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Latest Oil Painting

April 16, 2009

I’ve finally finished a painting that I’m reasonably happy with.  Now that it’s up here I see some problems with it, but the photograph is partly responsible.  For some reason, it distorts the image -that front table edge looks wonky here, and on the painting it’s straight – I measured it with a ruler! When I adjust the sides for straightness, something else went wrong!

I’ve been a very haphazard blogger lately.  I’m not sure why, but I have trouble getting on the computer and keeping up with things.  I hope that this phase will pass.

There have been a couple of questions on my studio setup – rather than answer in the comments section where they were asked (as I imagine most people don’t remember to go back and check), I’ll tackle them here.

A while back, when I decided to try my hand at oils,  I bought the dvd “the Carder Method”, as I’d seen it online and it looked like a quick way to get familiar with the medium.  I’m always looking for a quick learning method.  Well, it’s not really that, but it is a pretty good way to dive into painting.  the problem is, it involves a lot of work upstream – before you even get close to painting.  One of the things he insists on is having black walls in your studio to avoid glare and cut out changing natural light in order to see the colors as they are. Well, I love my light-filled studio with clouds all over the walls, so I almost stopped right there, but I had noticed  how hard it is to finish a still life, even in pastel, without the light changing a million times, whe you are counting on light coming through a window. My husband had a flash of genius one day in Ikea – he bought four large black window shades and set up a mini-studio within a studio, which can practically disappear whenever I want it to.


We also built a very flimsy light box out of a couple of cardboard boxes painted black.  I posted about it previously, but for clarity, here it is again:

The still life goes in the large box and a light bulb hangs in the little black box on top.  I adjust the light by filtering it with a white sheet of plastic, and by changing the size of the opening.

It’s not depressing in my little black box (everyone who visits the studio asks that!) because the lighting is 5000k, which is very close to daylight.

As for the Carder Method, there are other obstacles, such as a particular type of medium which they sell, but will also give you the recipe for.  I just couldn’t get the ingredients together here in France, but found out through their forum that some people use M Graham paints successfully as they have a more liquid consistency than other brands. They are not available here either, but I had some sent.

It’s been an uphill struggle (and this partially explains why my blogging has slowed down) but I’m getting there.  This method has stirred up a huge polemic in some places (notably wetcanvas).  I think this is because it seems like a hack, and this angers people.  (Personally, I’m always looking for a hack). I even saw a comment calling it ‘paint by numbers’. Well, without a drawing or numbers…..

I cut my teeth in oils with Nel’s online oil class, and I highly recommend it for a more conventional approach – I’m sort of combining the two at this point. Since starting with this new medium I’ve had advice from lots of people who work in it, and it’s never the same.  I think there are many ways to approach it, and they are probably all good.

28 Comments leave one →
  1. April 16, 2009 11:14 am

    I’m just speechless, this is absolutely amazing!! Oh, isn’t there always someone to criticise? 😉 If this is the result, I really don’t mind how it was done! I want to reach out and touch and feel that blue jub!

  2. April 16, 2009 11:49 am

    Wow! I agree with Felicity – it doesn’t matter how you did it, whose methods you followed, it is really lovely! I think the light that you captured on the objects makes me think of so many masterpieces in art history.

  3. April 16, 2009 1:28 pm

    wow Casey, that painting is gorgeous! and I don’t think it matters one bit what you do to achieve this end result (though I am hugely impressed by what you HAVE done in the studio) or how you approach everything that leads up to producing a painting … I’d call it creative thought to be honest. The talent is there though and the final results are superb and that is all that counts as far as I’m concerned.

    And thank you for the explanations, steps and stories behind it all! 🙂 As soon as I’ve saved up some I’m joining that online painting class too …

  4. April 16, 2009 6:33 pm

    Great painting!

  5. paintingsprintsandstuff permalink
    April 16, 2009 8:28 pm

    reasonably happy with???? you’ve got those textures really well!

    I think closing in on the subject so you don’t have the space around would make it even stronger :>)

    One of my tutors always insisted on considering all the negative shapes around the edge of the canvas and making sure they were interesting and varied – another had a thing about the corners being interesting (not as being a star but just interesting shapes/colours as supporting cast)

  6. paintingsprintsandstuff permalink
    April 16, 2009 8:29 pm

    oh and interesting write up on your studio and methods :>)

    I think you are right in taking parts that suit you from various sources and making your own way then

  7. April 16, 2009 10:30 pm

    Hi Casey, I applaud your commitment to sticking with the learning process. Your set up is impressive. I find your still life work inspiring. I particularly like the variation in edges on this one.

  8. April 17, 2009 1:19 am

    Wow, Casey! First of all, the painting is fantastic!!! Really impressive. Congratulations. This seemingly very complicated set up paid off. As you noticed, I’ve been having trouble keeping up with regular blogging recently, too. But can’t say it’s been because of this sort of work.

    What a stroke of genius your husband had with the black shades! I love my light filled studio, too, but often am chased by the sun in late afternoon. That reminds me (off topic) of a film title. Burnt by the Sun. A Russian film by Nikita Mikhalkov about the Stalinist period. It’s quite brilliant (no pun intended) and I think you might like it, if you haven’t seen it already.

  9. April 17, 2009 2:33 pm

    Casey, I am so impressed with your progress, and your setup itself. You have really dug right in and gone for it, haven’t you! Your results are wonderful. As for people saying it should be a certain process or a certain approach, I think of any great artists and how they were criticized as well, so I’d just throw all that right out the window. LOL I’m a firm believer in doing what comes comfortably for you. This is obviously working for you! Just lovely!

  10. April 18, 2009 12:35 am

    Wow! The still life is beautiful. My camera lens distorts too. I find I can somewhat overcome this by looking really hard at the edges of the painting when I’m photographing it and adjusting the angle of the camera accordingly. (And it’s not a question of expensive equipment. I had a professional photographer in here once–though not one used to photographing paintings–and he had the same problem.)

  11. April 18, 2009 11:52 am

    Casey – the painting is wonderful! and to heck with the critics!

  12. April 19, 2009 2:45 am

    I love the light in your painting! It reminds me of Vermeer.

  13. April 19, 2009 6:17 am

    The pitcher on the right is absolutely masterful (and the rest of the painting is pretty wonderful too. You are really a natural at this. When I started oil painting my blogging really took a hit, too, so I know what you’re going through. Thanks so much for posting about the studio set up and the Carder method. I visited their website about a year ago and bought just the little metal paint color matching device. But since then I’ve found a better solution on Empty Easel in an article by Diane Mize about color. You test the color on the edge of a small card (I’m using the back of old business cards) and then you hold that up to the subject to see if it matches.

    To get rid of the glare I painted the wall of my studio where my easel is neutral mid-gray. I think the black shades is genius though!

    Isn’t it amazing how many different theories and approaches there are to oil painting? Finding MY way is taking a long time, but I’m enjoying the process. I’m going to take another look at Carder. Do you think the video is worth the cost?

  14. April 19, 2009 6:20 am

    P.S. If you have Photoshop, there’s a great tool for correcting lens distortions. In CS3 it’s in Filter/Distort/Lens Correction and can pretty much fix all aspects of the problem, in just a couple of steps.

  15. April 19, 2009 12:26 pm

    Took a look at the Carder promo. You also can get the same info as their metal paint color testing device from a “gray scale & value finder”. (Mine is from The Color Wheel Co.) You just hold up the gray scale and your brush with some paint on it.

  16. April 19, 2009 1:13 pm

    Casey, sorry to take so long to reply – yes I’d love to see you if you come, that would be fun!!

  17. April 20, 2009 2:45 pm

    Seems with every medium there are more than one way to use them to accomplish your work. this method is obviously working great for you.

    This is absolutely beautiful. I love this post and how you tell share your achiement of darkening the walls etc. (nice husband to help you out, too)… great post.

  18. April 20, 2009 11:07 pm

    I find the black shades fascinating!
    I never realized why I’d also been so frustrated with finishing a still life. I spend so much time at every sitting having to adjust the values again and again to match the always changing light.
    Thank you Casey for posting such an excellent explanation of your beginnings with oil paint.

  19. April 21, 2009 1:43 pm

    Fantastic work, Casey and you’ve really nailed the background on this one. Like everybody else I’m blown away at what you are achieving in oils. The blue jug is gorgeous.

    I’m so relieved you didn’t paint your studio walls black! What a clever husband you have. It sounds like you’ve had to be really committed to set up for the Carder method but boy, has it paid off!

  20. April 23, 2009 8:09 pm

    I’m also taking an oil painting class now Casey, so I have been enjoying your posts about this new medium you are tackling. It so helpful to read about how you are solving the problems associated with painting still lifes. And the painting is just lovely!

  21. April 25, 2009 9:00 pm

    Hi Casey,
    I got the Carder DVD and am quite impressed with his teaching. FYI, I requested and was given the recipe for their medium and talked to the tech support guy at Gamblin paints and he said he thought the medium was unecessarily complicated and should be able to be replicated in consistency and drying time by just mixing 50/50 Stand Oil and Gamsol (odorless mineral spirits). So that’s what I’m going to use.

  22. Bill Sharp permalink
    April 27, 2009 2:43 pm

    Casey, You’ve made great progress with oil painting. I like what you’re doing a lot.

    I’m not familiar with the Carder method but I have used M Graham paints and they are less stiff than others I’ve tried. They use walnut oil in the paint, which may slow drying time.

  23. May 8, 2009 5:49 pm

    Your painting is fabulous!! The light is stunning!

    As for your studio, my oh my, this is grand!!! I love the little black box! I’d love to have one myself!

    As for the techniques, I hav never tried oil, but I can imagine it’s the same with acrylics or watercolour: millions of ways to tackle them, you just have to try and find your own!

  24. annie permalink
    May 10, 2009 3:06 pm

    I missed this blog, Casey, and I just caught a link to it on Jana’s blog. I love the texture, here, and the feel of rough crockery.

    I’ve been interested in making one of these since I saw a post about a box on Alison’s blog in Australia, several years ago. As for the polemics, Wet Canvas can be a bit of a wet string, sometimes– I mean HURRAY for whatever on earth can help because some of us need all the help we can get.

  25. May 14, 2009 3:31 am

    the painting is beautiful. you’ve brought the forms out soo well. off to read about the carder method : )

  26. deborah permalink
    October 17, 2009 10:10 am

    Hi Casey, Ï think that is a good painting, have you been painting for long? I am thinking about purchasing the carder method, but i dont understand about blocking out the light. My studio is very light but i have large thick curtains to put up at the windows. When all the light has gone, how do you them see to paint? With a lightbulb?

  27. FrorAutonee permalink
    September 9, 2010 6:59 am

    Excellent post!! Very informative… Looking for more posts like this!! Keep you the goodwork!
    Anyway thank you for this blog.

  28. April 10, 2013 3:43 am

    Pretty great post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I’ve truly loved browsing your blog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing on your
    feed and I’m hoping you write again soon!

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