March 31, 2009

Couple of works in progress

Some WIP images of a couple of pieces I am working on at present. I am working on a few landscapes, as I had this uncontrollable itch to do some. It was so bad that I had to abruptly stop whatever else I was doing, and plunge into these. Huh! Happened to take some progress shots, so here they are.

Summer fields - work in progress
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

Finding my way through - WIP
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

March 30, 2009

A quarterly review of Goals 2009

I have always been an advocate of timely feedback and goal reviews, since it always helps to set things right sooner than later. Last year I was not really acting on the goals, I was doing a lot many other things and I just forgot about them. This year though, things are going good and I'd like to review and revise them now, that we are one quarter into the year.

Summer fields - Work in progress
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

Here are my goals that I published in December 2008 - they were very very conservative, keeping last year in mind. I tried to play it very safe. I wanted to participate in all the VSDs, but I had to miss the February's. My other goal was to do 10 DSFDF challenges, and I am glad I have already done 4 so far this year. 10 looks rather easy now, so I will change that to 15.

I did not have a goal on a specific number of paintings that I should complete during the year. I have never had such a goal. But, I am extremely happy I have completed around 30 paintings so far (this is including my entries for VSD, DSFDF etc). This is more than the number of paintings I did in the last five years put together! Not to forget the dozen paintings that are in progress, what youe see in this post is also one of them. So I am giving it a shot to complete 100 paintings by end of the year, lets see how it goes. I know that I also had a goal that I should work on one painting at a time and take it to completion. That however has not been possible, and I just left it at that. Some people have a compulsion to multi task and it is best left alone :)

The biggest plus this quarter has been how much I have ventured out of my comfort zone. I always considered myself primarily a landscape artist, who occasionally did other subjects. I never ever thought I'd be doing still lifes for about 75% of my time, but thats what has been happening now. I am having a blast with all these still lifes, since they have been well received and I got some very positive feedback for them. I will be doing more still lifes, and I predict that will constitute a majority this year.

I have done figurative paintings in my winter series, something that I never really bothered to do before. I have also been working consciously on my figure/portrait drawing skills by carrying my sketchbook with me whenever possible. I try to sketch my daughter at home when she is busy with something. I don't post most of these to the blog, but I know I am at it anyway.

As promised, I have also started selling originals now, though not from my blog. I am offering original small paintings from my Etsy store. Most of all, I have been blogging regularly all my paintings and WIPs. It gives me great pleasure to share the WIPs with my readers, more than the completed paintings. And it also keeps me going when I don't feel like it once in a while. Also, though not very important, I have redesigned my blog completely and I like how it looks now. I hope you do too. I am in the process of updating the website, I am moving it to another service provider, and will post the details soon as I should be done anytime now.

I hope the rest of my year is as good as its been so far. We'll do this once again every quarter. How are you doing so far?

March 29, 2009

Some sketches over the weekend

We had gone to this little lake close to where I live, and I managed to do a couple of sketches. My daughter was so excited seeing the ducks over there and wanted to feed them some bread. This is dad and daughter enjoying themselves feeding the birds. My husband is actually a lot thinner, and I couldn't get the proportions exact as they were moving constantly and it wasn't very easy to sketch. The little one looks quite closer to real life.

Feeding the ducks
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

And then closer to us were a few more gentlemen who had come fishing. There was this elderly gentleman who has set up all his angling equipment and was sitting patiently with a drink in hand. I loved his pose and the entire setting. There were 3 guys in all and I would probably paint them later. Just managed to sketch this one.

Waiting for fish
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

March 26, 2009

A portrait in graphite after ages

This is a portrait of Jeanette for the monthly portrait study. I have posted it for feedback it the group, and some more tweaks are pending I should say. I am not happy as of now and I hope I am able to fix the issues soon. It was fun doing a graphite portrait after a long long time, more than 5 years if I remember right. The last graphite portrait I did was of my husband, when he was still my boyfriend! And looking back at that portrait now, it looks so childish. This time I used the flatter side of the pencils to block areas quicker and also to get a softer look. I am pretty happy with the shading and the edges, but the resemblance is way off. Your feedback is welcome.

Jeanette Jobson
Graphite on paper,
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

March 25, 2009

Bringing the pears alive

Now it is time for the pears to rise from the dead, and so finally I get to see some hues other than black and white. I have added one layer of color in the first 2 pieces. I will be adding color layer by layer, so as I mentioned earlier, I will be working on all pieces in parallel.

Let me know what you think of it.

March 24, 2009

Different Strokes - Having fun

This is my entry for the ongoing challenge at the Different Strokes blog. The reference is a subject Karin paints so well, a beach scene. I love her beach scenes as much as her gallery scenes. It is a new subject to me though, its been a while since I've done beach waters.

Having fun
Acrylics on Paper, 9 * 12 inches
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

After very detailed painting with my still lifes, I wanted to really loosen up and paint this one. The reference is a very crowded one, with many people vying for attention. The focus would first go to the girl with the surfing board, as if in deep thought. But beyond the figures in the foreground, I was instantly attracted to these little girls having fun in the water. That's what the beach means to me, a place to really let yourself free. So I restricted my focus to these two girls, and had a lot of fun with the water too. Your comments are welcome.

March 23, 2009

March Virtual Sketch Date

I skipped the VSD last month as I had no time really, and I was not greatly inspired by the image too. I was in a mode where I was churning out still lifes one by one, and was not interested in that landscape image last month. I loved this month's reference, two little birds at a feeder. The colors in the feeder and the birds are awesome. The lighting is great and I loved everything about the image. I am a big time bird enthusiast anyway and love painting them.

Isn't it spring yet?
Acrylics on paper, 8 * 8 inches
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

This was done immediately after I worked on one of my pear pieces. It was mainly to refresh myself, by loosening up a bit. I did this in about 15 minutes or less, directly painting in acrylics with no sketch or anything. I am not happy with it, I think I messed up the birds badly. They were very cute and I did not capture it. I really want to do another version of this reference, I hope I get the time for it.

This time the submission procedure has changed a bit and we don't need to wait till the 30th to see all the entries. The artists are entering the links themselves using a widget and so the paintings can be seen right now. As they get posted that is. I think its a very cool idea. Check out the entries at the VSD Blog.

March 22, 2009

Pears series #5 - Work in progress

Last of the first installment of the Pears. When I did the apples, I did not expect I would do beyond 5 pieces. It was only when I was doing the paintings I realized how much I enjoyed them and decided to do few more after the initial five. This time around it is different. I am quite sure I will be doing some more, so this is the first set I can say. I kinda lost patience, as always in this one. So hurried up an underpainting thats a mix of umbra and penumbra layers. I couldn't wait to add color, so I decided it was enough!

Here is the progress so far. Click on the image for a bigger view.

Pears and Fabric #5 - WIP
Acrylics on Canvas, 24 * 30 cms
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

Pears series #4 - Work in progress

Some progress shots of the 4th piece in the Pears and Fabric series. Click on the image for a bigger and better view.

Pears and Fabric - WIP
Acrylics on Canvas, 24 * 30 cms
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

March 21, 2009

Pears series #3

I am completing the first few layers upto the dead layer in all the 5 pieces, and then I will add color to them one by one. So all pieces are still in progress. Like the previous two pieces, this one too shows the progress from pencil drawing to the dead layer. All we need to do now is to add in color.

Pears and Fabric #3 - WIP
Acrylics on Canvas, 24 * 30 cms
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

March 20, 2009

Pears series #2

Here is the next of my Pear paintings, making use of the Flemish technique as described earlier. One prerequisite for working in this method is that each layer must be completely dry before the next layer is done. It greatly aids my approach of working on multiple pieces in parallel. When my first painting is done with one layer and it drying, I work the same layer in the next painting. And so on.

I have completed upto the Dead layer and will start adding color next.

Seen above are the first 3 steps where I have done a preliminary drawing, then washed it with burnt sienna. I have then done the shadows with burnt sienna, black and marked the lighter values with a little bit of titanium white. To the left here is the dead layer, or the greyscaled version of the painting.

March 19, 2009

New series - using the Flemish Technique

I am starting a new still life series. It is an extension of my still lifes using fruits and fabric, this time using pears as the central object. The other objects used should be familiar to my readers, they are the same blue plastic container and my olive oil bottle used in the Orange and Glass series. I have planned to use the Flemish Technique of painting for this series.

The Flemish Technique was used by the Old Masters, and it is an approach to build up color in layers. This gives the painting great depth and helps achieve a very high degree of realism. A long time back there was a Virtual class on how to use this technique, in the Acrylics forum of WetCanvas. I could not participate then, but I thought this could be a good time to try my hand at something new, so I am giving it a shot. It is very different from how I work. I do a very rough underpainting, nothing detailed. Here that will change.

The technique is a 7 step process. They are :
  1. Drawing - transfering the sketch to the canvas. I directly sketch on the canvas freehand. Traditionally though, a detailed drawing is to be done on another paper and is to be transfered to the canvas.
  2. Toning the canvas - This step is called "Imprimatura", where the canvas is painted with a mid tone color. This is done so that the values can be marked better than painting on a plain white surface.
  3. Marking the shadows - The shadows are marked using a dark pigment, like Burnt umber. Opaque highlights are then added. So this step becomes a two value process, where only the darkest and lightest values are marked. The painting will begin to emerge reasonably three dimensional in this step itself.
  4. Dead layer - This layer, also called Penumbra, is painting the entire painting in black and white. It is a very detailed underpainting to mark all the values, so that the coloring part becomes much simpler. The values are clearly separated from the colors.
  5. Color glazes - After painting everything in black and white, colors are added in glazes. This forms the steps 5 and 6 of the technique.
  6. One more layer of Color
  7. Final highlights - Some highlights are added in the end. While painting the dead layer, pure white is not really used. It is reserved to add in the final step.

The pictures from left to right depict the steps 1 to 3 in my first painting. I have done the sketching very roughly, washed it with a very watery burnt sienna. Then using a combination of burnt sienna and black, I have added the shadows. In the next step, I have completed the dead layer. The dead layer could be done even more detailed, but I have stopped it here and I will begin to add color next.

It was completely new to me, to refer to a greyscale of my image and do it completely in black and white. I enjoyed it, though it was quite time consuming. I hope it will not be as time consuming if I get used to the technique.

I would recommend visiting the blog of Mark Woodland, who does amazingly realistic works using this approach. The virtual classroom was conducted by him and that's what inspired me to try this. I will fetch the link to that thread and update this post later.

March 18, 2009

Apples and Glass gallery

I set up a still life with a whole apple, a sliced apple and a glass of apple juice. There was some sharp sunlight, and the reflections were in all their glory. In my previous series with the Oranges and Glass bottle, my canvasses had a lot of empty space. This time around I tried to fill up the canvas as much as I could. So I opted for closer crops, and also included some fabric to create an interest to the viewer. it was also my first experiment with the square format.

Click on each image to see the corresponding blog posts and works in progress. In the post for each painting, I have included a work in progress image, that shows the complete transition of the painting from underpainting to signature. Hope you enjoy it and find it useful. All your feedback is welcome.

This gallery by the way was very easily put together by Windows Live Writer. It rocks!

Apples and Glass #8 – Completed

So finally, we are done! This piece was the most difficult for me in terms of motivation. It was like preparing for an exam on the last day during school and college. During every exam, while preparing for the last paper, invariably my thoughts would be more focused on the impending holidays than on the exam at hand. Similarly, I was thinking about what to start next, rather than trying to finish this piece well. So with great difficulty, I got myself to concentrate again and do justice to it.

Apples and Glass #8,
Acrylics on Canvas, 18 * 24 cms,
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

I will put up a gallery of all the apple pieces together soon. In the meantime, your feedback is welcome on this one, and the series as a whole. As in the previous pieces, I have put together the various stages the painting has gone through. It might be of interest to you, enjoy. Click on the image for a better view.

Apples and Glass # 8 - Work in progress
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

March 17, 2009

Apples and Glass #8 – yet another update

This is the last update before I post the completed image, I promise. With this piece, we are done with apples for a while. Until my obsession begins to show its face again. This one’s a rather boring arrangement compared to all the previous ones. There are no folds in the fabric, no complex reflections etc. However, the shadows are very interesting in this one. The fruits are almost entirely in the shadow, and it helps me experiment a lot with color. I have already used a lot of blues and greens in this, and I will use more of them as I go further. I love deciphering colors in shadows, it is absolutely exciting.

In all probability, I will complete this one tomorrow, and then later this week, I will post all the 8 pieces together. That will be interesting, I hope. Stay tuned.

Apples and Glass #7 – Completed

We are slowly inching there :) I have completed the penultimate piece in the apples series, as of now that is. I have completely run out of small sized canvas panels, and until I replenish my inventory, the apples wont resurface. But I have already shortlisted couple of more from my reference set and I am itching to make it a round number, like 10 :D Let’s see when I am able to get to those.

Apples and Glass #7
Acrylics on Canvas, 18 * 24 cms,
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

I am quite pleased with this one, I tried a different arrangement of the fabric from the previous ones. The glass was also a nightmare in this piece. Took me a lot of time, even though I had done SIX similar glasses before! I am happy with how it has turned out. Please have a look at the work in progress below, from start to finish. Click on the image for a better view.

Apples and Glass #7 - Work in progress
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

March 16, 2009

Apples and Glass #6 – Completed

This is the first among the rectangular apple pieces. The set up is very similar to Apples and Glass #1, with just the angle being a more toppish view. I had great fun working with the glass in this. I thought it has a lot more color than the other glasses.

Your comments are welcome.

Apples and Glass #6
18 * 24 cms, Acrylics on Canvas
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

Since it is easier to see the work in progress in one shot than to navigate through separate posts to see the various stages of the painting. So, I have put together the work in progress, please have a look. I could take the maximum number of pictures in this piece, so it shows the transition quite nicely I must add. Click on the image for a better view.

Apples and Glass #6 - work in progress
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

March 15, 2009

Apples and Glass #5 – Completed

The weekend was lousy, I was down with a stiff neck and I just could not paint at all. Got to work on the 5th apple piece and complete it today. This piece, though I started with the first batch, was getting really delayed for no reason. This piece has a lot of shadows in the fruit and I really went wild with the color here. I have used a lot of greens and blues in the shadows. I tried to keep the fabric folds a little abstract by just indicating some blues.

Apples and Glass #5
8 * 8 inches, Acrylics on Canvas
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

A snapshot of the work in progress for you. All your feedback is welcome. Click on the image below for a better view.

Apples and Glass #5 - Work in Progress
Copyright Nithya Swaminathan

March 14, 2009

BIG News - now offering originals for sale!

Yes, I am now offering ORIGINALS for sale from Etsy. I spent a lot of time thinking if it would be a good idea to have a dedicated sales blog, or go with a known service provider, and I chose the latter. While my studio blog itself is yet to receive any major hits, it was not a wise option to go with a separate blog. So I have opened my shop on Etsy and will be offering all my recent works there. I have currently uploaded only two paintings, and will soon enhance the collection.

You can have a look at my shop here.

March 12, 2009

Apples – next update

   I don’t want to number these paintings until they are completed. I know how confusing it can be to the reader, to keep seeing painting #x, stage #y over and over again. In my system, I know what number this painting is, so that’s enough. So yeah, this is one among the next four apple still lifes, and it is about 90% completed. I have completed the glass and the fruit behind. Some more work is pending on the fruits in the foreground, and the fabric. The shadows all look similar, I need to bring in some variation in them.

  I am next planning to start a new series of still lifes with pears and some white fabric. I have so far done only one painting of pears, and I loved it. So I am eager to move on to the next series, and I hope to complete this ongoing series asap. Stay tuned.

March 11, 2009

Apples - some progress

The apple still lifes are taking time, this time as expected. This is my progress today on one of the new apple paintings. I have almost completed the fruits, started work on the glass. I hope to complete the glass to a large part tomorrow, and tweak everything together one last time. Your comments are welcome.

I have just opened a twitter id and am still in the process of figuring out what on earth twitter is. I am just testing the waters, to see if it will direct more eyes to my art. Blogging itself is time consuming, and it takes a lot of effort to keep a blog alive with new stuff. I don't really think I will have time for something like twitter, but lets see. Just in case you wish to follow me, I can be found here.

March 10, 2009

Deep woods – a minor update

In between the apples, I got to work on the landscape for sometime today. Here is an update on the same. I have defined the foliage in between the birch barks a little more so that the trees stand out clearly. I have also started some work on the rocks in the foreground.

Yesterday, I spent a lot of time downloading a fancy template for my blog and customizing it to my liking. It was then that I realized that there were a lot of tweaks to be done in the template, much more than what I had time for. It did not even have the feature to display the post categories. But the biggest drawback however, was that it had images in the background and was loading very slowly. So I decided to do away with all fancy templates and have gone back with gold old denim template of blogger. I have just customized the colors so that they look good with my new header. All your comments are welcome.

March 9, 2009

Update on the apples

Here is a small update on the three new apple paintings. I have completed work on the fabric. The apples get their turn tomorrow.

March 8, 2009

Revamping the blog

I wanted a sleeker look for the blog, and have gone with a complete overhaul. The update is not fully done yet, I downloaded a new template and not yet done with customizing it fully. So kindly excuse me if there are random changes happening over the next few days. Regular programming will resume soon.

The painting btw is the current stage in which the 5th painting in the apple series is. It should be completed tomorrow.

All your feedback is welcome regarding the blog changes. I welcome any valuable suggestions.

March 7, 2009

Apple obsession continues

I had taken a lot of references when I set up the apple still life. Initially I started with 5 paintings, 4 of which are completed now and the 5th one is almost done. I was just browsing the remaining references to check if I can manage decent paintings from any of the, and I have started not one but three new paintings! I am totally having a blast with this set of references. So here goes, apple paintings 6, 7 and 8. The first stage of the WIP that is. Your feedback is welcome.

March 6, 2009

Deep woods - WIP

There is a virtual classroom on doing Trees and Foliage happening in the WetCanvas Acrylics forum, and here is my painting that I am doing along with the class. Though I do a lot of landscapes, I always make foliage quite messy, so this was a good opportunity to learn from an experienced painter. I am one confused soul right now as I am unsure how the painting will shape up. But here is a step by step process so far.

I am using two references merged for this painting. One is of a woods scenery in my neighborhood here, and the foreground is from a scene in India.:) The woods are largely with winter trees, with some hint of dried up fall leaves here and there. To begin, I directly sketched the trees on the canvas with a very watery burnt sienna. Have done the sky also quite watery now, with cerulean blue and titanium white. I plan to have some trees in the background, very shallow waters in the foreground with some rocks here and there. I also have a fallen branch in the foreground.

And then I have started adding dark foliage in between the trees. The colors used are olive green, some crimson and burnt sienna. The trees are mainly birch trees, and they are quite fun to paint.

Then I suddenly decided I wanted couple of more bigger trees in the foreground, and have sketched them with some olive green. Thats generally how haphazardly I work :D Since the background foliage is not supposed to be so dark, I have added a layer with titanium white, mauve and olive green. Very loosely mixed on the canvas itself. This is a night photo and it not so good.

Then I realize that the trees all look very evenly spaced, so define them a little more in clusters. Have added another layer of the sky too, as the first layer was too watery.

And then with some yellow ochre, burnt sienna and a hint of orange, I have added some foliage in the background. It is a winter scene with only dried up fall leaves, so no bright colors used really.

With some flesh tint for the brighter side, and pthalo blue + burnt sienna for the darker sides, I have done the trees again. After my daughter's portrait last year where I spent a lot of time getting the flesh tones right, I bought this tube of flesh tint. My daughter's portrait is done with mixed flesh tones, no flesh tint straight off the tube. But ever since I have got this color, I have used it for everything but portraits. I am finding a great use for it in still lifes, and now in landscapes as well. Huh! Here is how it looks right now.

Today I will be working on the trees some more, I hope to pull out my palette knife too. Then I will start working on the water. Look forward to an update in a couple of days.

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