the reference; that would help with any critiques. Or both references...
05-14-2011, 11:42 PM
To me the subject is the magnificent tree and the cub is the secondary subject and a wonderful surprise! However, if you wanted to make the cub the focus I would cut 25% or so right off the left of the painting - try putting something to block that area and see what you think. Darkening the top background would also help focus on the cub. That's my 2 cents - enjoy the process - you're doing great!
05-15-2011, 12:23 AM
Thank you both for your input! It was my hope that the eye could enjoy the tree first and be delighted when it discovered the cub afterward. But I do agree, Nancy, with your comment about there being too much busyness, and after playing digitally with the image for a while tonight I find that darkening and somewhat neutralizing the background helps to simplify. There is now almost a spotlight shining on the cub, simply because I've been working towards a cooler light (and darkening the background).
Also, I came up with the idea tonight of cropping the painting (before I read your post, Nancy). I was reading something else on WetCanvas that had to do with composition, and I realized that I had my cub smack in the middle of the picture, and also that I could help fix another bothersome area -- the grass -- by having less of it! Here's my digital revision. I'll be interested to hear what you think.
If I crop like this I hope I can crop to a standard stretcher size so that the painting will not require a custom frame. Let me see.... It would be 18" x 24". And it seems I should be able to find a stretcher in that size. So then I would be trying my hand at re-stretching a painted canvas, which will be another new experience.
I keep getting comments from people that they can't understand the large dark area (the side of the tree). It looks like a cave or something. My husband told me that, tonight, even after looking at my digitally-revised version. Maybe I could wrap the edge of some bark up around the bottom of the bark-less diagonal part, to integrate those two areas.
05-15-2011, 06:08 AM
I think it is a lovely painting and will be perfect once you have addressed the problems.
I would crop it differently (I have cropped so it is 18 x 24), see attached image - uploader isn't working for me at the moment :(
I would darken the area at the bottom left, to make the paw stand out more, I would lighten the trees to the upper right, so they lose importance, but still retaining the sunlit feel (unlike my photoshopped attempt).
I would also punch in some more darks around and under the cub and some more highlights to really give him oomph.
It is a fabulous painting, I really love it!
Why do I now have "In the Jungle" song going round my head now?
05-15-2011, 06:36 AM
I have to disagree with the others here - personally I think that orange cub is standing out just fine. I'm sure you could push some more with value and edge contrasts, but basically the thing is working. Here's my only suggestion:
That knot hole on the side of the tree to the left of the cub has been added boldly with the expectation of being modifiedDo the rest of the tree like that: boldly, having given yourself permission to modify later on. Then put the painting away for a while, then bring it back out. You may be surprised how much of it you like and want to keep. I get a lot of my painting done this way.
05-15-2011, 09:02 AM
Hi Karen,it's a lovely painting,and worthy of your determination to finish.
The one thing that struck me when first looking,was my brain was a little confused by the tree root that looks like a blanket pulled over the body of the cub.The shape of the root follows too closely what could be his torso and hind leg laying underneath.When you mentioned his tail,I was looking down in the grass by what I thought was the underpainting of his hind leg,then I realized his tail was coming out of the cubby hole.
I think your crop alleviates some of this and is a better comp.Keep going,you're almost there!
05-15-2011, 03:20 PM
Karen, the value range, rather than the color range, needs to have more expansion. The reason it's easy to confuse the cub with its surrounds is that your values are limited. More chiaroscuro, please!:D
Here is a desaturated copy of your most recent work:
05-15-2011, 07:06 PM
Wow, Nancy, you really put your finger on a problem there, and it's so easy to see in your grayscale image. Thanks to others, also, for mentioning the need for punching up the contrast. John, I never realized before how that the hump in the tree root could correspond with the concealed body of the cub. I will keep that in mind as I work and try to alleviate that. Thanks for the encouragement to paint boldly, llawrence! I can always use a bit of that sort of push... :> There seems to be raw, somewhat ragged or striated, wood on the further surface of the tree, and that's not coming across in my painting. So maybe I will put a line of gray tree bark over the top edge of that. I'm continuing to experiment in Photopaint, and just now have scanned the original print that I was painting from. See attached. It will be so much nicer to view it on my large flatscreen monitor while painting, this time around!
05-15-2011, 07:48 PM
With all due respect to all the other fine suggestions, this painting is excellent as is right now. If it were mine I would consider it done. The position of the cub is perfectly balanced right now and I would not crop. Perhaps the reason that you put this away is that there is really nothing to add to it to make it any better!
05-15-2011, 07:52 PM
Your getting some very good advice here, and this is already a wonderful painting. It is going be absolutly fabulous when your done.
05-15-2011, 08:14 PM
Thanks, carolkay & Don. It would be nice to not have to crop the painting! I'll give it my best shot to complete it in this format, leaving the cropping for a decision to make at the end, and hope that I will agree with you. Personally, I can't feel that it is finished right now, so will be "messing about" with it -- but am pleased that you think so.
06-30-2011, 12:21 AM
This piece is quite charming and totally worth all of the time and effort to make it work!
06-30-2011, 02:16 PM
I have been very slow working on this, but am happy with the changes so far... Much more to do and I hope to work on it a bit more today. For years I have been working full time. But I recently arranged to get my Thursdays and Fridays off every other week -- and I love having the special treat of a four-day weekend every other week!
This is a photo I took with flash a couple evenings ago, taken from an angle to avoid the glare on the wet paint.
I've been trying to get more contrast and to pay attention to light temperature. I'm figuring on it being a bright overcast day (so, somewhat diffused lighting), and cool light with warm shadows. Need to continue to push it a bit further. I'm not quite finished with the side of the tree. The dark foreground is just an underpainting for the grassiness that will be painted there.
The David Sorg easel is a wonderful birthday gift from my husband and is only a couple of months old. I have no studio so it fits into our dining room area -- beside my computer desk! :>
For this painting, I have pulled the easel down towards the floor and am comfortable sitting at it to paint. The easel can lower very close to the floor. This 20" x 27" canvas is not too large for me to easily work on the top part of the painting while sitting down in my desk chair, and in face I believe I have an additional eight inches below, if I wanted it -- which I would if the canvas was larger.
You'll see the reference photo (a photo that my mother took), perched on the easel below the painting. But this time around I'm actually making much more use of a digital image on the computer screen. (The original was a slide, and I have scanned all those old slides.) It is a real pleasure to paint from brightly lit images on a large computer screen -- and be able also to zoom in to the image, so that the screen is filled with any area I want to concentrate on. (Even if the sharpness decreases with zooming, it still isolates the area from adjacent distractions.) Also, if I have other photo references they can be on the screen as well, and I can scroll around from one to another.
I use CorelDraw (which is similar to Illustrator for those of you who are more familiar with the Adobe products) as a work area for my various reference photos, and clicking the Edit Bitmap button takes any selected image on my page into my image editing program of choice -- Corel PhotoPaint -- for any edits I want to make. Clicking the Save button there will instantly update the image in CorelDraw. I've been able to try out various edits that way before applying paint to the canvas and it has been very helpful. -- This is much more than many of you will want to know but might be helpful for some.... I'll include a screenshot to help you visualize what I'm talking about. The computer has become a very helpful painting tool for me.
07-01-2011, 08:29 AM
...I think I had better wipe it down with a damp cloth to clean it before beginning to work on it. Any other suggestions?...
Yes, just one: frame it! Cub, background and the whole composition, either of construction or chromatic, are great!
01-03-2012, 11:16 PM
I thought I had actually finished this painting last weekend. Would've been nice to finish it as the year closed. And I even signed it. But more tweaks are pressing. I have edited a photo of it with the far distance much brightened -- so I need to do that. Gives it more space and explains the combination of blue sky but fairly low contrast in the foreground. I don't yet have the texture of cracks in the bare wood, either, which I've added to the digital edit, so that's another thing I need to do. The root that comes down to the bottom of the painting is currently straight, as in the image to the left, but my artist sister is hoping I will curve it. So far I'm leaning towards liking it best straight -- but what do you all think?
01-08-2012, 11:48 PM
I believe I had some responses here to my question above but they've gone missing -- I guess because of the server trouble that WetCanvas had a couple days ago. But I posted my question separately, also, and it was almost unanimous that the curved root looked better. Thanks for all the advice and encouragement -- and I've now completed my painting. If, after I've lived with it a bit and the paint has had time to dry, I think the wood grain on the root that's coming towards the viewer looks a bit too obvious and mechanical, I might modify it, but otherwise, it's done. I'm eager to move on to the next one! :)
01-09-2012, 12:58 AM
Yes! That's just right!
01-11-2012, 12:23 AM
Thanks, Kathy! I have enjoyed looking at some of your posts. I especially love the bird painting you call Snuggles! I aspire to just such looseness. In my next one I will be making that a priority. We'll see how I do! :)
01-11-2012, 12:36 AM
You are too kind Karen...not nearly approaching your league!
01-11-2012, 03:00 AM
good for you persistance pays!
vBulletin® v3.5.8, Copyright ©2000-2013, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.