What’s in the Shadow & What’s in the Light?
This is a two-part lesson. First a Follow-Along Demo. Follow along at your own pace but remember my suggestions for time limits!

This lesson for all levels because it is primarily about observation and we can all start with that! I focused on what was in the light and what was in shadow. Flowers provide us with an infinite variety of color, form and composition. The challenge lies in conveying the specific character of each type of flower, portraying the delicacy and gesture inherent to all flowers. We could easily relegate flowers to the trite or mundane, but I think we would miss the mystery and beauty that lies in the structure of a flower. The trick is to come up with a simple way to depict the character of the variety of flower that we are painting; to come up with a technique of mark making that captures it. That’s where we’ll start!

Next is an Independent Assignment meant to expand on some of the principles presented in the Follow-Along Demo and to personalize your work. When you have completed both parts you can upload one or both images to receive a personal video critique on your work. Remember that the more mileage you get, the more progress you make, so I recommend that you complete both parts before submitting your images.

Who it’s for – This lesson for all levels because it is primarily about observation and we can all start with that! I focused on what was in the light and what was in shadow. I recommend following along for a first try, then using one of the alternate reference photos to do a second piece using the same steps or setting up your own still life.

What’s it’s About – This is about value, form, color and composition. The challenge lies in conveying the particular variety of flower that you choose.

Set a Personal Focus – Try to focus on just a couple aspects of the painting. For instance if you really are interested in color, focus on that and don’t worry too much if you don’t get the drawing exactly how you’d like it. Take it a step at a time!

Set a Time Limit – Keep it simple and don’t spend more than an hour on it. If you find yourself spending two or three hours on it, it’s time to STOP and try another version! Although the flowers seem to be complex, I spent only about ½ hour on it.

Materials

  1. Your pastels
  2. An 9 x 12 piece of Colorfix paper. I used Leaf Green for this lesson, but you could use a different color or different brand of paper if you like. Please use sanded pastel paper!

Extras:

  1. Easel
  2. Baby wipes
  3. An apron

Part I
Follow-Along Demo

Before You Start, a Few Tips on Following Along

1. Stop the video whenever you need to – it’s one of the greatest things about learning this way. Plus you don’t need to take notes!

2. Don’t feel funny about copying my pieces! It’s a time – honored way to learn and I know you’ll develop your own “style” in due course. I give you lots of ways to take off on your own and expand on the demos/lessons.

3. Take your time, but not really! I want you to speed up a bit so you can start to develop the “whole” piece all at once.

4. Do it differently. If it feels uncomfortable, you’re likely on the right track.

5. Remember the three “P’s” Perfection, Procrastination, Paralysis. There is no such thing as a perfect painting, so don’t even worry about it.

6. If you have trouble ask for help! My team and I want you to have a great experience doing the lessons!!

7. There are 5 stages in each lesson. The beginning of each stage is a good time to pause the video, take a short break and check in on how you’re doing.

Floral Still Life Notes:

Flowers provide us with an infinite variety of color, form and composition. The challenge lies in conveying the specific character of each type of flower, portraying the delicacy and gesture inherent to all flowers. We could easily relegate flowers to the trite or mundane, but I think we would miss the mystery and beauty that lies in the structure of a flower. The trick is to come up with a simple way to depict the character of the variety of flower that we are painting; to come up with a technique of mark making that captures it.

Step 1. Setting Up
I placed the vase of flowers in my still life stage against a dark background to enhance their luminosity. I used one incandescent light source on the left side of my set-up. This warm and strong light source makes for an interesting pattern of lights and darks. Some of the blooms are in shadow and some in the light.

Step 2. Drawing
I divided my picture plain into quadrants to help me place the major shapes and get the scale of the correct. I blocked in the main shapes, starting with the darks. I concentrated on getting the darks in the right place and placing the flowers where I wanted them rather than focusing on the shape of the vase and the ellipse. I knew that I could get stuck here and start making my drawing really tight if I wasn’t careful. This was my second try. The first time out, I was so worried about the vase, I forgot the rest.

Step 3. Blocking in
I started to say something about the value and color of the flowers. I really concentrated on what was in the light and what was in the shadow and made sure that the values where correct. I chose values that were about one step darker than what I thought, especially for the white mums. The tendency would be to get those too bright and they wouldn’t look like they were in shadow.

Step 4. Adding On
I’m adding on to the colors that I’ve used in each of the main shapes. Adding a more emerald green to the olive green, adding a more vibrant yellow to the creamy yellow etc. I want to convey a sense that the flowers are sitting in space; some of the petals moving towards us and some receding into the shadows. I introduce some light in the flower masses with some soft pastels. Having used relatively hard pastels for the darks lets me easily achieve this. It’s akin to painting wet into wet with oils; the darks have to be thinly painted.

Step 5. Finishing
I work some color into in the vase. I want it to appear translucent. I paint what I see through the vase. I don’t overdo the reflections. I just make a couple suggestions of them and think of them as highlights!

Part 2
Independent Assignment

Do another version from your own set-up. Keep it simple and if you can, use only one light source. This makes it much easier to see what is going on. I recommend reviewing by looking at my video “Capturing Form in Light”. I’m a firm believer that mileage is one of the secrets to progressing as a painter.

When You’ve Completed Both Part 1 & 2
When you’re done, click here to upload pics of your painting and I’ll send you a Personal Video Critique. I’m curious what you’ll come up with! The first critique request is a free bonus for you. If you’d like additional critiques, normally a Personal Video Critique is $97 but you can send a message my support team to get a discounted critiques package – I’ve already told them that since you are taking lessons from me, you get at least 40% off.

If you aren’t ready for a personal critique from me, then be sure to upload your work to our Community page where your peers can take a look. I often comment on the Community submissions as well – it won’t be a video critique but I really enjoy seeing your work and helping you when I can.

The Stages (applies to both part 1 & 2)

1. Planning

  1. Crop your reference, (feel free to crop it just like mine or change it up a bit).
    • Do a quick 5 to 10 minute thumbnail. This is a great way to get a feel for the piece and visualize the final version.

2. Drawing

  1. Scale up your thumbnail to the correct proportion Watch my video on scaling a sketch!
    • Lightly sketch in the essential shapes
    • Use your thumbnail sketch more than your photo reference at this point

3. Blocking In

  1. Establish the essential shapes of the piece, (3 to 5 largest shapes) Use the sides of the sticks)
  2. Establish the values of those main shapes. What is the overall or average value of each shape?
  3. Get a feel for how the piece works as a whole.

4. Adding On

  1. Add a variety of hues, and intensity to each shape.
  2. Add texture and smooth out gradations where needed. Watch my video To Blend or Not to Blend.
  3. Add a light source or direction of light.
  4. Add detail.

5. Finishing

  1. Resolve any areas that need attention or TLC.
  2. Slow down make color adjustments where needed.
  3. Go the extra mile and exaggerate contrast and intensity where needed. Give yourself permission to do this!
Floral Still Life
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Enjoy “Floral Still Life”!

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Download the Images PDF
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Ctrl-Click (MAC) and choose “Save File As”
Right Click (PC) to download files.

Click Here to Download the Image PDF

Skill Builder
Hue, Value and Intensity

SUPPLEMENTAL VIDEOS

Lesson 4