Restart Painting Class

Last year I tried to find an art school in NJ to continue learning oil painting, but it turned out not enough students to even open a class. This year I searched painting class in NYC, luckily there were many choices in which I finally chose the Art Students League of New York. I studied still life painting from Karen O’Neil, who I admired as a magician of colors. I almost fell in love with her style at the first sight.

When I started my first painting, I almost forgot all the skills I learned. I had to abandoned the first draft and reworked a bigger proportion. I only painted part by part while missing the big picture of overall shade variation. I spent so much time on the details of the orange and grapes that I didn’t have enough time for the plate and tablecloth. Some thought the plate was made of paper. Anyway, better late than never.

The second painting illustrated 2 lemons and a glass bottle. Painting glass was a big challenge and a complicated skill for me. Instructed by Karen, I realized that not every details of glass should be painted, but only the essential elements were subtracted to depict a glass: incomplete lines to illustrate a rough profile rather than trying to draw all the lines; distorted image because of light refraction; only one brightest highlight and omitted others; reflection of objects in front of the glass; see through colors of the background.

I began experiment of painting different colors on the same object, a white onion on a green plate and an orange paper. I found that colors were not limited to what eyes could see from the obvious exiting colors, but also one had to use logic in the brain to think what color could contrast or complementary the existing ones.  A classmate’s approach could be a good inspiration: she use light purple as dark and bunt amber to contrast it. These 2 colors were not seen in my version. That’s probably the reason why my onion looks flat rather than 3D. And my shape was poor structured too. I comforted myself that maybe I painted a 2D balloon fish instead.

Today it was my fourth piece with a yellow cup and a green chili on a light blue and light purple paper. I think I made some progress in understanding how colors interacted with each other. The dark side of the cup, according to Karen, was neutral by the balance of the 2 colors, yellow and purple. Color reflection of light blue and light purple made the yellow dye with some green and pink. Meanwhile yellow also extended to the shadow on the papers of 2 colors. It was more interesting that green and purple immersed to each other on the chili dark part and the shadow on the paper. Some art pro friend reminded me that the color transition was not smooth enough. Next time I should come earlier to take time on the transition.

Besides practice themself, students could learn a lot by watching Karen’s demo class. She said that before painting, 6 questions should be asked in one’s mind: How light? How dark? How warm? How cold? Saturate? Neutral?  Below was the steps she took to paint a black cup. It was the first time I realized that there were so many variant colors inside a black object. If time allows, color mixing is a fun job to explore.

Well, my journey to oil painting will keep going next week!


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