View Full Version : The Spotlight - February 2012 - Blocking-in

01-31-2012, 10:35 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 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 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…Blocking-in!

There are many ways to start a painting. Some folks start with a detailed line drawing. Others might start with a few sketchy lines that don’t seem to depict anything! There is no right or wrong way, but this month in the Spotlight, I’d like to concentrate on one method – blocking-in!

Like most art terms, “blocking-in” might mean different things to different people. For the purpose of this Spotlight, when I refer to blocking-in I mean laying down big, general shapes of color to start the painting. You might start with a line drawing sketch, or just a few sketchy lines to help with placement, but the goal is to create large masses of color with little or no detail at this early stage. You might skip the sketch completely and just use the side of the pastel to block-in shapes and silhouettes. In my opinion, because you can cover large areas quickly with the side of a pastel, blocking-in with pastels is easier than when using oils, acrylics or watercolor.

There is no right or wrong way to do your block-in and there are many methods you can use. Hopefully, in this month’s Spotlight, you’ll want to experiment and try out some of them!

Some various ways of doing an initial block-in are:

- Using the darkest colors of the largest masses so that you can then work light over dark.

- Using a mid-value color for the largest masses and then adding both lighter and darker colors in subsequent layers.

- Using a gray or monochrome block-in and then adding your color layers (a favorite method of oil painters). Since it is often hard to judge the value (how light or dark) of a color, using grays, or a series of values in one color, makes it easier to get the values you want.

- Using complementary colors for the block-in.

- Using warm and cool colors to divide light and shadow.

I’m sure there are other methods as well, but these are the ones that we’ll be concentrating on this month!

Some things you might think about when doing the block-in:

- In some cases, you might not want the colors of your block-in to mix with the subsequent layers. This may be especially true for a complementary or gray block-in. In those cases you might consider using spray fixative after your block-in layer.

- Another way to “solidify” the block-in layer to keep it from blending with the next layers is to use a wet underpainting. You could use watercolor paints, or use water, rubbing alcohol or mineral spirits to brush over your pastel block-in.

- In many of the block-in methods, you will be covering most, if not all, of the block-in with subsequent pastel layers. So, if you are blocking in with pastels, you might want to keep the block-in layer very thin and loose. You don’t want to fill the tooth of your pastel paper with the block-in!

- If starting with a dark underpainting and working light over dark, keep in mind that this will work better with pastels that can cover most opaquely. In my experience, the softer pastels are more opaque and cover better. If you are using hard pastels or pastel pencils, you may find that you can not get the coverage and brilliance of color that you want when layering over an existing darker color. As most things about pastel, this will vary with the brand of pastel and also what type of paper is used.

Here’s a quick look at a couple block-ins I put together from this reference photo:


In my first example, I am choosing a color that approximates some of the actual “final” colors. For the main objects, I have tried to find a mid-value color that will allow me to add darker colors for the shadows and lighter colors for the highlights. I am just trying to put down the largest color shapes I can. Since this stage can be done very quickly, I can get a good feel for the composition right away. I can easily revise the composition without having spent a lot of time on a detailed drawing.


You can see that I have ignored one of the background shapes on the right side of the background. Modifying the reference is always an option.

My strokes at this stage are fairly large and loose. I’m not concerned with details at his stage.

My next stage would be to add either the darks or the lights. In my case, I did the darks first. My shapes begin to get smaller, but I am still trying to interpret the painting in terms of color shapes. You can see that I have also begun to add some lighter colors to the apple on the left, as well as the light on the stems.


Continuing with adding the lighter colors….


At this point, I began refining the shapes a bit more, adding reflected light, some of the darkest shadows and more subtle variations in color. The level of finish is, of course, up to you!


My next example is using a complementary color block-in. The idea behind the complementary block-in is that complementary colors affect each other in certain ways. Complementary colors look more intense when placed next to each other. In other words, red looks more intense when placed next to green (and vice versa). They also cause some sort of visual “vibration” which can add energy to a painting.

On the flip side, complementary colors, when mixed, create neutralized or grayed colors. So, I would consider using a fixative or wet underpainting technique when using this approach to avoid creating neutralized colors (especially in those areas where you want intense color).

Here’s my attempt. This is a technique I have never done before! But, hey, that’s what the Spotlight is for – to try new things and experiment! In this case, my block-in is a little more advanced than in my first example - I blocked in the shadows on the apples with a darker green so that they would be closer to the dark value of the final reddish shadow color.


OK, pretty weird looking, but I know that these are not the final colors! At this point, I continue with pretty much the same colors I used in example no. 1. Since the point of the complementary color block-in is to take advantage of having complementary colors interacting with one another, I try to leave some of the block-in showing through.


The apples are pretty much complete, now on to the rest….


Hmmm…I’m reasonably happy with it! It looks fairly similar to example no. 1. Should I have let more of the background color show through? Maybe. Or maybe not! It’s something I can experiment with in future paintings!

In my portrait lesson from a couple years ago, I demonstrated my usual method of starting a portrait with a monochromatic block-in. You could use more values in the block-in, but I usually use only 2 values to depict light and shadow, like this:


Here are some examples of block-ins by artists far more skilled than I:

The first two are examples of a warm-cool block-in:

You’ll recognize Charlie’s painting from last month’s Spotlight. She posted this thread in the Gallery.


Maggie Price has this yellow/blue block-in demonstration on the web:


I chose the following demo mainly for the handling of the tree and ground. Notice that the tree is built up layer by layer from dark to light.

Dark to light Paula Ford demo:


Complementary underpainting by Michael Chesley Johnson:


Monochromatic underpainting video by Michael Chesley Johnson:


For more information about the method that Charlie demonstrated in her demo, here is a fantastic class that she taught a few years ago that is in our Soft Pastel Learning Center:


The references:

Photo by Sunshiney Chelle

The next two photos by MandyB


Photo by Honza

Photo by Paula Ford

Photo by SweetHuia

Remember, you can modify the references any way you want. Feel free to crop, delete, and/or rearrange the elements!

If many of these methods are new to you, don’t worry! Just have fun and experiment! You can use these methods, combine them, or come up with block-in strategies of your own! The block-ins can be very rough or more precise – it’s up to you!

If you can, please post a pic of your block-in along with your final painting!



01-31-2012, 11:53 PM
Oooooh this looks like a delicious exercise!

Missed you guys and gals!

Think I'll give some of these a whirl - there's much to learn and practice here!

Thanks DAK!:thumbsup:

02-01-2012, 02:30 AM
Wonderful theme - aww thank you for thinking of me in the references! I scrolled down them happily thinking of experimental block-ins and then the last one - awww, how can I resist that lovely profile? Yep. I know which reference I'm going for first!

Heck, I might try her more than once with different types of block in, like you did with the local color and complementary color ones. I liked the complementary version a little better in the final, the bits of green gave it a lot of zing and also a slight step closer to nature. Red apples, especially streaky ones, often have small speckles or streaks of yellow-green in them!

But pretty cats with big white whiskers have their own interesting markings too. I love the sunlight modeling her face, the photo has unified masses and that'll make it very easy for me to develop the shapes for her.

LOL - it also looks like she had a Near-Candle Experience, judging by her eyebrow whiskers. Somebody thought the heat was nice and got one half inch too curious...

I've got only one frustration about this one. For some time I've meant to use different colors of Colourfix primer and paint the first layer either as a black and white notan with primer or choose several complementary colors for the masses and paint in the shapes with the primers. It'll have to wait till I get that box from Arkansas though.

02-01-2012, 04:27 AM
Thanks again Don! Another thoughtful and comprehansive intro.
I'm taking 2 of the pics to my art group this morning so I'll try to get a block in done on both and post them later.

02-01-2012, 01:12 PM
Thanks Don, another great lesson! I'm itching to have a go!

02-01-2012, 01:21 PM
Thank you Don. Very interesting and illuminating.

02-01-2012, 01:23 PM
Hi Don thanks again for another great spotlight exercise I will try to get in a couple of them. They are really great references and the links where super informative Thanks goes out to all the artists involved.

02-01-2012, 03:42 PM
Hi Don and fellow artist friends,

The ref photos are really nice this month. Don, thanks for the time you put into this. Here's a simple "Block In" and the resulting Kirche.




02-01-2012, 04:12 PM
Dave, I love this! A simple block in, in which the Church gleams, followed by your own unique interpretation of the photo. Wow! Such energy in this and it's turned out so much more exciting than the photo!

I did two block ins this morning but have not yet photographed them. Tomorrow.....

02-01-2012, 05:53 PM
Would love to try this albeit being a mere pastel amateur.

02-01-2012, 07:28 PM
Dave, great start to the month. Your block in really made the final result sizzle! I think you "got" the lesson very well!

02-01-2012, 07:33 PM
Dave, What a great start to the Spotlight! It looks like the fairly simple block-in helped create a very energetic and yet unified painting!


02-01-2012, 11:04 PM
Don--FANTASTIC information! You really pulled the best of the best all together for this Month's Spotlight and beautifully illustrated the concepts! All of the artist's efforts are wonderful, and it will take me a bit to work my way through Charlie's class. :thumbsup: Oh darn! February is such a short month!

Thanks, again.

02-02-2012, 01:21 AM
Dave, brilliant start to the Spotlight! I love the way you did the church. That shines with color, it's such a good focal area. It worked out well! I was surprised that blue hue worked so well behind the foliage, sometimes that comes out more "underwater" than "Forest shadows" but the whole painting is so high intensity that it just looks jazzy. You walked right up to the line on color harmony in this one and made it work.

I love the sky too. Those variegations and soft strokes with hue changes and the same value are gorgeous.

02-02-2012, 07:44 AM
Dave - Wonderful job! I love the colours you used for your block in. It has made your final painting vibrant indeed!

02-02-2012, 08:22 AM
Finished one I blocked in yesterday :clap:

The Strawberries. I decided to do a complementary block in here and I then brushed over with a damp brush before I started the next stage.

I think maybe this is the first time I have done 4 distinct stages in a painting....usually after the first stage I just find myself bringing parts to a finish!

So I've posted all 4 stages.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/02-Feb-2012/189061-Block_in.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/02-Feb-2012/189061-stage_2.jpg
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/02-Feb-2012/189061-stage_3.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/02-Feb-2012/189061-finish.jpg

Now I'm thinking a crop may be better. What do you all think? See below


02-02-2012, 08:36 AM
WOW what a great start to this color-ful spotlight!
Ruthie...Fabulous strawberries!
Dave....Love the color and energy in your Church painting! How did you blend the background colors?

I started the apples yesterday, but I didnt have enough good light, so today I will get back to it and brighten it up. (I hope)

02-02-2012, 08:39 AM
Ruth, Absolutely lovely! I like the final crop, not too close - just right! Thanks for showing the stages!


Winny Kerr
02-02-2012, 10:01 AM
Wow Ruth...that is terrific...beautiful.

02-02-2012, 10:08 AM
Don- Thanks for the examples. I always learn something here even if I don't participate. thank you.

Dave- you took the photo that inspired me the least and made it sing! I love it.

I'm hoping after I see how others block in color, I can learn to make better choices when I start my own work.

02-02-2012, 10:11 AM
Ruthie- Nice one! thanks for showing the steps.

02-02-2012, 10:49 AM
Beautifull Ruthie! Love the stages and the final crop. You were fast with this one.:thumbsup:

02-02-2012, 11:27 AM
Don, this is an excellent subject and your teaching is top-notch! I usually sketch, sketch, sketch, and transfer, then start the painting, this is more direct, and the results are wonderful! Time to break some of my bad habits! :o

Dave, your church/kirche is wonderful, found myself scrolling between the block-in and final, back and forth to catch what you did. (Got quite dizzy, had to stop :lol: ) Very skillful, excellent colors, bright and fresh!

Ruth, thanks for posting all stages, as always your work is an inspiration. Beautiful, soft, shimmering, I love the strawberries!

02-02-2012, 01:06 PM
Thanks everyone for your comments about my Strawberries. I've just looked at it next to the image, on the computer and to me it looks dull in comparison. This is the problem with using printed images as reference. I push the colour but it still doesn't match up to the image on screen.

The apples were next. For this I did a block in loosely based on Charlie's technique - without having time to familiarise myself with it again. I think I didn't make the best choice of colours for the block in. But here it is, along with stage 2.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/02-Feb-2012/189061-block_in.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/02-Feb-2012/189061-stage_2.jpg

I've worked more on this but stage 3 and 4 are combining together again! I know I have some work to do on the values and I'm feeling this one may end up cropped too! More tomorrow........

02-02-2012, 01:23 PM
Ruthie--Your strawberries are luscious! So plump and ripe looking! When you added the pale pink(?) highlights! Excellent! Especially that "C" on the frontmost berry!

I, too like the crop. :thumbsup:

Dave--The undercolor blocking on the church is fantastic! The white of the church looks so brilliant and shining with the yellow underneath. And the burgandy under the blue is also so very nice on the steeple of the church.

Great Spotlight!

02-02-2012, 02:41 PM
Thank you artists for your comments. ncgirl, you made me laugh. :D

Although some think pure hues elementary art, I actually seek pure hues because I'm surrounded by muted hues in all of life: 40+ hours a week in my beige office at work; in the gray skies over Frankfurt; and in everything surrounding me physically every day. Art is an escape from this dullness. :thumbsup:

Kadon, please join in. It's a welcoming group as you can see. Diversity of viewpoint and skill level strengthens all of us. I've enjoyed being an amateur in this thread.

Those strawberries…luscious! The complement approach in the block-in ensured real energy and vibrancy. The pink / peach background left warmth in the final version. Nice range of reds, too!
The apples, and your colorist (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=527268) approach--jeez--how well that worked. Gentle violet shadows drift away from the bowl and single berry; I can see the penumbra ! That orange stripe of the bowl…the right value, hue, and shadowed on the right; and, best of all--reflected onto the front strawberry. Expert. And, prize-winning.

I don't blend because my Cro-Magnon fingers smudge the dust and leave nothing but mud. The upper edge of the trees along the sky "blended" easily since the underpainting was a hard pastel and the top layers soft Schminke. I did must wipe the sticks with each pass to keep them clean. But my paws do not play in the pastel. I can't wait to see your sketches--you always inspire me.

I might try the apples next--they are irresistible with the light and color opportunities.

02-02-2012, 03:31 PM
Thank you Karen and Dave!
Ha Ha!! My Apples have got mixed up with my strawberries! Sheesh, two files with the same name and now I can do nothing about it - except, maybe, make a mixed fruit salad!

02-02-2012, 03:50 PM
haha Ruthie.

Mixed fruit is looking pretty good these days. :D

02-02-2012, 04:28 PM
Thanks everyone for your comments about my Strawberries. I've just looked at it next to the image, on the computer and to me it looks dull in comparison. This is the problem with using printed images as reference. I push the colour but it still doesn't match up to the image on screen.
Ruth, First your apples are looking excellent!

I think it is fair to say that one shouldn't really compare their paintings to the image on the screen. Your computer screen emits light - so everything is brighter and more colorful than a painting or print which only can reflect light. That's why slides always seemed more "real" than photo prints! That's the way I look at it anyway!


02-02-2012, 06:12 PM
Just read this thread. Ruth wonderful strawberries! And I adore that little crooked church photo. I may have to try that.

02-03-2012, 04:23 AM
OK, stepping up to the plate and having a go at this. I chose the cat photo and have attempted to do a block in. The only problem is I now don't know what to do next.

I used Faber-Castell pastels for this so far. I am hoping it will look less like a mess as things progress. Coming from the coloured pencil world this way of working is both familiar and strange all in one.




02-03-2012, 06:06 AM
Ok, for some reason I just couldn't stop so I carried on with the cat. I see that I have made some errors in the drawing stage, as his cheek is too rounded and I think his eye is too far back but I am quite pleased with this. His tabby patterns also changed as I went long and no longer bear much resemblance to the original.

This was done on Pastelmat in Faber Castells and finished off with my unisons.




02-03-2012, 06:46 AM
Ruthie, wow! I knew you'd do something spectacular and your strawberries are wonderful. I love them. I even like the crop, though I also liked the top of the uncropped version too. It was a very subtle improvement, it looked good before cropping. There's more attention to the focal strawberry with the crop.

Carol - great block-in on the cat. Pretty good form especially on the block-in. You are fighting a couple of proportion problems but they're not what you mentioned - trust me, I'm the Cat Man. I've probably done more cat portraits than human portraits by now. That's also where you turned a photo of a pretty queen cat into a handsome tom.

His eye is not too far back. That's correct placement for the bottom of his eye. His eye is too small. Cats have very large eyes in relation to their heads, it's the same proportion as a human baby. You made his eye the size it would be for a human being in profile - a really fun and interesting point is that some proportion errors are unconscious and natural.

If you look at the eye as a triangle shape, the bottom left point is placed perfectly. Make the eye about twice the size, bringing the curve forward and the top up. It's shaped perfectly, just too small, and placed just right. Check the photo for exact measurement in relation to the size of the head, adjusting feature size is very tricky sometimes.

The other proportion change between the block-in and the finished cat is that his nose should be out at the end of the muzzle, starting the line that angles back toward the bottom of the chin - just as it does on the block-in. Move it down and over to the right by a bit over 1/4" at the size of the painting on screen - bring it out so the angle of the line of the pink part continues the line of the front of the muzzle and your cat will snap into proportion as a healthy male.

Both proportion errors can be fixed easily. The happy thing about pastels is that you can just brush out something that didn't work and go over it again without the problem colored pencils have - where an hour of careful lifting to fade out the old color still might darken a light highlight, pastels can be erased right down to the paper and redone or covered up light over dark. Removing all the loose pastel before going dark over light helps.

Other than the proportion problems, he is spectacular! I love how you got his fur texture. I love how you did his markings, the value contrast and directional strokes are so beautiful. I love the way you rendered the eye too. You've done a great job with this cat painting. Whiskers are one of the trickiest bits and you got them fantastic. He's got personality. She looked like she was stalking a bird in the photo. In your painting, he looks like he's standing in the yard challenging another tom on the sidewalk.

02-03-2012, 07:16 AM
Thanks Robert,

I knew something was wrong, but couldn't put my finger on it. The luxury of altering something after the act, is definitely a benefit!

OK, I have lengthened the muzzle and moved the nose down. I also enlarged the eye a bit. I think it is an improvement. Wonder why I didn't see what was wrong myself? Guess that comes with practice.

Does he look like a girl kitty now. :)


Sorry the photo came out wonky, and there appears to be a colour cast. The white hairs under her chin do not have a greenish tinge in real life, they are crisp and white.



02-03-2012, 08:35 AM
Carol, that was a good block in. You got the values and followed it from there. You also got good advice from Robert (who is definitely an authority on Cats!) Your cat turned out well. The fur looks really soft.

I finished the apples this morning. I think, because stages 3 and 4 got mixed together, I may have put in too much detail. Anyhow, I'm not as happy as I was with the strawberries.

Here it is, about 10x8 on pastelmat.


02-03-2012, 11:01 AM
I just love this topic this month. Not only did I get a lesson, but with every post I am getting examples as well. I must admit I don't block in paintings. I am always frustrated when I start a painting and complain a lot through the process. Fortunately, I do get a good end result.

Ruthie your strawberries and apples are beautiful. David, you too did a great job on the Church. I was kind of fearful of that one because of all the green and trees, but you made it look easy. Carol, I see how blocking can help you to see areas that need correction. Your final image is lovely. Everyone, well done.

Yesterday, I tried this process of blocking using monochromatic colors, and to my surprise, I wasn't as frustrated as usual. I found you could see results much sooner by following this method. I started doing the flower arrangement, but got too into it and forgot to take a photo.

When I get home, I will send you what I have done so far. I used 4 color values (hopefully you will see them). Then I started working different areas. I still have a long way to go and I think(?) I will be happy with end result.

Again, thanks all, I feel this lesson is going to make my painting experience much better. Cali

02-03-2012, 11:14 AM
Oh yes! Carol, she's beautiful and you just turned her back into a girl! She's adorable. Wonderful painting! Thank you for doing the changes - she was just short of perfect, they really weren't that big as far as difficulty of changing but make all the difference in getting the likeness.

Such a pretty girl. I want to reach into the painting and scritch her right under the chin, which would either get her banging her head into my fingers or flattening her ears and looking annoyed.

She looks sweet. Her expression changed again, she looks sweet and lovable now, a little less fierce than the photo reference. Glorious painting. Well done!

Ruthie, I can see what you mean about them being a little high on detail, but it's still a nice painting. I like it. The strawberries have a more intense jolt but this is cool. It's got beautiful light streaming into it.

It might sound odd, but looking at it I think if you went one, maybe one and a half steps darker in the undefined background and gradated it, the fruit wouldn't look as overdetailed. Right now the background and the light area on the table are one undefined mass. It wouldn't violate that mass if it went one step darker and was distinguishable - the hard edge of the table from the more distant background so diffuse I can't see any detail in it. Especially if the hard edge of the table was hardest near the fruit and dropped off slightly softened as it leaves the immediate focal area of the group of fruit.

I don't know if that makes sense, but it's what came to mind looking at it.

Actually looking close at the edge of the table, it's visually soft and beyond that there are little flares of light right at the edge that I like. I just want to see it drop off to "this is a different plane" one or two steps darker, less lit up, like the brightest light is right there on the table and the diffuse background isn't right in the highlight. It violates where the light is, if it was that bright back there I'd see something back there, some pattern of light and dark rather than the fog machine going five feet away from the table.

02-03-2012, 12:58 PM
Carol, Very nice job on the cat! That edge lighting is working well!

Ruth, It doesn't seem too detailed to me. And you've got the whole painting wonderfully "bathed" in light!


02-03-2012, 01:14 PM
I love the cat! I'm also learning as you do, and appreciate your detailed posts.

Still life apples aren't still at all. They jump off the page. Excellent work.

02-03-2012, 01:15 PM
Ruthie, your apples just glow! You are way too hard on yourself. I see what Robert is saying about the drop off but it would be subtle. I think you did a great job.

Carol, good work on your cat. The changes made a big difference! ( not that I could see the male/ female thing like Robert but he really knows his cats.

I started on the flowers at art group on Thursday will finish maybe tomorrow It think I lost my way a bit with the bg colour. Hopefully I can post tomorrow. Ruthie and Dave make it look easy but it isn't.

02-03-2012, 01:19 PM
Carol....Love the colors in the texture of the cat! well done!
Ruthie...Your apples gleam in the sunlight!
i love seeing the stages...
I couldnt resist trying the apples, but i forgot about scanning each step, and just kept going,,,,,


a variety of soft pastels....

02-03-2012, 03:36 PM
Hi all I am behind this month what with trying to set up a website.
David fust love your chapel in the blue woods. very poerful indeed.
Ruthie what a beautiful job on the stawberries the finished piece looks great and very interesting to see your block in strategy.ditto for the apples Carol great job on the cat funny how we sometimes can't quite find the error but when it is pointed out it becomes so obvious. very good finish though.
Judibelle Lovely job on the apples you do what I do on my wip 's I get so wrapped up that I forget to photo the stages. works out to about 2 posts a start and a finish.

02-03-2012, 05:13 PM
Paula Ford has taken some beautiful landscape photos. Something about this mysterious Tennessee land....

I made some fun...out of bounds...yes. A Block-In helps me differentiate temperature. (All other rules are off.) Simply: the sunny field gets warm colors; the sky, mountains and trees, not so much.

Re-posting ref for context:



02-03-2012, 05:48 PM
I too thought I'd try the field first - I love these gorgeous photos of Tennessee!

I should note I almost never do block ins on the whole painting at one time.

I did the block in with pan pastels, on canson about 6 x 10 inches.

Stage 2:

Stage 3:

Stage 4:

02-03-2012, 06:45 PM
WOW! Pippa that is stunning! For someone who doesn't use this method you certainly did a brilliant job. That landscape vibrates. It is wonderful!

Well I was still not quite satisfied with my cat. Something was niggling at me. So I went and looked at photos of side views of cats heads online and worked out what was bothering me. The nose was still not right. It was too small. So I worked on that and brought it down a little further again.

I was also concerned about the dark markings down the back of her head and neck. They looked pasted on and not soft and "hairy". So I worked on them a little too. I added some more gingery tone to the back of her ear and worked that colour into her fur in other places too.

OK, NOW I like her. :) What do you think? Did the changes help or was I just being finicky?





02-04-2012, 08:47 AM
Carol great job I think Robert will be proud of you,you have it bang on in my opinion. Straightening the muzzle did the trick.
Pippa Brilliant job on the paula ford Pic your sky is just awesome and your foreground tree is perfection.

02-04-2012, 09:11 AM
Judi, Very nice job on the apples! Lots of energy in this one!

Dave, A colorful, vibrant take on the Tennessee field! Love those clouds!

Pippa, Very nice painting! A great example of letting the block-in colors show through and create visual excitement and interest!

Carol, Yes, the changes helped! Nicely done!


02-04-2012, 03:57 PM
Hi friends :grouphug:
Anyone else trying those elusive apples...?

After finishing a "Charlie (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=527268)" Block-In (which ended up covered more than I wanted) I painted this to Stage 3 (of 4).
Now, I must sleep on this to help see the problem areas. Any critiques are warmly accepted. :thumbsup:

I lke the apples for the most part, but...
-- The grapes aren't working. I haven't added highlights yet; and the leaves are problematic.
-- A bigger problem I think is the value of the table. I converted this to gray-scale to help assess value relationships. It looked right in gray...but I still get the feeling the apples aren't working with the table.

Cheers, Dave



02-04-2012, 05:27 PM
Dave, I think this is looking quite good! In answer to your questions - in my opinion:

- The highlights will make the grapes.
- The leaves are such a minor element that they may need little done to them, perhaps just a few "light" shapes.
- In your block-in, the lightest parts of the table are slightly darker (or so it seems to me) than the apple highlights. In my painting, I notice that the apple highlights are slightly darker than the lightest parts of the table. I think the apple highlights will work better if they are either lighter or darker than the light areas of the table. I might also consider darkening the cast shadow which has become quite a bit lighter in your stage 2 - and especially if you decide to darken the lightest parts of the table.

Keep in mind that these are just my opinions!


CM Neidhofer
02-04-2012, 06:00 PM
I've started mine. Took pics of the first stage. Working on second stage. I'm using Canson paper for this. I'm running low on PastelMat and what I have ordered has been on backorder. So thought I'd try using up some Canson. Not sure how many layers I will get. Probably only one more to finish it. But at least I got it started a lot earlier than last month!

02-04-2012, 06:58 PM
I think you are all wonderful! It is generous to have some experts joining in and showing us the 'how'...not to mention Don who has a gift for bringing out the best in people. I will try to have a go at something.....eventually as you are all so inspiring. Thanks Dave for encouragement.

02-04-2012, 07:52 PM
I've started the apples too. I'm at stage three/four on the apples and stage 2 on the grapes. Sigh. Those grapes are tough! If only I could convince myself to stop avoiding them, I'll be all set.

Cazza - your cat is positively glowing!

And Dave, your apples are looking very vibrant. Love it!

02-04-2012, 09:52 PM


Julibelle, Nice job on the apples.

Dave I think your apples are going just fine and your field is wild!

Pippa I really like where your feild ended up. The red showing through looks great.

This is my effort on the flowers. The end colour is not really showing true and my manipulating didn't really help. I think I got a bit lost with the colours in the middle.

9 x 12 om Wallis with soft pastels.


I had to draw this one to place everything. Will try without drawing next time.

Stage 2 oops went in the wrong place!

Stage 3


Last stage 4


CM Neidhofer
02-05-2012, 12:00 AM
Very nice, Jen! I thought about doing the flowers, but decided to start with the apples. If I have time, I might tackle the flowers....maybe....lol

Here is the first step in my apples. Yes, I cheated and did a grid, as you can see. :o Still kinda lazy after all the crud we've been dealing with.


02-05-2012, 07:13 AM
Dave...Nice job on the apples!
Christine...i like the start of yours....
Jen...GORgeous! I love everything about it!

02-05-2012, 09:42 AM
Jen, The flower painting came out very well! Wonderful color scheme!

Christine, Good start on the apples! Grids are a great way to help place the objects in a painting!


02-05-2012, 11:38 AM
So I decided to give the field a go...don't know why I always decide to work on these at 3am! working on this made me realize I am seriously lacking in greens.

what greens are other people using? most of my sennelier ones are too scratchy, but I am happy with the 2 townsend and 2 ludwig ones i have...

5" x 7", on pastelbord

02-05-2012, 04:58 PM
Ok I am finally finished with the apples, or should I say 'finally finished with the grapes'? Because the grapes for me were definitely the difficult part, especially at this size! This is about 8 x 10 on hemp coloured canson, with unisons, senneliers, and holbeins.

Here is the block in. I tried to go for complementary colours, but in retrospect these were poor colour choices. I'm not at all worried about getting the shapes right here, that'll come later.

Here is stage 2 -this is almost another block in itself. The dark areas are much darker now, and I'm still not worrying about the shapes.

And here is stage four. Of the finished painting, I like the front apple the best. This is a night photo, so it's reading a little warmer than IRL. Some parts of the grapes are too dark, and the shadows are off a bit, but I'm done fussing. :)

02-05-2012, 05:37 PM
Wow! That turned out beautiful, Pippa! Those grapes positively glow! Excellent job.

SoulBro82 that is an amazing piece of work and so small! Well done.

Turpintine45 I love your vase of flowers. I wish I had the courage to tackle that one. My sister in law loves sunflowers and they look rather like sunflowers to me. If I was able to do such a great job as you, it would make a lovely birthday present for her.



02-06-2012, 02:07 AM
Gorgeous paintings everyone! I'm hoping to tackle one tomorrow but I'm a bit limited with only 12 pastel pencils...

02-06-2012, 03:37 PM
Lots going on since I was here last.
Thanks for comments about my apples. Robert, you are right...the BG needs to go a step darker. I'll see to that.

Judi, Nice apples! You got the BG that step darker, as Robert suggested to me, and it works!

Dave, another wild one! Absolutely no rules with this. You know, I simply cannot do that!!! And the apples, great, really! Have you more to do? I know you said you hadn't got the highlights on the berries. By the way, I believe these are redcurrants, rather than grapes. Not that knowing that makes them any easier to portray!

Pippa, Love to see the stages! This has turned out great. The sky is fantastic! And the apples....they are fab! Just how I wanted mine to turn out.

Carol, Good amendment to the Cat!

Jen, those Flowers are great! And I love the swirly coloured BG, very energetic! The vase could maybe do with a tweak shape wise but overall this is a really good piece. Not sure if I'll do this one. I already did a painting from this ref.

Christine, good start on the apples with the complementary underpainting.

Soulbro, that is soooo good! I love the strokes and the texture you got. Good job!

Jaime, You are a bit restricted with only 12 pastel pencils, but go for it anyway! I look forward to seeing it.

02-06-2012, 04:53 PM
Well I took a stab at the church. I won't post the stages as they aren't reflective of the final result. I actually brushed off most of the painting at one point and started again. I think I will actually try this one again with the colour scheme I settled on in the end.

This is about 5 x 5 on canson (it's amazing the abuse canson will take!)

02-06-2012, 06:06 PM
Christinenice start on your apples.

Soulbrogood work on the field I like your rhythmic strokes and the greens work perfectly.

Pippa I really likemthe colours on your church. Well done.

Carol I used to avoid painting flowers because I thought they were too hard but then I tried a few on the spotlight and WDE and found you just have to pick out the lights and dark shapes and they are no harder than landscapes. So go for it and try!

Ruththanks form the good words. You are right the vase shape got lost in the final. I had originally let the vase and bg sort of fade together but then I changed it and lost the form.

02-06-2012, 06:36 PM
Oh wow. Lots and lots posted since I went offline to conserve bandwidth and then got lazy. I had to write my responses offline, they ranged over three pages!

Judi - wonderful light-soaked apples! I love the way you captured the light streaming across them. Beautiful motion in your strokes too and good colors, a nice soft feeling to the whole thing. Even though you didn’t photo the block-in, I know you must have done one and it worked well.

David, wow! Great block in and awesome idea using it to differentiate temperature. I like how you did that jazzy final version of Paula Ford’s Tennesee Landscape. Cool to repost the photo with it too.

Pippa - that is so beautiful. Thanks for sharing all four stages of yours. The final version is so magnificent. Love the telling little details in the finish and the way all the other stages peek through. Gorgeous textures. Really excellent sky holes too.

Carol, your final version on the cat is wonderful. Yep, her nose was just a touch too small and you softened the texture of her fur and warmed the colors. What you’ve done now is made her look silky and well groomed. Well done! She gets better at every stage! As Ruthie said, wonderful Cat Amendments. I've got one right on my lap at the moment and you've given her the softness of my cat's fur, she seems so much better taken care of now.

Nutrition can make a big difference between a cat having dull unkempt easily matted fur or silky, shining, touchable soft fur. We now know she's eating better and her people aren't just settling for the cheapest discount cat food. She is now a prosperous House Cat, owner of a nice house with good devoted humans and a nice yard for her territory, not just getting by because everyone's short on funds.

She was a little waifish before. That's what the fur texture did for her. I still want to cuddle her but I'm not feeling the urge to steal her away and fix her dinner unless she asks, you still have that sweet personality front and center in this painting! She seems spoiled sweet, in a much more lovable mood than the cat in the photo, who was Pure Huntress at that moment.

David - on your Stage Three I can see some of the things that might be bothering you. I ran into similar problems with hues for quite a while, you're getting really good with the method.

One is the yellow hue in the penumbra of the shadow. That bright yellow doesn’t read true, it feels like the penumbra would be pinkish if it’s going to be warm or bluish if it’s going to be cool, falls within the lavender range. I know you did it to unify the warms on the apple with the table, but that’s the part of the shadow that doesn’t read true for some reason. Something doesn't harmonize with it, that's not in the same light as the ... leaves and grapes. So don't change that till you read the other suggestions and fix up the grapes and their leaves in Stage Four. Your apples are nearly done, by the way, they look fine, one or two or all three could be left at Stage Three.

The leaves are still too emerald. I can see the turquoise and even bits of orange, but looking at the value shifts in the leaves going down to violet in the shadows should make them read true. Also more pale orange in the highlights. Highlights on leaves don’t usually remain full saturation, they come through as tints with a good deal of white in it. I see orange bits but not as highlights, there’s no value shift. Modeling the leaves with value and leaning toward yellow-orange tints in the highlights over what’s there and violet mid-dark shadows and browns in some of them (dark orange) should help sort out the leaves. It’s tricky. Forget they’re leaves and treat the bright green the way you treated the bright red of the apple and they’ll work. Or if you want to keep them that undefined, mute them towards olive green, a yellower green, not the mid-value mid-hue emerald because that's more like broccoli than grape leaves.

Grapes, harmonize a little of the green from the leaves to break the monochrome look, also bring the blue-violets from the shadow of the entire mass into accents in the crevices. Use the green you decide to make the final hue of the green leaves, not the original bright emerald unless you decide that's the hue of the leaves. My feeling is that even if they're bright green they are one step yellower than that emerald. That's memory of seeing fresh grape leaves on the vine.

It’s looking good. I hope this helps. You're at "The Ugly Stage" in some ways where a few little fixes can make the whole thing suddenly shine and be so right. Those are the things I'd do to it if I was mine, others' mileage may vary and I'm sure Charlie would have better suggestions as she's far more experienced with the Method. Trust me. This one will be spectacular in its Stage Four. You have not wrecked it. Stage Three is often disturbing.

In fact on full reflection, bringing that yellow orange into both the leaves and grapes will make the yellow penumbra pop into being right and you won't need to mess with the shadows at all. Use a tint of it on leaf highlights though, grape leaves get a bit shiny.

Jen, fantastic flowers! So glad to see all of your stages, even the sketch! I love the shadows, you have sensual cool shadows on the vase in this one. It’s got moody lighting! Looks natural! Looks edging toward twilight, very peaceful and serene, gorgeous. The vase looks timeless and magical. So do the draperies. Soft edges on flowers and less dramatic lighting on them gives it that feeling of the start of the blue time, romantic and fey.

Christine, nice block-in on your apples. Cool grid method, great proportions and lively sketch. Occasionally an early stage looks cool in its own right, with the complementary sketch lines your block in is awesome as it is.

SoulBro, beautiful dreamy painterly Tennessee field. I love it. You’ve got a wonderful mood going and beautiful strokes, the strokes are sheer poetry. Gorgeous variation of color and texture.

Pippa, WOW! I love your luminous apples and grapes. You got a mood too - strong sun, before the Golden Hour, a warm light, a summer light, absolutely wonderful translucent grapes and opaque shiny apples. Agree your foreground apple is the best but only by a hair. Those luminous grapes are the focal point to me. My mouth is watering. I want to eat them. Fortunately I had some yesterday or I would be running out to the fruit market for real ones.

Pippa, wonderful Autumn Church... so haunted looking and yet serene, it’s like something out of a story. I love the way the dark distant trees fade back and the building has that warm light from within, sunset glowing over it, gilding the drying autumn glass, matched by warm oil lamps and candles inside. Eerie in a good way. Seems like a happy ending illustration, they saved it from being torn down or something, one of those stories that manages to be moving without being preachy.

I'm itching to do mine and with the cat in my lap I may have to wait till he's done. It's not nice to put pastel dust in your cat's fur, it puts it right into his tummy. He would also get annoyed if I put a towel over him as a dust catcher.

Okay, he got up for a snack so I can start on my first one.

Here is my block in.


Yeah right. Me, doing the little country church instead of starting with the cat. I need to make some serious changes from this block in, things I realized after I did it.

I knew everyone would do this lovely little jewel of a rural church as a lovely little jewel of a rural church on the East Coast. But I grew up reading H. P. Lovecraft where New England and pretty much the entire Eastern Seaboard was Horror Country. The height of the big dark spooky pines immediately reminded me of the "Church of the Starry Wisdom" where some cultists worshiping evil alien invaders took over a nice little church like that, painted it black and devoted it to unspeakable horrors described in deep purple prose. Lovecraft was to Purple Prose what Terry Ludwig V100 is to the color purple. He made it work and every imitator sounded so stupid. Including me as a little kid, but that didn't stop me.

So this one is going to be reworked from this block-in into a nocturne. That'll make it a really scary Church of the Starry Wisdom, seen by moonlight so that it's even visible and maybe lit from within with a traditional creepy green glow that did show up toward the end of the story when the narrator predictably went mad right before getting devoured by aliens. It was one of those "last page in the journalist's diary" things and a "never seen again" newspaper epilogue.

My first idea was to attempt the faded black church by day, in the story it got run down for most of a century after the cultists got eaten. That won't give enough contrast against the creepy dark pines that are so amazingly tall. But picking it out in moonlight will. Maybe early moonlight while there's still a lot of blue in the landscape.

So I hope that no lovers of little New England churches get offended at my diving right into one of my happier boyhood memories - Creepy Stories! It makes me feel about eight wishing I was Lovecraft crossed with Frazetta.

I'm also giving myself a stretch with imaginary light. The moon can sit pretty much where the sun is casting all those interesting shadows. But the streaming green alien light from the window has to read true just like creating firelight in the wrong color, hit the grass and bushes and so on, look like the crazy box is nothing natural. Getting the right hue for "alien" is tricky since "green neon" isn't alien at all, that'd just look like a bunch of teenagers took over the old cult building to throw parties in with loud music and colored lights.

Or maybe when I'm done I'll write that story set eighty years after the 1930s reporter investigated the cult building never to be seen again. A peeling black church in the middle of the woods would be a great party hangout till someone opened the creepy box...

02-06-2012, 07:34 PM
All super stuff as per the norm:thumbsup: -(Robert sums it up better than me:) ).
Gonna def give one of these a go,missed out last month,and this month- having trouble understanding complimentary colours etc.:confused:
cant figure out how you can paint a red apple blue underneath etc.and still end up with a beautiful red apple.
Again amazing stuff everyone.


02-06-2012, 07:38 PM
Footnote to my last post. The nice thing about H. P. Lovecraft stories is that they are out of copyright. During his life he shared all his horror backstory with a bunch of his friends. To this day Hollywood borrows all the town names and all the monsters because no one has to be paid, so Lovecraftiana comes up in every horror movie as predictably as characters from Dracula. To this day new "Lovecraft Mythos" stories go to print in magazines. All I have to do is make up a new story, the setting will go on forever.

Plus I have my self-set challenge of changing the light and picking a hue of light that looks exactly creepy enough.

Present day... rural New England is lit up with towns and highways. I lived on the East Coast for some years. Clouds at night get lit from below with a spooky sulfurous orange-cast light so that could provide enough contrast to the darker sky between them. Trees would be silhouettes of deep green going all the way to black sometimes, but there was a particular stage of evening they hadn't quite got there yet that was wonderfully spooky.

In all the years I lived there, when a friend drove me home in the evenings from spending a day with him, I'd stare at the sky and the hills and try to memorize that landscape. It was always quietly spooky and mysterious. So that's some of what I'm attempting with this, the lavender under the trees is just to mute the green and harmonize it.

02-06-2012, 08:04 PM
I just love this topic this month. Not only did I get a lesson, but with every post I am getting examples as well. I must admit I don't block in paintings. I am always frustrated when I start a painting and complain a lot through the process. Fortunately, I do get a good end result.

Ruthie your strawberries and apples are beautiful. David, you too did a great job on the Church. I was kind of fearful of that one because of all the green and trees, but you made it look easy. Carol, I see how blocking can help you to see areas that need correction. Your final image is lovely. Everyone, well done.

Yesterday, I tried this process of blocking using monochromatic colors, and to my surprise, I wasn't as frustrated as usual. I found you could see results much sooner by following this method. I started doing the flower arrangement, but got too into it and forgot to take a photo.

When I get home, I will send you what I have done so far. I used 4 color values (hopefully you will see them). Then I started working different areas. I still have a long way to go and I think(?) I will be happy with end result.

Again, thanks all, I feel this lesson is going to make my painting experience much better. Cali

I forgot to send this. I will be painting with my Tuesday group and hopefully will finish this tomorrow. Thanks, Cali

02-06-2012, 08:20 PM
Cali, this is a beautiful start! I can see the monochrome orange and the warm hues you added to it so far - you did get going on the flowers - and at this stage it's lovely. Looking forward to the finish!

Brian, to paint a red apple blue underneath etc. takes several layers. It helps to really look at the colors and not just think of the apple as red. Also letting some of the early layers show through gives a painting richness.

If you underpaint all the shadow areas in cool colors and all the highlight areas in warm colors, that gives the light a lot of richness. Then you work over that until you reach the final colors.

Church of Starry Wisdom
5" x 7" color Conte on light blue Canson mi-Tientes smooth side.

I'm not sure if this is done or if I should refine it a little more with eerie green light hitting the undersides of some of the pines on the right. It's either done or close to done, but could be refined and detailed. I put some holes in the roof because it's been left to rot for almost a century, should have made it more crooked and slumped it in too. Maybe the aliens sneak in now and then to level things up.

Are we spooky yet? Also does it look like that ugly gray you get when black paint fades so much it's not black?

02-06-2012, 09:38 PM
Soulbro, Very nice job on the landscape! In my opinion, sometimes a limited palette of greens actually works better than having too many to choose from. I know what you mean about the Senelliers - there are some hard scratchy ones. My greens are primarily Mt. Visions.

Pippa, Wonderful job on the apples! It's just bathed in light! Nice job on the church, too!

Cali, The vase of flowers is looking good! Looking forward to the finish!

Robert, Nice interpretation of the church! Yes, it's a spooky nocturne!


02-07-2012, 10:42 AM
Pippa, lovely Church! It fits in with, yet stands out from, it's background beautifully!

Cali, Great flowers! The colours you've used are so warm and vibrant.

Robert, firstly, thanks for the story which set up your Spooky Church painting! It came out well! Will you use this idea for a more refined piece sometime?

I thought I'd try the landscape one. Doesn't inspire me much but I was not in a creative enough mood to make any changes. I did it on half a sheet of canson (smooth side) with a sort of complementary block in. Took about 45 mins. This helped me try out my new Giraults on canson too :)
About 4.5x7"



So, then I had another half sheet of canson. So I did this one again! This time the block in was sort of almost local colour. It took less time, around 30 mins.



Needless to say I'm not happy with either of them.....sigh.....me and landscape just don't get on :(

C&C if you think there's any point :D

02-07-2012, 12:35 PM
Robert, your spooky nocturne church is so interesting. I love how it turned out and so different from the original.
Callie lovely glowing start on the flowers,
Ruthie, I really like both of these paintings, the different under paintings produce a different mood. Looks like you nail landscapes just fine!

02-07-2012, 01:22 PM
Don - appreciate the topics/themes you have been presenting
> they relate very sensibly and are good foundations .

i'm enjoying the posts/pics from everyone :)

Ruthie - i like both of your interpretations of the landscape .
> both have colours/focus/value that work very well imho .
>> it was only after i had thought about your pics that
i looked up the ref pix ,
and , yes , they are not precisely accurate , but
each has Your quality using the ref pix as a springboard .
> considering time spent , the issue of blocking-in is well met imho .
>> you may not choose to dig in further with these , but
keep them around for a glance from time to time ...
you can always add a mark/colour now and again
in the future
for something you feel escapes you now .
artists great and small have/had paintings waiting for ' that something ' :)

regards to all

Ed :}

02-07-2012, 02:56 PM
Working on incorporating your highly-appreciated thoughts. I had also sensed a value conflict between the table surface and the apples, specifically highlights. Both at this point, they compete. The eye doesn't know where to camp out. I'll repost any change...

A dramatically warm and inviting finish on the apples. The grapes (currants?) fought me, too. But you turned them into wine. ;) Beautiful value and hue contrasts--they are the focal area of this painting, unlike the apples in meine.
The church? Darling. Your warmth (yellow on the grass and church face) contrasts so nicely against the cool (forest--appropriately lacking detail, and muted sky). Very nice.

Fantastic. The movement in the background, love it. Also love the cool side of the vase--and you worked in the design…so nice. The vase shadow…well done. The flowers dance in the light, jumping from canvas. I'm impressed.

I don't know the grid approach, even though I am fascinated with geometric art. I do these weird geometry sketches by instinct. I'm most interested in your geometric approach and how it sets up the spatial presentation to the viewer.

After seeing your work over the past months, can't say I'm surprised. You impress me every single time you post. I love the impressionistic approach to the field. Atmospheric perspective, check. Color harmony, and hue, intensity, check. Value, form, appropriate control of detail, check. Extremely well-done.

Thanks for your encouragement. Sometimes I wake up at 3 am … middle-of-the-night… and purposely walk by the sketch to see if it means something different when the mind is in a different state. I do know currants…and suspected they were not grapes. I wondered if you had rendered as currants, too. Currants are not an American thing, but we eat and see them here always.

I owe you for the expert critique. Your thoughts mean so much and help me become a better expressionist. I have many comments but will spare the thread members and PM you instead. Hopefully I and others can learn from your critique. I love your "State Three is often disturbing" comment ....because, it's true :)
Your commentary about Horror Country had me ROFL. :lol: At least your feeling your art and letting spirit control the outcome. It's not paint-by-numbers. It's also how I feel when I do something "wild". I don't like rules…and even though I deeply respect controlled, rule-driven painting, I do like to veer off on intuition.

The heat, the passion in that sunflower rendition. Vincent himself would look twice, and blush. I love it.

Ruth, I like the shape / form harmony between the tree and the clouds in the sky. The block-in warmth set the stage for a vibrant painting. Your value expressions are solid. The painting pleases me, as your posts always do.

02-07-2012, 03:24 PM
Jen, thank you! I wasn't fishing for complements, honest. I do have a problem with landscape. I know that I cannot create a good vibrant flowing landscape with my normal attention to detail. So I go the other way and try to make them really loose. Then they don't look right so I start with the detail..........sigh.....landscape is the thing I most want to master but it still eludes me. You know, I've done more landscapes than any other subject!!!

ED, thanks! It's good to know you think I am at least on the right track. Becasue these were on canson, and because I am heavy handed, I doubt I'll be able to make any significant new marks, but I will keep them around for a while and stare.......

Dave. You are becoming really poetic in your analysis of other's work! And I mean that sincerely, not joking! Thanks for your encouragement!

CM Neidhofer
02-07-2012, 04:07 PM

I don't know the grid approach, even though I am fascinated with geometric art. I do these weird geometry sketches by instinct. I'm most interested in your geometric approach and how it sets up the spatial presentation to the viewer.

Hi David. Nothing special about the grid method. I think of it as cheating when I don't want to concentrate on the drawing part. I print my ref and mark off the centers and draw cross hairs with a ruler. Sometimes that's enough to help judge placement. Sometimes I add diagonal lines through the center, sometimes all that and equal squares as well, like I did here. It just helps me get correct placement and proportions if I'm having a hard time or want to sketch something very quickly and get to the painting part.

02-07-2012, 06:16 PM
Hi All,

Here is my final painting of the Vase of Flowers. Hope you like it and as always an honest c&c would be appreciated. Thanks, Cali

I forgot to send this. I will be painting with my Tuesday group and hopefully will finish this tomorrow. Thanks, Cali

02-07-2012, 07:51 PM
Wow! Thank you for all the comments on my "Church of Starry Wisdom." Ruthie, yes, I probably will create a more refined version when I'm ready to go indie with the story either by itself or in a collection. That might not be till I sell it to a magazine though. Stories only have virgin North American Serial rights once, after that the reprints sell for half price and might as well be made permanently available alone or in a self published collection. It's a good candidate for cover story because I like how it came out.

Ruthie, I love the comparison between your two different versions. I like the complementary underpainted one a little more but they both came out well. A long second look and what they look like is different weather. The first one seems to be milder, more moist, a nice summer day. The second one where you didn't go complementary seems to have dog days heat, less wind, more that it's too hot to move out there and you want to spend that summer day on the porch with the fan and the lemonade with a lot of ice in it. They have completely different moods. My reactions have to do with my liking the weather better in the first one since they're equally well rendered!

I know your greater skills have you ruminating on fine points and somewhere in your mind is a third version better than either. Go for it. I'd love to see it. If neither did what you wanted, maybe going for more layering on sanded paper would make it shine and come out right to your own eye.

Beautiful finish, Cali! I love the way that warm feeling is still there, you didn't lose it when you refined it. I see literally only one problem - the curve at the base of the vase is too shallow. It should be a deeper curve than the lip of the vase because it's farther below eye level. You can eyeball this looking at any cylindrical glass set up so you see the top as an oval - the oval of the bottom will be much closer to round. Looking at a clear water glass is the best way to see it because you see the other side of the curve through it.

Don't feel bad either, ellipses stump painters who leave me in breathless awe at how good they are! They're one of the toughest things to get right in freehand. You came pretty close too, it's not like you have reversed ellipses showing a bent vase. If you bring the center of the bottom ellipse down by about the width of one of those horizontal bands, but keep the sides the same and smooth the curve, you'll get it spot on.

02-08-2012, 08:34 AM
Ruth, Wonderful job on the two versions of the landscape! If you can do these in 45 and 30 minutes than you should feel pretty good! They are assured and painterly!

Cali, Really like your vase with flowers! Beautiful warm color scheme! Nice job on the background drapes, too!


02-08-2012, 10:46 AM
Here's my first attempt at using soft pastels. I was looking for something sort of in between colored pencils & painting, & pastels may be the medium I was looking for :D

I chose the field, which was fun but man, it's hard to do grass when you only have 1 green. 4x6" on Stonehenge using set of 12 CarbOthello pastel pencils.


02-08-2012, 12:54 PM
Thanks Robert and Don!

Cali, I love the finish! And the cloth is stunning. Good work!

Jaime, a good effort on the landscape with a nice colourful block in.

OK, you only have one green.....but you have red, yellow and blue. You can make loads of different greens by layering and/or blending those colours. You can darken with black (or another very dark pencil if you have one) and you can lighten with white.

Maybe have a go at seeing what colours you can make with your 12 pencils. I think you'll be surprised!

02-08-2012, 01:25 PM
Good start on the landscape, Jaime! I like what the underpainting did to your final version, that green could have been pretty awful without the warm underpainting.

Black and yellow make a fantastic olive green. You can also sketch loosely with multiple colors, finger blend and then go on top of it. Try finger blending an underpainting and do some of the block-in areas with a mixed color using at least two pencils.

There's also blending with the tips of the pencils, going over a color with another color lightly to blend it. At the point where you have too much on the paper and can't add another distinct line, blending with the tips of the pencils is very easy to create soft edges.

Violet and orange are very good modifiers on a basic bright green like the one in a 12 color set of anything. Violet makes a good darkener that makes it look more natural, orange will warm it and make it more olive.

One thing I do when I'm dealing with a small set is have a sheet of spare paper next to me and try different swatches in combination. Sometimes it's just random tests to get what I want.

Other times I lay out a grid with 12 squares on a side. I fill all the squares in the grid with the colors on the top row in vertical stripes. Then go over them with the colors in the left side row in order from top to bottom working across the rows horizontally. Doing that creates a double layer of pure color marching down the diagonal and two versions of every combination - red with blue on top, blue with red on top look different.

That grid becomes a reference chart for all the easy two-color combinations possible with the set. It gets a little cumbersome if the set is much bigger than 12 colors but then if the set is 24 or larger it probably has all the basic colors I need.

You can also use soft pastels over pastel pencils or hard pastels. Texture of the Carb Othellos is very good, you happened to get the same brand I use.

Also try optical mixing, like cross hatching with two different colors or using small strokes of different adjacent colors. Pointillism makes a spectacular texture for an area or the entire painting. Any texture used over the entire painting will become invisible. If you don't like how the crosshatching looks, do that and then blend it and use accents of pure color on it for variation.

Optical mixing is why you can see anything on a screen. Think of your individual strokes as pixels. Your printer mixes everything with black, cyan, magenta and yellow using the white paper to lighten mixtures. It gets pretty decent color with an even smaller palette. So that's a technique you can use to get mixed colors even if you're not able to layer that much.

Egad, there's the 21st century explanation of pointillism. lol

Google a painter named Georges Seurat and look at images. He invented it before digital screens, cameras, television or digital printing. Also his paintings are beautiful, you'll enjoy it.

02-08-2012, 01:47 PM
Thank you for your lovely comments. Robert, I'm not sure I see what you are talking about, but I will re-read it later on and see if I can make that correction.

Jen, I love your version of the Vase of Flowers. I love all the colors you used.

Robert, I love that you turned the Church into a night scene.

Ruthie, Pippa, SoulBro, Christine, and Judie, you are all just a talented group. If I'm not mistaken, you all did the landscape one with tree. There isn't one that didn't impress me. Ruthie, both of your landscapes are very pleasing to the eye.

Thanks all for sharing your techniques. Seeing how you all block will help me figure out my next painting. Cali

02-08-2012, 03:22 PM
Wow! :heart: Thanks Ruthie & Robert for your kind words & useful tips! I can't wait to play around a bit more as I just got a 36 pencil set of the Faber-Castell Pitts to add to my CarbOthellos with my Blick 40% off coupon.

Might tackle the apples next.

02-08-2012, 03:44 PM
Popping back on-line after a nasty reaction to some meds. Feeling much better and working slowly on my painting. Should be ready to post in the next day or so.

I must say you guys are constantly raising the bar - what wonderful paintings are scrolling across the screen. They all bring a smile to my face.

Ruthie, that landscape is lovely and the apples - well what other superlative can I add? They are sparkling and ready to eat! :clap:

Judi, love your apples too - they are colorful and warm!

Dave, excellent work on the landscape, thank you for reposting the ref picture, keeps me from getting dizzy again. :lol: I think you did a great job on the apples, the grapes are challenging me too - I keep thinking if I just had one more color... hmmm...

Pippa, the landscape and church, fantastic, your apples - wow! Brilliant colors, really like the finish!

Robert, the church is fascinating, especially with the story behind it. As always, I so enjoy your fresh approach.

Cali and Jen, love the vase! A very complicated subject with such different approaches, Jen, yours is dynamic and Cali yours has such a nice glow!

Did I forget anybody? If I did, I apologize, all the work on this thread is fantastic!:thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:


CM Neidhofer
02-08-2012, 07:45 PM
Here's my entry. I did the apples.

Step 1

I decided to put all the steps in one post even though I already posted this step.


Step 2

Almost forgot to stop and take a pic!


Step 3...finished
I used Canson smooth side for this. I hardly ever use it any more, but I have like a pad and a half of it yet, so I decided to try to use it for Spotlight projects. Three layers was about all I was going to get with it, so I'm calling finished. Comments and suggestions always appreciated. I think the front apple looks a little flat.


02-08-2012, 07:47 PM
Jaime, Thanks for joining us! Nice job on the landscape! You've gotten great tips on blending! I think you'll notice that - despite just one green - you have achieved 3 or 4 varieties of green depending on what color your block-in is!

Christine, Very nice finish to the apples! You mention the front apple being a bit flat. If you compare it to the apple on the left, you'll notice that apple has a slightly darker value near the front/top of the apple where it turns into shadow. I think a similar touch of darker value on the near apple might do the trick! Just a thought! Great job all-around!


02-08-2012, 09:37 PM
I decided to try one of the spotlight photos. It is on a sample of Richeson black paper ... used sticks, pans and pencils. Overworked to the max, but guess I have to start somewhere. I am working on recapturing my drawing skills. Working with pastel sticks feel like I am wearing mittens.


02-08-2012, 10:02 PM
I thought I had commented on Cali's flowers and Jamie's landscape so hope the gremlins are not a work again.:eek:
So Calle love those flowers they just glow with warm light!
Jamie you did a great job with those twelve pastels. Robert gave you great advice. The good thing about pastels is that to can do a lot with a very few and the bad thing is that once you start you have to have more and more!!
Christine great job on the apples. I like seeing your stages. There is a nice light in the final
Norskgal nice job on the flowers. Your drawing skills are evident and don't look like a struggle. Welcome to the Spotlight.

02-09-2012, 12:02 AM
Christine those apples looks so shiny & tasty!
Carol I love your vase, & the way your background blends with the table cloth the vase is sitting on. Subtle, but still distinctive if that makes any sense.

Thanks Don & Jen for your kind comments. I love how supportive the WC denizens are! &...yes, I am already well into the acquiring stage. I just placed an order with ASW & I'm a sucker for "free" shipping deals. :rolleyes:

02-09-2012, 07:00 AM
Finished the apples and grapes, struggled a lot with the grapes.

Blocking in, paid special attention to the contact shadows.

Middle of the project, decided that the subject was fading too much into a pink background.

Discovered a small set of Rembrandts I bought some time ago, and finished quite happily. Shopping for more today. :D

Critique welcome, both public and private, be tough, I can handle it. :cool:


02-09-2012, 11:24 AM
Sandra, the apples look great and you have a nice shine on them and they stand out nicely against the green. The only thing I would do is darken the shadows under the apples.

02-09-2012, 12:52 PM
Thanks Jen, yes I see what you mean, I will make those shadows darker.

02-09-2012, 12:53 PM
Wow, alot of entries already, whew. Just went through all of them really like all of the different approaches to blocking in, and final results!!!!!!:clap: :clap:
I did the still life grapes and apples with three steps, may go back and tweak some areas.. Done on uart 600 with various soft pastels and some carb-othello pastel pencils..:) . Great Lesson on blocking in, Thanks!!!:clap: http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/09-Feb-2012/71359-SOtlite-block_in_still_life1.JPG http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/09-Feb-2012/71359-spotlite-block_in-still_life-2.JPG http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/09-Feb-2012/71359-spotlite-blockin-still_life3.JPG

02-09-2012, 02:12 PM
Great job Tammy - you did wonderfully on the grapes! The table-top is so nicely detailed, love it!

02-09-2012, 05:25 PM
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/09-Feb-2012/448181-DSC_0088.jpg Oh wow I can tell you it doesn't pay to stay away.( poem for the day) I will just say that you are all doing marvelously on these block in paintings I have never learn so much in 1 week than i have on this thread great stuff Don. Here is my field. I blockin with no particular method in mind and then washed with alcohol.
stage 2 another block in of different colours.http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/09-Feb-2012/448181-DSC_0089.jpg
next camehttp://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/09-Feb-2012/448181-DSC_0090.jpg

02-09-2012, 08:09 PM
Wow David I love those dramatic clouds! Nice blend of greens too.

Tammy nice job on the apples. I like the textures.

02-09-2012, 10:13 PM
Thanks Jen I appreciate the kind comment I got away behind on checking in and it was going to be quite a chore rembering Who did what but i will try to catch up you did a fantastic job on the vase.
Tammy nice work on the Apples.
Pippa your apples were excellent as was your chapel in the woods.

02-09-2012, 10:19 PM
Cali super finish on the vase.
Christine your apples were awesome such beautiful reds.
Sandra good job on the apples.
Robert super eerie chapel
David greenbriar great job on the apples love your bright under painting block in
Soulbro your field looked really good

02-09-2012, 11:36 PM
Wow! Nice work everyone.
Sandra those apples look delicious. Especially the left one :lol:
Tammy whoa, I love how you rendered the tabletop! I'm awful at "diverging" from the painting...must work on that.
David your field has a beautiful, soft feel to it. What size is that painting? Looks tiny!

02-10-2012, 07:32 AM

I decided to have a go at another spotlight photo. This time I chose the tree. I have done my block in as below...


Please ignore the bright white area on the right, that was light streaming through the window (bright sunshine on snow out there).

As you can see I have made some alterations to the photo. I moved the main tree over to the left and cut out the second hill/mountain so it was less repetitive. I also added a pathway leading into the picture, going through what will be a gate, and leading to the trees in the distance. If I get really brave I might add a person walking in the distance. :)

I may have to chop off some foreground as I see my horizon has crept up splitting the picture into two halves, which I don't like.

This is the bit where I get stuck. Not sure what to do next.



T Porter
02-10-2012, 11:02 AM
What a mess! I changed email address and then there was a complete break down in the system and I couldn’t post on WC. I could see the all the work going on and the WC system would recognize me when I entered the web site but I was lockout from being able to post. Who knows what that was all about, but I'm back now thanks the help of Paula Ford.:thumbsup:

WOW! There are some very nice paintings coming out of this month’s challenge.

Dave, the little church really pops and your apples have a lot of great color to them.

Ruth, your paintings are fabulous you’re handling this challenge like a pro. The reflective light from the plate onto the strawberries is beautifully done and the apples have a lot of dimension to them. Great work! I really like your first painting of the landscape. It has the most depth.

Jen, you took on the most difficult painting out of the bunch in my opinion and you handled it nicely. Congratulations.

Alvin, your piece is very painterly. Nice work.

Pippa, both of your paintings have the unity of a nice warm glow to them.

Robert, your church does have an eerie look to it. What no graffiti?

Cali, your vase picture looks nice you’ve given it a lot of dimension.

Sandra, it looks like you were able to find or produce a deep red in you apples good job.

David T, your landscape looks good. I like the dimensionality of the tree and the clouds have the appearance of volume too. Well done.

I’m not sure how much time I’ll have this month. I have a weeklong outing in Texas in a few days that I need to get ready for. Hopefully during the trip I can give a few feral hogs an all expense paid trip into my freezer.

I’ll be back in a little bit with my first painting this month.

T Porter
02-10-2012, 11:59 AM
Here is my apple study. The paper is dark gray Canson paper. I used the smooth side. To try and give the paper more tooth, I roughed up the paper’s surface with 80 grit sandpaper and then I sprayed the sanded surface with fixative to make the roughened surface stiff. Initially the paper’s surface was stiffer and it seem to have a lot of depth but I don’t know that it made that big of a difference as far as allowing the paper to hold more pastels.

The paper size is 13” x 13


Here is the first layer. After blocking in the colors I sprayed the surface with Fixative.


More colors added and the first bit of detail being put on the lower right apple. I was having a hard time finding a deep "blood red" red. I have five different sets of pastels and none of them have a deep red in them. I have a few sticks of Sennelier pastels and one of the sticks happened to be nice deep red that they make, but it is too hard to layer over the other colors. The best red that I found came out of the least expensive pastel sets that I have which is Gallery, Mongov. But I still had to add a blue-gray over the red to get a deep red color.


Here you can see how the blue darkened the red. The lighted area of the table is done using the tip that Charlie gave us last month. Mixing light blue, light pink and light yellow to produces the optical illusion of sunlit white.


Here I started on the grapes. The goal is to make the grapes that are sunlit look translucent and make them stand out from the apples. This was kind of tricky because the apples and the grapes are about the same value, so I needed to try and keep the same value, but give them a slightly different hue. It was anybody’s guess how this was going to turn out. I used a deep blue, almost black / blue for the grapes in the shadows along with some purples. The sunlit grapes were done in a combination of reds, pinks, orange, purple and blue. I should have taken more pictures of how I did the grapes for my own future reference.


Final step. I added a few highlights, finished out the stems and call it done. I'm not sure the reflective light on the darker grapes looks right so I may have to mess with that a little. I think they should be less sharp and less bright. Other then that I’m pleased with the end result. I was going for a painterly look and I think it turned out that way.



02-10-2012, 12:51 PM
Gosh, I've fallen way behind! Lots of great paintings!

Carol (norskgal), Thanks for joining us! You say this is overworked, but it doesn't show! In fact, it looks very fresh and spontaneous! You've worked the light flowers over the dark background with lots of energy and no apparent fuss!

Sandra, Very nice job using the complementary block-in!

Tammy, Very nice job on your apple and grapes painting!

David, Really like your landscape with tree! The clouds are very impressive and the tree is nicely done!

Tom, Glad you are back in! Wonderful job on the apples and the grapes!

Carol(C50) - The block-in looks good! Looking forward to the finish!


02-10-2012, 03:31 PM
Jamie Thanks for the kind compiments painting size is 12"x10" on uart 800
Carol great start on the field and tree
Tom your apples are gorgeous very edible indeed well done
Don thanks for the kind comments.

02-10-2012, 03:35 PM
Hi everyone,

Well I had fun with this! You did say it didn't have to be exactly like the photo, yes? Well first of all I thought I would put the tree on the left hand side of the picture instead of in the middle. Then I decided to put a footpath leading into the far distance.

As it took shape, I was transported back into my childhood and found myself reproducing a memory. When I was younger my cousins and I would ride our bikes through the countryside, sometimes many miles away from home before we turned back and rode back along the cinder path, as it was known. I loved the spring rides when the weather had improved from the cold days of winter, but was not yet too hot.

Soooo...... this photo sort of morphed. The gate was left out also.

Funny, though, it wasn't until I saw the photo of it on the screen that I noticed a major flaw! I am sure others will notice it too. I challenge you. :)




02-10-2012, 03:38 PM
Pippa, lovely Church! It fits in with, yet stands out from, it's background beautifully!

Cali, Great flowers! The colours you've used are so warm and vibrant.

Robert, firstly, thanks for the story which set up your Spooky Church painting! It came out well! Will you use this idea for a more refined piece sometime?

I thought I'd try the landscape one. Doesn't inspire me much but I was not in a creative enough mood to make any changes. I did it on half a sheet of canson (smooth side) with a sort of complementary block in. Took about 45 mins. This helped me try out my new Giraults on canson too :)
About 4.5x7"



So, then I had another half sheet of canson. So I did this one again! This time the block in was sort of almost local colour. It took less time, around 30 mins.



Needless to say I'm not happy with either of them.....sigh.....me and landscape just don't get on :(

C&C if you think there's any point :D
Ruthie so sorry i missed this one your paintings are just great I love them both so very well done love how your tree is so open with lots of skyholes

02-10-2012, 03:50 PM
Oh, I'm sorry, I can't keep up at the moment! There are some fantastic Apples and *redcurrants* about....Don, Maybe we could trouble you to do another "patchwork quilt" of apples this month? Or are there any volunteers??
David, thanks for your coments about my trees. Yours has nice sky holes too.
Carol, your "memory lane" landscape looks great to me. Is it the shadow on the path you're not happy with?
Sorry I haven't got time to comment on all the individual posts.

02-10-2012, 04:27 PM
Superb flowers. They glow.

you did a whole lot with just 1 green!
The red block-ins beneath allowed you to create multiple greens.

The candy-apple reds -- delicious!

Carol (Washington),
It's a delight to see your painting! The flowers turned out great. I don't sense overworked at all...
You have a painterly, delicate effect on the petals...the way the outer reaches softly disappear.
It's elegantly appealing overall.

Red against green is true energy. I like it.

Tammy -- Thanks for showing the steps! Your block-in clearly shows both value and temperature decisions.

David (barriespapa)
Thanks for the comments. I also love your field and checked out your site -- nice! Brings back great memories of my time on Campobello, N.B.

Your field block-in could be left as-in, in my opinion. It's almost Fauvist -- a style I love. The block-in is simplified, with emotion and impulse decisions about hue and value instead of technical decisions about accuracy. It would make a very good painting without anything being changed.

Perfect still life in every way. The shadows have as much life as the apples themselves.

Great paintings everyone. What an awesome thread! :D


02-10-2012, 05:23 PM
Ruth, yes the shadow of the main tree is bothering me but I can't quite work out why. Did you spot how it was wrong? Your landscape is wonderful and fresh, I like it a lot.

Wow those apples really glow Tom! I'm not brave enough to take on that challenge so I really admire those who have. You have all done such a great job.

The flowers in the vase are splendid. I would love to hang any one of those on my wall!

So many great paintings this month and we aren't even half way through. :)



02-11-2012, 04:39 AM
Carol. While the tree shadow on the grass reads fine I think it is the one on the path/track which is bothering you. I've converted your image to greyscale (hope you don't mind) and you'll see that the shadow on the path is much the same value as the rest of the path. All it needs is darkening a little and I think it'll be fine!

02-11-2012, 10:30 AM
David; great painting on the tree. David; really like the shine on those apples and how you approached it.. Carol; Gorgeous soft colors in the final; really like it!!!:clap: :clap:

02-11-2012, 10:35 AM
By jove, I see what you mean, Ruth! Thank you. Why didn't I think of that! OK, will go and amend and report back. Thank you again.

tvandeb thank you for your lovely comments on my landscape. I am glad you liked it.



02-11-2012, 11:12 AM
Carol, if you want to look back at last months Spotlight David was having a similar grass to path shadow problem. Don helped him with it and it may help you too. It's about getting the same value.

Tom, I really like your apples and love all the great colours you got in the shadows.

02-11-2012, 12:40 PM
Thank you for the tips, Turpentine and Ruth. I have altered the shadow to make it darker. Does it read better now?


I think getting the values right is one of the trickiest bits of painting.



02-11-2012, 03:52 PM
Ignore the above photo, I have continued fiddling with shadows and the tree line at the back, bringing some of them forward to "hide" the straight line.




02-11-2012, 05:45 PM
Carol, definitely looks better now! Good values and beautiful colors. Shadows look very good. I like the gradation on the road too. Well done!

I need to do another of these and maybe since the Pans are out now, do a Pans underpainting for one. So many good references!

02-11-2012, 08:11 PM
Looks great Carol! I like the way the path rolls and weaves into the distance. Now since I have had to study this I have a tiny nit which feel free to ignore but you have come this far. The back mountains seem to stop at the tree. If you could take them on behind the tree. It is an easy fix.

02-11-2012, 09:12 PM
Great job Carol very well done Getting the values right from one colour to another is tricky but adapting to greyscale certainly tells if you have it right or not. David

02-11-2012, 09:52 PM
Carol, Yes, I think it is looking much better! Nicely done!


02-12-2012, 12:36 AM
Tom beautiful apples! I really like the closer perspective.
Carol you're take & alterations to the landscape are so great! I'm learning so much from your work & the tweaks being made.

02-12-2012, 03:17 AM
Jaime, I am pleased that my fumbling attempts are helping someone else.:)

Thank you Robert, David and Don, for your kind comments as to the colours I chose (that was made much easier by having a wider variety available to chose from).

Jen, I see your point about the mountains stopping behind the big tree. I solved that one by adding a little more on that side of the tree to cover the "join".

I am going to call this one done now. There are still a few niggles, but I will move on and put this one down to experience. Why are we always so critical of our own work?



02-12-2012, 04:54 AM
Carol, Yes, it looks much better now that you have altered the shadow on the road! I am still amazed sometimes when I convert an image to greyscale and see the values of the colours I've used. Some can be deceptively light/dark in colour. But the more you observe the more you will get used to reading value from colour.

02-12-2012, 05:07 PM
Finally got some toothy pastel surfaces to play with & I love the result in comparison to my first attempt on Stonehenge.


Apples block in using a mix of CarbOthello & Faber Castell Pitt pastel pencils, Unison, a Schminke, & Blick Artist softies. 7x9" on white Pastelmat.

Can't get the red variations on the front apple to show up well. I should investigate making a light box.

Also took another crack at the landscape.
5x7" Blick Artists' soft pastels on white Ampersand Pastelbord.

02-13-2012, 09:54 AM
I'm finally able to jump in the challenge. :)

I'll work on it this afternoon. Pam

02-13-2012, 11:05 AM
Very nice! I like the bold lines in your apples drawing. The grapes are nice and cool against the warm apples, too.


02-13-2012, 12:15 PM
Jaime, Very nice paintings! The apples/grapes has lots of vitality and energy! The yellow underpainting on the landscape really gives a sunshine feel to the tree and field!

Pam, Welcome aboard! Looking forward to seeing your work!


02-13-2012, 02:02 PM
Jamie Very well done on your apples and landscape It is nice to have a nice toothy surface to work on alright.
Pam. welcome to the spotlight willl be looking for your entry.

02-13-2012, 02:40 PM
Jamie you are really getting these. Both paintings look great!

Pam looking forward to seeing your contribution!

02-13-2012, 09:22 PM
Thanks Dave, Don, David, & Jen for your kind comments. I've just fallen in love with softies; much more so than I did with acrylics (I'm I'm much happier with my results off the bat too). & yes, David, a toothy surface has been amazing to work with.

Pam, can't wait to see what you come up with!

02-14-2012, 08:26 AM
Hi to All of You.:clap:
You guys did such a great gobs.
Let me introduce myself.
My name is Lyudmila, I am in my forty’s . I have three kids’ daughter, son and seven years old baby boy. We leave in Pennsylvania, US.
I believe all my kids and I gifted to do art. I soon realize gift isn’t enough to paint or draw professionally. We still need to learn techniques.
So, my first question is.
How do you guys know which color to use for blocking in? :confused:

Thanks, Lyudmila

Ps, forgive my English it’s my third language.

02-14-2012, 10:37 AM
Hi Lyudmila! And welcome to the pastel forum and the Spotlight!

First let me say that blocking-in is just one technique to start a painting. There are other ways, such as doing a precise outline drawing and then painting in a detailed manner right away.

But I think blocking-in to begin has certain advantages. The way I approach blocking-in (and others may disagree and do it for other reasons) is that it allows me to look for and draw in the big shapes in the composition. For this reason, the color is of lesser importance. In very general terms, you can use any color, becasue the purpose of the block-in is to compose the painting with the big shapes.

However, since you are creating the first layer of color, you may as well use some sort of plan when picking the color. I think the easiest choice is to determine the general color of the object that you are blocking-in. For the apples in the demonstration painting, that would be red. You could block-in with a light, medium or dark red - it doesn't really matter. It depends on how you want to continue. For example, if you start with the lightest red of the apple, then your next layer may be to add the middle value red, and then after that, the darkest color for the shadow. Many people do the opposite, they start with the darkest color of the apple and then work the light colors over the dark. As you probably know, people refer to this as working dark to light and my first example would be working light to dark. You can do either with pastel. In my demonstration at the beginning of the thread, I picked the middle value red and then added the lighter colors and then the darker.

I think the examples I picked in the first post and the links I gave demonstrate the most likely choices for the block-in: using one of the actual colors of the object, using the complementary color (the color opposite on the color wheel), using warm and cool colors to divide the shapes into light and shadow, or using one color (or gray tones) to block-in. But in reality, it can be any color because the main reason to block-in is to compose your painting using large shapes and leaving the details until the end.

Hope this explains things!


02-14-2012, 12:14 PM
Jaime, looking good on both of yours. I like the lively strokes in your apples and grapes still life, it's very jazzy. Good strong color. Nice hue shifts on the grapes. You could add just a touch of reflected color onto the apples behind the grapes, not much, just a little bit to add to depth but it doesn't need it - this is a simple, powerful painting. Your landscape is cool too. Nice asymmetrical shape on the tree. Cool little shrubs by the river. Good texture on those grasses in the lower right corner, also I like the variations in the green lawn. Ampersand Pastelbord is a lot of fun, the way you did it you won't have a problem losing 1/4" to the spacers if you decide to frame it. I sometimes push elements too close to the edge so they look fine till it's framed or matted but "kiss" once I lose that 1/4" to framing.

02-14-2012, 12:24 PM
Thank you very much Don

02-14-2012, 01:10 PM
Hi to All of You.:clap:
You guys did such a great gobs.
Let me introduce myself.
My name is Lyudmila, I am in my forty’s . I have three kids’ daughter, son and seven years old baby boy. We leave in Pennsylvania, US.
I believe all my kids and I gifted to do art. I soon realize gift isn’t enough to paint or draw professionally. We still need to learn techniques.
So, my first question is.
How do you guys know which color to use for blocking in? :confused:

Thanks, Lyudmila

Ps, forgive my English it’s my third language.

Nice to meet you, Lyudmila!

How I know which color to use for blocking in is that I decide it. That's an esthetic decision. Here are some tips:

"Complementary" block-in - choose the opposite color on the color wheel and match the value. That is, if it's a red apple I'll block in with green and put red over it. This will mute the color but if I let specks of it shine through it will intensify it by contrast. Complementary block-ins look rich. Always match the value - a yellow object blocked in with lavender will have this effect but trying to put yellow over dark purple may darken it too much.

Here is a color wheel:
I made it in Color Conte sticks, hard pastels, on brown paper. I shaded in toward the center with white and placed each of my Color Conte sticks where it belongs on the wheel for Hue (what color it is) and Value, the center is black, white and gray as the neutral mixtures they are. If you find your color on it, look at what color is opposite or color going right through the center. It's useful to make one for yourself and put all of your pastels on the chart so it's easy to see which stick is closer to red or closer to purple, and so on.

"Matching" block-in will create areas of very pure color. This is a simple way to block in that several artists have already used on the thread. It looks nice and it keeps colors true. It also eliminates little white specks of paper that can be distracting.

"Colourist" block-in as per Still Life the Colourful Way (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=527268) by Colorix, a class in the Pastel Learning Center forum that I took when Charlie first did it. I choose which colors to block in a specific area but all Shadow areas I'll pick from violet, blue, green - the cool colors, while all highlight areas are red, yellow or orange - the warm colors. I'll choose which specific cool or warm colors depending on value and the effect I want.

Colourist block-in gives a very dramatic look to the painting, it intensifies the light and makes it so rich. Even if I don't use the full four-stage method that will always give me better light in a painting.

Value Mass Block-In Regardless of whether it's complementary or matching, I try to simplify the painting to just three or four value masses worked out in a thumbnail. I learned this in Free WetCanvas Live! Webinars with Johannes Vloothuis (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=522) - there's an ongoing class that just started doing Waterfalls and he's continuing the series. I break up the design of the painting into Mid-Light, Middle Value and Mid-Dark value masses and either go Muted-Complementary (reddish brown instead of red, olive green instead of green etc.) for what color to underpaint an entire area, or Matching for the block-in.

Muted colors = orange-brown instead of bright orange, Yellow Ochre instead of yellow, blue-gray instead of blue, colors that are not intense.

Notan Underpainting - simplify it so that everything shadowed is black and everything highlighted is white. Paint in the black with black, paint over that with all your colors. This is something I would love to try with Colourfix primer someday. Draw a Notan thumbnail first to plan the painting, so you can arrange the subjects to make a good design. Charlie (Colorix) included how to do Notan thumbnails in "Still Life the Colourful Way." The class thread is very long but if you read one section at a time and do the exercise, it is full of good information.

I hope that helps. It may help to try several different types of block-in underpaintings with one simple subject each time - like one fruit on a plain color table with a plain color background. Using the same one will help you see how it comes out different depending on which type of block-in you use. Plastic fruit are good because they look real when painted but don't go bad, you still have it to paint again and again.

Also, YES! You and your kids are VERY gifted in art! Once you understand the Big Secret that it takes Learning Technique to turn the gift into good art, you are very gifted! It's a myth that people who have Talent come out skilled artists without anyone teaching them. The myth is created by people who learn without teachers, especially if they take an interest as small children. Very small children learn faster than adults because the brain is still growing. Children learn by copying without knowing the words for the techniques. Children are not afraid to be laughed at if they try. To someone who does not know how, it seems like magic. Talent is loving to draw or paint so much you enjoy it before you learn to do it well!

02-14-2012, 07:08 PM
Thanks Robert! I'll go back & touch up the apples a little bit; I got sort of carried away in putting in highlights on the grapes that I back-burnered the rest.

I loved the Pastelbord! I also really like that it's substantial enough to frame without a mat (although...I do have a mat cutter & matboard still hanging about). I've been reading in the Materials forum about framing & using spacers, but I'll admit that I've only attempted a "real" frame job once!

02-14-2012, 09:06 PM
My Blocking In Wash

I use watercolour paper for pastel so was able to lay down colour and then paint it with clear water to create a thin wash of colour. (It's still drying.) To create colour harmony, I used colour picked up in the berries and blanket in the background, and the colour from the window casing to create the shadow areas of the berries and blanket.


02-14-2012, 11:58 PM
Hi Pam, you have made a good start on the strawberries. I like your approach.

02-15-2012, 12:09 AM
Pam, that's a beautiful underpainting. It almost stands as a watercolor by itself. Gorgeous! I'm looking forward to the finish.

Owen, I haven't done full framing myself either except once - there was a place in Chicago that had a DIY frame shop - you pick your rails and cut them and assemble them using their workshop. I did three or four of them and they came out well, but they had really good tools in that shop.

I did improvise spacers for one 5" x 7" painting on Ampersand board, just cut 1/4" wide strips of mat board and slid them into the frame before laying the art face down on them and putting the back on solidly. It was a pre-assembled 5" x 7" frame though.

02-15-2012, 08:42 AM
Pam, Very nice start with the water wash underpainting block-in! Looking forward to the rest!


02-15-2012, 02:23 PM
Sunflowers and Daisies. What a great subject for February!

I forgot to take a Block-In pic until I had already started. Anyway... Here's a "sort-of block-in" and the painting.

I hear more clearly with cool against warm...so you see I've done the quiet blues / greens on shadow; while noisier boistrous highlights yellow / orange / light pink /red.




02-15-2012, 06:12 PM
Here's my attempt... approx. 7.5" x 9" on scrap matboard coated with something reeeeally gritty - probably Golden Fine Pumice Gel. Underpainting in Mungyo, then finished with Mt. Visions - fixed along the way with Spectrafix. Not much of the underpainting left!

02-15-2012, 06:20 PM
Huh - not able to upload pics. Will try again later!

02-15-2012, 08:00 PM
Good looking block-in Pam!

Dave, I love the vibrancy of the background. Lots of nice color in your "white" flowers.

02-15-2012, 08:25 PM
Dave, that is so beautiful! I love it! Thanks for showing your loose underpainting. It's very effective. Love the textures and mood you got in your final painting.

02-15-2012, 10:21 PM
I only had a few minutes this evening to work on it. Started modelling form in the strawberries.



02-15-2012, 11:11 PM
Good form, Pam! Thanks for sharing the WIP at all its stages!

02-16-2012, 02:31 AM
Dave good job with the flowers. I like the strokes and energy.

Pam, Looking good this is progressing nicely!

02-16-2012, 07:28 AM
Pam great block in and your second post is coming along just great.
Dave love your flowers in a vase,the loose style is so warm and inviting the reflections are awesome.

02-16-2012, 08:39 AM
Dave, Great job on the flowers and vase! I like the looseness and the textures you've achieved! The cool blues really make the yellows pop!

Pam, Step 2 is looking good! Can't wait for the finish!


02-18-2012, 06:04 AM
Posting some fun with my Katze. As Katze must be fun and playful. He doesn't have whiskers, yet, and maybe won't. The block-in follows him.

Then last, the apples saying they are finished; so that's final on those.

Have nice weekend everyone, Dave


Katze block-in:


02-18-2012, 11:28 AM
Apples looks great Dave. I really like the cat block in. He could have stayed at the block in stage and looked good. He is progressing nicely sans whiskers!

02-18-2012, 11:48 AM
I love your vibrant paintings, Dave!
Pam...Good going on the strawberries!

I started the church photo....but am haveing trouble figuring out how to get the photos from my Nikon digital, to the program i use for showing my posts. I need to get it to my photosmart viewer, and cant seem to figure out how to do it. Have already spent 2 days experimenting, and still no luck.

02-18-2012, 12:09 PM
Please check your private message box and I will try to help you with the photo transfer.

02-18-2012, 12:13 PM
Oooh nice to see someone else tackling the kitty. I look forward to seeing your results, Dave.

I am doing block ins, just not those remaining in this challenge, I think they are a little advanced for me. I tried the apples and grapes and ended up in a mess, so I stuck with a single apple instead. You can see it here...


Although the photo of the painting has come out rather dark.



02-18-2012, 01:16 PM
I've been lurking on this thread since it started and watching and learning. I am normally an oil pastel artist, but I own a set of untouched, student-grade soft pastels. I was so fascinated with the richness that came with a contrast block-in I thought I had to give it a go! Here is my original block-in.

I used a basic sketchbook and tried to light handed so hopefully I don't use up the tooth. I know he is bright and sunny in his pic but I wanted to see if I could get that different feel that comes with a contrast lay-down.

I used a 5x8 white sketch type paper that I toned with a lay down mix of blue and gray. I need to get one of those painting foam blocks to help lay it down. Lots of residue with soft pastels! I'm not used to it! I kept having to dust everything, lol.

02-18-2012, 01:39 PM
Okay, so in such a small format this is only about 20 minutes later. I am covered in pastel dust.. I didn't know I had to change clothes for this! :)

Liking what I have so far. I wish I had a better paper on hand to work on. Does anyone know a good inexpensive paper for me to work with until I get more able? I'm rarely actually creating and kind of save the upgrade in paper for commissions or projects. This website is certainly help to get the juices flowing!

02-18-2012, 02:07 PM
Okay... Here I have added brown to further enhance the low tones in the kitty. I also found a brighter green stick (didn't see it at first, lol) so I am working on brightening up the background.

02-18-2012, 02:22 PM
Jess, looking Great!

02-18-2012, 03:37 PM
Okay. This is about an hour later. I am finding it a challenge to do any kind of detail with these. I guess that is what the pastel pencils are for? Or maybe the hard pastels? So the eye is a bit wonky. I don't own any of the above so that'll have to be it, I guess.

I kind of liked the little white spots in the background so I incorporated them, too.

C&C please! :)

02-18-2012, 05:09 PM
Jess excellent work on the cat! For someone who hasn't used pastels, on toothless paper, on such a small format and with no pastel pencils for the whiskers and details, incredible. You will have no problem adjusting to pastels if you decide to stick with them. Yes you get really messy with pastels but it washes out!

02-18-2012, 05:27 PM
Beautiful, Jess...love seeing the steps you took...the block-ins look great.

Dave...many thanks to you! It worked,....finally...and I pm-ed you back. So, I didnt get to photo the first block-in but this is in process...

after many tries....made it too small. ..oh well...
Canson paper, 9x12, soft pastel, (but didnt use the sennies yet.....)

02-18-2012, 05:53 PM
The church will turn out darling with the value / hue contrasts: a high vocal yellow / sunshine harmonized against the cooler, quieter masses in the distance.

The cat couldn't get any better. It's perfect. Kudos for achieving so well with limited materials.

02-18-2012, 07:03 PM
Beautiful paintings everyone!

02-18-2012, 07:45 PM
Dave, The cat painting has a bit of a "stained glass" feel to it! Your work continues to show great imagination! And when you stick to a more traditional style you are able to achieve a very painterly look - as in your very fine apple painting!


02-18-2012, 07:48 PM
I am doing block ins, just not those remaining in this challenge, I think they are a little advanced for me.

Don't forget that the Spotlight references - like any reference - can be cropped, simplified, manipulated with objects removed, moved, added, etc.

But, of course, it is great that you are trying some block-ins with other paintings outside of the Spotlight, too!


02-18-2012, 07:54 PM
Jess, Thank's for joining us! A great job on the cat - and thanks for showing your steps! I know everyone has a different style and opinion on things, but your cat has plenty enough detail as is! The suggestion of detail is almost always much more effective than showing lots of real detail, in my opinion! It lets the viewer put in the detail and thus they become more connected to the work, rather than just being a passive onlooker.

Judi, Nice job on the church. I like the way you have kept the background simplified, yet quite colorful!


02-18-2012, 09:11 PM
Turpintine45 - I went out today and invested in a set of pastel pencils after this was all done. I will be back! Looks like I'm hooked, eh?

Greenbrier33 - Wow.. Perfect, eh!? :) I'll take it! :heart:

DAK723 - Thank you for your kind words. I actually felt that even on the 3rd portrait, I felt like I could've stopped shortly after but my level of detail is usually higher and I couldn't show the restraint! I posted the multiple because I have learned so much seeing everyone else's WIP, I decided to return the favor.

Judibelle - Thanks! I had a lot of fun on this experiment. I can't wait to participate in more.

02-19-2012, 12:36 AM
Okay. This is about an hour later. I am finding it a challenge to do any kind of detail with these. I guess that is what the pastel pencils are for? Or maybe the hard pastels? So the eye is a bit wonky. I don't own any of the above so that'll have to be it, I guess.

I kind of liked the little white spots in the background so I incorporated them, too.

C&C please! :)

Jess, your cat is wonderful! I love the light on her. Thank you for sharing all your stages. This is spectacular for working with student grade pastels, almost unbelievably beautiful. Wonderful color and modeling, perfect form, glorious light, this cat is beautiful.

Judi, cool composition on your church! I like how it's developing even if you didn't get a photo of just the block-in. Go you! You keep improving so dramatically in your landscapes.

I meant to do one tonight but got slightly distracted and bang, time slid out from under me. Happily, nothing at all scheduled for tomorrow so maybe I can finally enjoy doing another of the Spotlight images!

02-19-2012, 10:20 AM
But, of course, it is great that you are trying some block-ins with other paintings outside of the Spotlight, too!


Thanks Don.

I am continuing to try out the blocking in technique, mixed with Charlie's colorist lesson. This is not one of the spotlight pictures so I hope its OK to post it here? I actually worked this from life but took a photo to show you what it looked like.

Here is the photo of the setup...


Here was my block in (although I realized that the lowest but one band on the banana was too light...


and the final picture...


I am afraid I ended up blending it too much again. Naughty fingers! I added the cloth texture at the end with a pastel pencil.



02-19-2012, 01:32 PM
Looks great to me, Carol!

Did get the church 'finished' this morning...did it on the scanner this time, though!
canson paper, 9x12, soft pastels

02-19-2012, 02:04 PM
Had a feeling this would turn out well. Love the light -- cool blue / light lavender on the shaded size; yellows sing cheerily in the sun at the front.
Pretty church, and nice the scanner worked. :D

02-19-2012, 02:48 PM
thanks, Dave...Looking at it now, though, I realize I need to tone down the red roof....

02-19-2012, 03:12 PM
I like the red roof. But if you insist on toning it down, maybe a violet scumbled across would add enough cool without dulling it. An even darker violet behind the steeple, to suggest a shadow, might add interest? You could also use that same violet, of an even darker value, in the windows...that would pull everything together.

You have this violet already used in other places -- on the shady side of the steeple, and in the tree shadows -- so it's already a part of the painting. Either way, I like it as is :) Your interpretation sings.

02-19-2012, 03:17 PM
Your still life is very realistic. I can see the influence of Charlie's lesson. Also, the smooth yellow fruit looks great against a textured blue background.
I like it!

02-19-2012, 05:51 PM
Carol, wow! Love the combination between block-in and Charlie's method. Your banana study is gorgeous. I love the colors and the natural feel of it. I wouldn't call it over-blended, not when you added the accents of the bruises and scratches that make it an interesting banana.

One thing that's tricky in pastels is hard edges. One of the best ways to get them is to push the background color a little bit into the form, then go over it at the finish level with the edge of a broken stick. The soft edges on this banana would be fine if it was in a still life painting with other objects and not actually the focal point - it would help lead the eye toward the focal area and those edges are just-right softened for a banana that's the Supporting Actor in the fruit bowl.

Judi, I thought your church would come out well! This rocks. I like the finish. The variation in your tree trunk shapes is gorgeous. The building is solid and three dimensional, the red roof is cheery, the foliage masses are well shaped and interesting. Good landscape! Very cool!

02-19-2012, 06:13 PM
David, Judi and Robert thank you for your comments about my banana study. Goodness there is so much to learn! I am enjoying every minute of it though.

Robert, yes edges are tricky for me. I am used to the fine point of a coloured pencil and the sticks feel chunky. I sometimes miss the line entirely as a different piece of the stick touches the surface to what I expected. I will try your technique of "coloring over the edges" next time, thanks.

I did try to keep the back line of the banana soft on purpose, to show it going around and behind. My front edge could be clearer though.

Judi, I love your church in the woods. That photo appealed to me also, but I was scared to tackle it. Great job.



02-19-2012, 07:04 PM
These are all really great; you all have been very busy..:clap: I did the church; I actually like it better then the still life I did. This will probably be the last one I can do this month; too busy with other projects.. May do one more of these next month when I have some more time..

Done on 5"x 5" sienna pastelmat with carbothello pastel pencils.:wave: http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/19-Feb-2012/71359-Blocking_in,_church-1Spotlite.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/19-Feb-2012/71359-spotlite-church-final02.19.12.jpg . Thanks for the great refs and lesson this month!!!:clap:

02-19-2012, 10:55 PM
Nice job on the church!

02-20-2012, 08:53 AM
Tammy, cheerful! I like the vibrant greens around the church.

02-20-2012, 09:30 AM
Thanks for comments.. but the church was bugging me a bit and some of the surrounding areas, so I went back and re-work some areas, and cleaned them up..:o http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/20-Feb-2012/71359-UPDATE_FINAL-church_spotlite02.19.12.jpg

02-20-2012, 10:26 AM
Lookin' good, Tammy....loe your background colors...

02-20-2012, 10:27 AM
'Love", that is LOL

02-20-2012, 11:21 AM
Final and last re-worked- all those grey lines bothered me.. This is the Final, Thanks DAK

02-20-2012, 12:59 PM
Carol- great banana! I wouldn't have thought of doing the block-in in bands, but it worked out great.

Judi & Tammy- great churches! I love seeing the variety everyone has come up with even though many of the paintings are coming from the same ref.

02-20-2012, 01:37 PM
Tammy, I like your church. It's very spooky. I love how you brought in more trees and gave the trees such a vast area. When you blended out those gray marks you set some mist coiling among the trees and that gives it an eerie feeling. Not as scary as the one I did, more subtly eerie, like this might be the little church in the woods where some miracle happens and the locals don't talk about it or it might be a small congregation of recovering werewolves or just - anything, but there is a feel of something paranormal about it.

02-20-2012, 09:59 PM
Judi, Very nice job on the church! I really like the shadow color of the near wall!

Tammy, Nice job on the church as well! I think you've improved it with each iteration!


02-22-2012, 07:23 AM
Hi everybody....had been waiting impatiently to be able to participate in this months spotlight as i had been travelling quite a bit...finally back home and settled in and managed to work on one piece...Don, thank you for this months spotlight...I learnt so much...and what amazing artwork from everybody....

Heres my bit...looking forward to lots of c&c...



02-22-2012, 01:04 PM

Lovely composition and technical execution. Bold colors! Thank you for showing the stages.


02-22-2012, 05:52 PM
Beautiful painting, Prashanti! Thank you for showing all the stages. Your technique is wonderful. Love the way the early colors give even more brightness to the final painting. Gorgeous!

02-22-2012, 07:36 PM
Artistat38: I loved watching the stages. This has been a fun thread. Isn't the contrast block-in fun? I can't wait to try it again! Your apples look great, and your grapes look plump and juicy!

02-22-2012, 08:10 PM

I could not resist this one. Couldn't let the month go by without painting the cat. Here's my block-in on her. She's such a beauty!

02-23-2012, 03:02 AM
Thank you Dave for appreciating my artwork.......dont think my colors were even half as bold as yours...Love the way you literally weave magic into your painting with a choice of absolutely bold colors....:)

Robert thank you for your kind comments....looking forward to seeing your finished work on the cat...am sure it will be a beauty!!!! Havent ventured into animal or human portraits ...still pretty intimidated by it...maybe Ill give
it a try after seeing your stages...am learning so much on this forum...:cat:

Lucylove thank you...loved your cat painting...all bathed in beautiful sunlight....the eye looks so tricky but youve got it bang on...


02-23-2012, 08:28 AM
Prashanti, Very nice painting of the apples! Glad you showed us all the steps!

Robert, Glad you decided to paint the cat! Looking forward to the finish!


02-23-2012, 10:44 AM
Thank you Don...please do also point out areas that need improvement since Im a beginner...


02-24-2012, 12:37 PM
I've got so behind with this thread :o I do believe a gremlin may have eaten one of my replies though :eek:
Now I have time to sit down and look at all the work and actually comment too!

Jaime, nice work on better paper! What type of paper is it?

Pam, nice block in! I too should use watercolour for underpainting and save my pastels. I hope we get to see the finish.

Dave, you get so much energy in your paintings! The flowers are full of it and look spectacular when I stand back from the screen. And I admire your imagination with the cat one. All those angles you put in the Cat and BG make it abstract but of a type I can understand as it is still obviously a cat! Great finish on the Apples too.

Jess, thanks for showing the stages of your Cat. Wow! I scrolled down and it got better and better! You have absolutely enough detail in the finished one and you made it look easy! I don't think you need pastel pencils. When it comes to the detail I find that they tend to cut a groove into the pastel already laid down rather than give you that detail you need on the top.

Judi, Interesting block in, with the yellow behind the chapel. Nice finish!

Tammy, another exciting block in and a nice finish. I see you did quite a bit of tweaking. Glad I'm not the only one!

Prashanti, nice to see you here. Love the Apples! It's great to see the stages too. I do hope someone can do an apple "hall of fame" this month.

Robert, I wondered what took you so long! But glad you're doing the Cat. Another treat in store!

Well, I have managed to get another done and I'll post it next.

02-24-2012, 12:54 PM
So here's my Chapel. I have to say I wasn't inspired by this photo but had nothing to take to art group so printer it off at the last minute.

But when I got down to it I really enjoyed doing it. It took me 20 mins to draw the chapel and about another 15 to do the block in which I did with warm colours for light and cool for shade.


The rest of the session got it nearly finished and I did a few tweaks when i got home.

It's not brilliant but my trees are loose! :clap: Hard to photograph though. The purple in the trees doesn't show up as much irl and the pink and yellow of the front of the chapel doesn't show up well either.


02-24-2012, 01:26 PM
If this "non-inspiring" photo led to this chorus, you would be dangerous with one that did inspire.

The trees sing. Beautiful.

02-24-2012, 01:44 PM
Ruthie have to agree with Dave. You have made a beautiful painting out of what I agree was not too inspiring. it is a really lovely gem and the tiny church just glows in it's woodland surroundings. Brilliant!:thumbsup:

Prashanti lovely work on the apples. Well done.

Robert hope to see your cat finished. Great start.

I think the gremlins are still hovering as I have been alone online for a day ot two.:eek:

02-24-2012, 02:31 PM
Ruth, Wonderful job on the church painting! A very nice sense of light (and shadow)! And the trees are great!


02-24-2012, 03:01 PM
You did a great job, Ruth! That is one lovely painting.



02-24-2012, 10:58 PM
Love your painting Ruth....the church stands out so beautifully against the woods, the colours in the sky are amazing and the grass in the foreground just glows....youve just transformed the pic with your choice of colours...


02-26-2012, 02:59 PM
I am joining late in the month, but I thought I should post this. I did the block in the first week of the month, but I just couldn't get inspired to finish it. Well, maybe it was a perfect storm. It was five years ago yesterday that I joined WC and who should pop up? The person who tried to teach me how to paint trees, Paula Ford. And the reference is one of her photos. Anyway, this is what I did after visiting her web site and studying her trees.

This is painted on 12 x 9 Uart 400 paper. The under painting is done with pastels and alcohal and the rest was painted with a variety of softies and Pans. I thought the all red under painting might unify the painting.

Thanks for looking.




02-26-2012, 03:09 PM
WOW Doug!..That tree is gorgeous! well done!
Ruthie...Your church turned out just fine! Nicely done....

02-26-2012, 03:24 PM
Thanks to you all for your comments on my Chapel!

Doug, nice tree scene! I'm glad you got it finished in time!

02-26-2012, 04:55 PM
Doug, Thanks for joining us! Well, in my opinion, there is no better person to learn trees from than Paula Ford! And you learned well! Maybe it's time for all of us to visit her blog! Great job!


02-26-2012, 07:23 PM
Doug you learned well! Paula would be proud. The underpainting worked well too and this is a vibrant painting as a result!

02-27-2012, 01:56 AM
Judi- Thanks for the kind words. It just seemed like a light bulb went off. I couldn't wait to get at it. You did a great job on the church. The trees have the right amount of foliage on them. You have been busy here and it is good to see.

Ruthie- Thanks. Better late than never. Your church painting has a great sense of light. I have to squint when I look at it.

Don- I have always loved Paula's trees and she has tried to help me with them over and over, but I just couldn't get it. I am not saying there won't be times of frustration, but I think I finally 'got' it. What the heck, what's five years? Thanks for the encouraging words.

I hope Paula doesn't mind, but here is the link to her web site. A nice thing about it is you can zoom in and get close ups of her paintings and really see how she does things. http://paula-ford.artistwebsites.com/

Jen- I know if Paula saw it she would be happy for me. Thanks for the nice words. I figured the red would work well with the landscape. I loved your flowers in the vase. Great color in the shadow.


02-27-2012, 05:57 AM
Doug that tree is so beautifully done...lots of depth...looks like its going to step out of the painting......


02-27-2012, 04:01 PM
Hi all
well, this is my beginning. I wanted to try and have a go at this before Feb ends, but wanted to finish ducklings first. Hopefully, may still make it in time. I'm not really sure what I'm doing, but anyway....I suppose the next part is to put in the dark stripes. Oh, and yes, there is more cat here than in the pic!


02-27-2012, 04:25 PM
Good start, go for it!

02-27-2012, 04:52 PM
Prashanti- Thanks for kind words. I have struggled painting trees that have depth, but I have never given up hope.

Donna- You are off to a good start. You now have your road map to help you to the finish.


02-27-2012, 10:27 PM
Hi Donna, Thanks for joining us! Your block-in looks good! Looking forward to the finish!


02-28-2012, 04:55 AM
Hi Don
I hope Feb is ending on the 29th and not the 28th...now that I started the cat, I need all the time I can get to finish it (second pastel attempt, bit slow, methinks).

And, did you know that on the 29th, you will be working for free? That's right, your salary is based on a 365 day year, and this year has an extra day, so you are working for free. I suggest you all tell your bosses you are taking the day off. :lol:


02-28-2012, 03:07 PM
And, did you know that on the 29th, you will be working for free? That's right, your salary is based on a 365 day year, and this year has an extra day, so you are working for free. I suggest you all tell your bosses you are taking the day off. :lol:

I will refuse to work unless I am payed a bonus equaling 10% of my yearly salary!

Yes, we do have one more day this month, but I am going to post our thumbnail galleries now!

Feel free to continue posting your paintings through tomorrow! I know we have a couple block-ins done where we are eagerly awaiting the finish. Those block-ins are not in the galleries, but I am including one painting that progressed to stage 2 - but (I think) is not done yet.

I apologize if I have missed anyone or inadvertently used the wrong stage of your painting.


Once again, the quality of the work is outstanding!!! Give yourselves a big hand! :clap::clap::clap:


02-28-2012, 03:39 PM
Donna, yay for your cat block-in! I'm at that same stage with mine. Definitely ought to finish her up soon - both of us!

Doug, wow. You got it. I love the final version of your tree. That scene is so gorgeous and you finally got all the sky holes in looking light and true. I have a bad habit of not including sky holes or enough sky holes in trees and really need to study Paula's paintings too in order to get them looking fresh and lively. That is masterful. I love it!

Don, the Gallery is wonderful! I love seeing the variety of beautiful renderings of all these different subjects. That's awesome. I am going to finish my cat by the end of the 29th, I'm sure I will. But if not, I'll post her late when the thread is unsticky.

02-28-2012, 05:01 PM
Don thanks for the wonderful gallery. It's great to see them altogether. Now go take the day off tomorrow as you have done a grand job this month!!

02-28-2012, 06:53 PM
Great gallery Don!

Prashanti- Lovely apples, especially that front one to my eyes. They look so shiny & edible.

Ruthie- Beautiful church & I love the loose trees. I haven't been checking this thread as often as I would've liked so I missed your earlier question, but I used Pastelmat for the apples & Ampersand Pastelbord for the second go at the landscape.

Doug- Beautiful landscape! I need to give underpainting w/alcohol a try. Do you just add it with a paintbrush?

Donna & Robert- Can't wait to see the finished kitties!

02-28-2012, 11:37 PM
Thanks Jaime for your kind words...

Thanks Don for the gallery of this months spotlight...looks lovely...glad to be a part of it!!!!

02-29-2012, 04:41 AM
Wow! fantastic Gallery! Thanks Don. It's great to see them all together. Especially the Apples....so many of them.
I'll be back to see the finish of the outstanding block ins.

02-29-2012, 04:52 AM
Donna, yay for your cat block-in! I'm at that same stage with mine. Definitely ought to finish her up soon - both of us!

I am going to finish my cat by the end of the 29th, I'm sure I will. But if not, I'll post her late when the thread is unsticky.

Thanks, Robert, yay for your cat, too! I'm glad you took it on, I found the different approaches interesting. I will try and finish mine by date, too, although being so new I'm slow as I don't really know what to do next; whether to keep working with blocks of colour or start moving to the detail of the fur. In CP, you do the fur from the first layer then build up until it looks dense (you would know this ,of course), whereas with pastel, I'm not sure how it works, though it's clear that sheets of untextured colour can be put down for several layers, at a guess, before moving on to fur strokes. That's where I'm stuck; whether to keep going with just colour and blocking, or to start textured fur strokes. You are far more experienced than I, so I look forward to seeing your piece. Oh, and I recall your recent topic about pressure and burn-out...please make sure the deadline for the cat doesn't catch you out...must look after you, after all, to paint again another day

02-29-2012, 10:03 AM
Don- Thanks for a wonderful spotlight.
I have been sick for 2.5 weeks and am only now recovering so I haven't been vertical long enough to comment on everyone's work. I really have learned a lot seeing how people "build" their paintings. thank you for sharing them. This lesson and the examples really helped me find better ways to plan before I dove in.

I had also started the apples, but haven't gotten a chance to finish.

I did the flowers on 12x16 Richeson. It still needs work, it seems off balance, but I'm pushing the end of the month already- thank goodness for leap year!


02-29-2012, 10:18 AM
What a wonderful gallery, Don...Thanks so much for the lessons and the 'fruits' of the lessons! The vases of flowers that were done just blow me away...the pattern of the vase I wouldnt even attempt! Well done, Everyone!
Looking forward to March....

02-29-2012, 10:31 AM
Don- What a neat idea! I love looking at everybody's paintings together and seeing how they are all painted from the same photos, but we all put our own touches to them to make them different. Thanks for hosting again. I know it takes up a lot of your time, but we all appreciate it.

Robert- Thanks for your comments. It does feel good knowing that I do know how to paint a tree. It's amazing what a few sky holes and branches will do. Maybe it is all starting to get from my brain to my hand. Finally! Now to do in again and prove it wasn't a fluke. Thanks again.

Jaime- Thanks for the kind words. For this under painting I blocked in using the side of the pastels and then used a paint brush dipped in rubbing alcohol to get the under painting that I showed here. You can use any kind of clear alcohol. I used vodka once and it worked fine.:) I have also used water, but it takes longer to dry and depending on the paper, it can buckle if you use too much.

Sharen- Beautiful painting. Great job on the vase and your flowers look fantastic. A good way to end the month. I hope you are feeling better.


02-29-2012, 11:13 AM
Don, that is wonderful to see all the paintings together like that. Thank you.

I enjoyed taking part and intend to try again in March. I have more pastels now so no excuses. :)



P.S. Sharen, your vase of flowers is drop dead beautiful! Great job!

CM Neidhofer
02-29-2012, 11:17 AM
Thanks for putting the gallery together again, Don. It's always fun to see them all together like this, and all the work is awesome!

02-29-2012, 11:28 AM
Thanks Doug and Carol.

Don- Thank you for this lesson, it really changed the way I work. I tend to do little initial planning and then work really hard to try and make it look like I wanted. Seeing how everyone blocked in shapes and then the final pieces, made it click for me. I do love switching mediums, but pastels have made me rethink the way I work in all of them, especially acrylics.

Thanks to all. That huge flash of light spotted over NE USA was a light finally coming on for me. It was a EUREKA moment. You all rock!

02-29-2012, 11:54 AM
Don- Thanks for a wonderful spotlight.
I have been sick for 2.5 weeks and am only now recovering so I haven't been vertical long enough to comment on everyone's work. I really have learned a lot seeing how people "build" their paintings. thank you for sharing them. This lesson and the examples really helped me find better ways to plan before I dove in.

I had also started the apples, but haven't gotten a chance to finish.

I did the flowers on 12x16 Richeson. It still needs work, it seems off balance, but I'm pushing the end of the month already- thank goodness for leap year!


Beautiful vase of flowers! I love the painterly texture. I think what's off balance is the ellipse at the bottom of the vase - it should be deeper than the ellipse at the top lip and instead it's a little flatter. That's so common a perspective error that I think it must be something instinctive we have to overcome. I've done it thousands of times. The painting's perfect but that perspective distortion makes the vase not sit stable on the surface, it looks a little unreal or tilted like it's going to fall.

02-29-2012, 12:15 PM
DBfarmgirl - great job on the vase of flowers! I think bocking-in is a great way to start a painting, but it's certainly not the only way. By nature, I am much more of an outline and get too detailed too soon kind of painter, but over the years have come to the realization that there is an easier way! The Spotlight gives all of us - and I mean me, too - a chance to explore things that may be different then we are used to!


02-29-2012, 12:34 PM
Wow! Love the Flowers! Well done you. Sorry to hear you've been sick.

02-29-2012, 02:01 PM
I have not been on much this month, but I do have to say seeing the gallery only proves how great the lessons are for the Spotlight Challenge. So Don, thank you for a great job on the lessons. The work submitted only shows the impact your lessons have on everyone. I only wish I would have been more involved and done more challenges. Thank you. Cali

02-29-2012, 04:06 PM
Thanks Don, Ruthie and Robert.
I agree with the bottom of the vase- I also think I had shot the photo a little crooked. I'm thinking of adding additional daisys, not sure yet. I won't get a chance to fix it for a little while as I just got 2 more cortizone shots for carpal tunnel and every finger is completely numb but my left pinky. (fun typing!)

Don- I still have a lot of practice before this blocking in thing is second nature for me, but I think it's a good place to start. I'm an outline, too much detail too soon person, and I end up getting in my own way. This is much better, or at least a good spring board.

02-29-2012, 04:43 PM
Sharon great job on the flowers! The vase is a little tilted but an easy fix. Hope you feel better really soon.

02-29-2012, 09:23 PM
Lady Sunshine
5" square
Pastel on Canson mi-Tientes paper

I can't believe it. I did her. I got her done this evening. Waited till I felt better, as soon as I did I got going. Couldn't let this month's challenge go without doing the Cat!

02-29-2012, 09:47 PM
Well done Robert you have made her glow! Glad you felt good enough to finish her.

03-06-2012, 06:29 AM
Well I had told myself I wouldnt start working on the March spotlight till I finish one more from the Feb spotlight....it is obviously too late to be posted there so here it is....really enjoyed working on it....looking forward to serious c&c....

First I blocked in with complimentary colours


then I used the actual values with my cheap hard pastels....the final pic is of the finished painting where I used my prized Senneliers...got it as a gift from my hubby just last month and I love what it does to my art...Prashanti.

03-06-2012, 06:34 AM
Gosh....luscious looking strawberries...what a gift from your husband...goes well with your gift of artistry!

ps. I'll see if I can put a copy of this into February's spotlight....sorry I could only merge this thread...so I'll have to leave it and maybe merge at a later date...once it has been seen and commented on.

03-06-2012, 07:05 AM
Thank you so much Dierdre for your kind words and also for trying to put it into Feb spotlight..really appreciate that....