Friday, March 7, 2014

Watercolor Demonstration Class: Still Life with Pears and Strawberries -- Part 3

OK, I am back again.  The painting is almost finished, for better or for worse!  I have made a lot of changes.  Here is where I had left off last time:

Step 10.  I have decided to completely change the background.  The "flannel" gray is just too distracting, and I think the pitch black of the reference photo is more effective.  I experimented with my painting on the computer using Photoshop to make the background black (see below).  Also I decided to get rid of the upturned dish towel in the back and make the whole table look round instead. To accomplish this in Photoshop, I selected the dark background using the magnetic lasso tool, and then I went to Image > Adjustments > Levels > I turned up the darkness of the selected layer.  It is interesting how making the background black really brought the objects to life!

background artificially blackened with Photoshop

Step 11.  Now in order to change the background and lower it about 2", I first had to soften the edge of the dish towel in the back and try to get rid of the stripes.  I was afraid the edge and the stripes might show through in my new wash.  I surrounded the objects with drafting tape (as you can see below between the pear and the pitcher) and I used Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to scrub out the paint.  This left a hard edge next to the objects and a soft edge going up into the wash.  You can see a little piece of the magic eraser at the bottom.  You just wet them and scrub.  I dried the picture thoroughly.
background scrubbed out and softened

Step 12.  Now I felt that I had to re-paint the lightened background with the same color I had used before, so that when the final very dark wash was put on, it would be uniform everywhere.  Oh, before doing this, I scrubbed out some leaves on the white bouquet, using drafting tape to form the shapes.
original wash mixture re-applied
Step 13.  Hopefully this won't be the unlucky step!  For my new wash I mixed up a very dark pool of perylene maroon and perylene green (two colors by Winsor & Newton that are very dark and clear) because they are complementary colors and form beautiful grays and blacks.  I turned the board upside-down and propped it up about 2" so the wash could run downhill, and proceded to do a big juicy wash using a #12-14 brush.  There was no masking fluid on this time, so I had to paint carefully around the flowers. I think the picture looks better already!

new black wash applied
Step 14.  Now I began to finish painting the white flowers and their vase.  The peony-like flower was very confusing and I had to study the photo carefully.  I got lost anyway, but it doesn't really matter.  I used a combination of bluish purples for the shadow shapes, blending to yellowish green as they went deep into the flower.

working mainly on the white flowers
Step 15.  I continued working on the white flowers and the interesting shapes inside their vase.  I added a slight curvature to the right side of the table.  The pink carnation hasn't been worked on again yet, but I don't think it needs much.  The painting needs some further refinements, but this is it for now.  I need to take a break!
"Pears and Strawberries" almost finished

 In conclusion, this really did turn out to be harder to paint than I thought it would be.  I am not crazy about the composition because of the amount of black background.  Perhaps the pink carnation could be cropped out.  Below is how it would look.  What do you think??

Susan Murphy, ARThouse, March 7, 2014


  1. I agree, Susan. I do believe it would look better eliminating the pink carnation. What a difference the background made!

    1. Thanks, Sherry. Yes, I think the division of space is better without all that additional black needed to include the carnation. I suspect I can figure out a way to "fix" the remaining stem so it disappears. I hate to have to resort to cropping a picture to make it successful, but I think this is one of those cases...

  2. Hi Folks-- Just wanted to let you know that you can write a comment by "commenting as" Name/URL, but just put in your name if you don't have a URL (website). It should work-- I am trying it now... Just click Publish when you are done!

  3. I like your dark background Susan and really I have no problem with the lovely pink carnation. It's a tough decision cropping a painting, I like either way. I enjoyed the speaker at the TED conference. Thank you for sharing that with us.
    Gloria Tanton

    1. Thanks for leaving a comment and for the feedback, Gloria! Yes, I am not sure about the cropping. I will live with it for a while before I go that far. And I'm glad you saw the video of the speaker, Brene Brown, talking about "the courage to create" and how we have to be willing to take chances and fail.