Some of my April 52 in ’22 Art Challenge prompts took me back to the basics! See what I’ve been working on this past month.
April Art Challenge
As part of my yearlong 52 in ’22 Art Challenge, I’m completing prompts from a printable prompt sheet I created for myself – and others! It’s not too late to join. You can find your version of the prompt sheet at the bottom of the post.
At the end of March, I was a quarter of the way through the challenge. So far, I had selected and completed many of the “easier” prompts for me. Many of the remaining prompts seem less straight forward, or outright intimidating, now that it comes time to attempt them!
But now I’m trying not to make the easiest possible choices each week. I do want to stretch and grow, which was part of the point of the challenge, after all. But it can definitely be a bit scary trying new things, or to attempt something I don’t know how to do with any certainty.
In April, I chose some prompts that lent well toward going back to basics. Those basics are really something I skipped over when learning how to paint, as I started right in with landscaping classes. So even though I can paint a decent landscape, painting some simple shapes with different values seems very challenging.
So, let’s walk through my April art, numbered consecutively and continuing on from March.
14. Skinny vertical piece of art – The Round Tower at Windsor Castle – painted from a personal photograph
For this painting, I cut a canvas to fit a particular vintage frame I have that’s very narrow. I also decided to make it vertical, rather than horizontal. Then I searched through our trip photographs for something I could crop in a narrow vertical strip to fit.
I ended up finding a photo of the Round Tower from Windsor Castle, which we climbed on our honeymoon. There was the most fantastic foliage winding all around the base of it, among stone walls and steps. I really like the perspective for my painting.
I’m decently happy with how this painting turned out, except for the all the foliage and the trees. I lost a lot of definition between the different bushes and trees from over-blending that would have helped to show depth and perspective. But I do like the little stone wall sections which I modelled after my successful rocks in February’s painting of my dog at the beach.
I also think I got carried away with all the yellow-greens and they’re a bit bright.
15. Use black and white or sepia tones – Tonal Pear – painted from a class by Miss Mustard Seed
For this painting, I followed another Miss Mustard Seed painting class, this one a tonal Bosc pear. It begins with a great underpainting. And then a minimum of colour is added to the pear and the draped fabric background. Here is what mine looked like at the underpainting stage:
Though the finished painting is not actually black and white or sepia, it has very minimal colour. And that’s why I chose that prompt as the best fit.
I’m not sure what compelled me to choose an 8 x 10 for this painting as it’s much larger than I usually work with. But I had struggled doing a very tiny pear painting in February and decided to go larger. I do think I got much better results this time and my pear is a slightly better shape as well.
However, I’m also discovering that if I’m going to paint on a larger scale, that I need larger brushes to match. I plan to search for a couple larger brushes in case I feel inspired to keep doing paintings that are little bit bigger in the future.
16. Experiment with a new palette colour – Cadmium Yellow Light
For this prompt, I already had a brand new tube of Gamblin Cadmium Yellow Light that I have never tried before. Previously, I had been using Winsor and Newton Cadmium Yellow Pale Hue. It seems like a much warmer yellow than the cadmium yellow light.
In order to first get to know a new colour, I always like to begin with a colour chart to see how it mixes. I most often use yellow to mix greens, so I wanted to see how it compared to a warmer yellow. Therefore, I mixed a colour chart with Ultramarine Blue and Cadmium Yellow Light, and tinted with Titanium White.
Ultramarine Blue is a warm blue, and the results of mixing it with a cool yellow definitely produced cooler greens than when it was mixed with a warmer yellow, as shown below.
But interestingly, the resulting colours from mixing a warm blue and a cool yellow are much more similar to the results of mixing a cool blue with a warm yellow, shown below.
After having completed the new colour chart, I had all those lovely cooler blue-greens mixed on my palette. So I decided to use them up to create a second version of a painting that I’ve done before.
You may recognize this little painting from February when I made a second attempt at my first ever oil painting. I loved how the second version turned out – it’s so much brighter and less muddy.
So I decided to try this painting again with my new cooler greens, and I really love the results here too.
Here is the comparison between the cool and warm versions – I’d be hard pressed to pick a favourite!
My tube of Cadmium Yellow Pale Hue is almost empty so I’m planning to upgrade to Cadmium Yellow Medium, which I expect will be warmer yet. I’d love to make one large colour chart of all the blues, greens, and yellows I can mix between my various warm/cool blues and warm/cool yellows.
I’d also like to attempt even more versions of this same little landscape with more colour schemes as a fun way to experiment.
17. Monochromatic Piece – Value Art Exercise
For this piece, I decided that I wanted to follow along with an art exercise to go back to basics. After doing a little bit of searching, I came across Bill Martin’s Guide to Oil Painting online. His first exercise is about creating Basic Forms with Value, such as a cylinder, sphere, cone, cube, and torus (doughnut).
There are a set of photos and instructions that show his example, and it was easy enough to follow along and do it myself. Bill mixed black and white for different values of grey for his piece, but I don’t have black paint in my palette.
Therefore I mixed the darkest colour to begin that I could, a combination of phthalo blue and burnt sienna. Then I mixed a set of values with white. All of my mixed colours ended up being greyish shades of blue.
This exercise reminded me of assignments to use pencils to shade a sphere in art class in school. Perhaps you’ve also done similar exercises with sketching pencils. After doing this exercise with oil paint, I think using pencils is easier.
There are a lot of drawing errors to my shapes if you really study them, and I found it hard to keep the edges of my shapes neat. Blending – or not over-blending rather – is still a challenge. And the shapes with curved surfaces were more challenging than straight surfaces.
But overall, I’m happy with my first attempt and seeing all those shapes and shadows and highlights emerge on my canvas from just different values of one colour was quite exciting.
Bill Martin has other follow up exercises that progress from this lesson and I’m looking forward to trying some of those as well. I think these basic skills that I can practice will help me going forward, especially in painting still life.
April Art – Now One Third Through the Art Challenge!
I’m still greatly enjoying painting once a week and really making time to make art and try new things. I’ve now successfully painted for 17 weeks straight, which feels great. I can’t wait to continue for the rest of the year!
Head over to read about my May Paintings now!
Don’t worry if you want to join the 52 in ’22 Art Challenge so far into 2022 – it’s an art challenge you can begin anytime and complete at your own pace. Get your printable prompt sheet by signing up below.
I want to hear from you! Which painting do you like best? Have you done basic art exercises before with paint or pencils, including in school? Let me know in the comments below.
All the best,