Friday, April 21, 2006

Blindsided and Milestones

I was blindsided this week, when during my dental visit, my eyes happened upon a snapshot sitting on the hygienist’s shelf. The photograph was of her cat, outlined by a shaft of cool winter light – and that particular image contained all the elements I had been struggling with – color temperature and reflected light within a very straightforward composition.

It was a smack upside the head!

Ever since then, that image has been hovering in my peripheral. I spent tonight working on some studies – I used green shadows, then blue – which also meant that my light source changed from evening to morning. I had never done that before, and enjoyed the challenge of balancing the light source with its corresponding shadow.

I then played with the local color of the cat – first she had a soft gray tint to her fur, then a peach fuzz color. I concentrated on using the proper combination of color to model her, and was surprised to see how basic it was to get that bounced light effect when I really concentrated.

Of course, with all this pushing paint around and focus on the actual colors, I didn’t do such a great job with the whole drawing bit (hence the reason why there is no supporting image tonight!!). That will be my task tomorrow.

To take these palette mixing lessons I’ve learned and apply them to a correctly rendered drawing.

I might just keep this kitty piece, even though her eyes are misaligned, she’s got quite the chicken neck, and her ears are uneven – she’s a milestone of sorts. I’m starting to get it.

Kimberly Kelly Santini
distinctive pet portraits
& 4-legged paintings

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Learning Curve

Today I had my first official class with Vianna Szabo, one of my painting heros. I had been stalking her on the internet, meaning that every week or so I’d hit her website ( and stare at her work. It was only a matter of time before our paths crossed, and I was fortuitous enough to have a friend in common with me when it happened. The rest, as they say, is history!!

After our class this morning, I came home and tried to commit to paper everything she said in the almost 3 hours we spent together. First thing learned – next time, take notes!! (or bring a recorder!!)

So many tips and treasures she shared seemed obvious, yet I hadn’t yet stumbled upon them. The most revolutionary thing being to set up my palette like a color wheel, placing all my paint down at once (today we used quinacridone crimson, hansa yellow medium, and ultramarine blue), with the white in the middle. Then, as I mixed, I was assured color harmony, and neutralizing colors became mindless – just reach directly across the circle for the compliment.

We worked on a still life made up entirely of white objects, dramatically lit with a warm bulb. It forced me to focus on the temperature of the warm light, and study how that light bounced off the objects and into the shadows. Despite the lack of strong local color in the setup, my finished painting is full of pinks, blues, and lavenders. I even squeezed some green and yellow (my two favs) into it.

I can see that I need to really study my subject more carefully though – I tend to want to race into lying the color down, and I don’t take the time to properly LOOK AT the objects I’m painting, to assure that the color I lay down is indeed correct. I was told squinting would help – not just to see the proper values, but also to determine the strength of the lines.

So more patience is called for, along with restraint and discipline. And some squinting.

But it’s not that bad. I am looking at things entirely differently now. Instead of before, when all I was seeing just the yellow of the sunlight on my daughter’s face, this afternoon I was drawn into the blues and purples of the shadows under her chin and across her cheekbones. I realized it was the subtlety of the color changes and the juxtaposition of the opposites (violet and yellow) that allowed that yellow sunlight to sing. I’m going to master those subtleties, no doubt about it.

It’ll take practice. And patience, restraint, and discipline. And squinting.

But I’ll get there.

Kimberly Kelly Santini
distinctive pet portraits
& 4-legged paintings

Monday, April 03, 2006

Symphony in Blue

This 24" x 24" portrait has begun as a study in blue. It’s two black dogs, but the sheen on their coats hovers between a light blue and lavender. Contrasted with the deep violets and indigos of the shadows, and highlighted by orange and golden eyes, this will be stunning when done. And it’s the perfect excuse to try out an idea I’ve been fascinated with and working on and off with mixed results – using tonality, yet achieving great depth.

What does this mean? I want a painting that is primarily one hue, yet sings with color. It also must have a believable depth of field. Can I do it? Like the little engine, I think I can.

So here’s my underpainting, after a couple of hours of work. I’ve used primarily light ultramarine blue, Prussian, and pthalo. I’ve also added smidges of quinacridone red and Indian yellow.

I can see right away that my background is too intense. I need to gray it out and take it down at least two values in order to push the dogs forward. And I can also see some places where I’d like to redraw certain elements.

Next step will be to increase my range of values – right now I’ve got about 3 or 4, and I need to expand that to at least 10. I’ll also put some warmer shades into their muzzles, and start on the eyes.

And I’ll need a title, too.

Just a few things to take care of tomorrow!