Elephant Book End Painting

An elephant book end painting tonight. And upon review I figure out that drawing, value, edges and composition still does not encompass most of what art is.

Tonight I painted one of my wife’s elephant book ends. I have always liked these book ends I finally plunked one down and started on it. While painting I felt a bit rushed because I want to only take one session on each painting and I don’t want those sessions to go beyond 2 hours. At least not far beyond two hours. I think the problem may be that even though I’m painting small, I try to get the whole subject in all at once. I need to really try and do the Schmid technique and start with my focus and work out from there. Of course that takes really great focus and drawing has to be right on for each stroke.

Besides feeling rushed I had some trouble with this one, I’m not really happy how it turned out. Actually I’m much less than happy, but I think I can learn a lot from my mistakes here.

The Painting


The Setup


My hierarchy of painting importance

  1. Drawing
  2. Value
  3. Edges
  4. Composition
  5. Color



How can I improve the drawing

I really expected my drawing to be worse than this. At one point during the painting I focused hard on the head and worked my way back to the book. This was after starting my under drawing with the book and working towards the head. The drawing of the head turned out pretty close and as I progressed to the right I became more haphazard and my drawing was lacking because of it.

But why does this painting look so bad? I have had paintings with the drawing worse than this, yet the painting turned out well. Maybe values…



How can I improve the values?

Right away I think the painting is too dark in the lighter areas. The highlights on the ear and the side are too dark, and the paper towel base is too dark closer to the light. This has in turn caused my cast shadows by the legs to be to light. I know when I was painting I hit my darkest dark in paint right away but I still wanted to progress beyond that. I think the issue is my light setup, its so close to my painting yet way to bright. I need to get a weaker light bulb.

In relative though I believe that they are pretty close, the values are not perfect but they are close enough. I have had paintings where the values are further off in relation to each other but the painting still looked fine.

Edges / Squinting


I think I have only done a post on edges for one of my paintings so far. Here I used a “paint daubs” filter in Photoshop to simulate a “squinted” look at the subject. What is nice about this filter is that it will generalize the subject well yet, if the edge is hard it will stay hard, if the edge is soft it will stay soft.

The more I look at this painting the more I’m thinking that the problem with it isn’t the draw, values, or edges themselves. I’m thinking that the problem is HOW I dealt with them.

Here is an example of a master dealing with drawing, value and edges with command.

Anders Zorn (1860-1920). Omnibus, 1891-1892. Oil on canvas. Oil on canvas. 99.5 x 66 cm. Nationalmuseum, Stockholm

I really feel like my issue here is not having any confidence in this painting, or better yet, I didn’t have any confidence in the execution, in my decisions to lay day a stoke and leave it there. I didn’t have any confidence in myself. I have been pondering the possibility of doing an entire painting where I lay down only decisive strokes, and once they are down I don’t touch them. I think it is time for that.

As for Saturday though, I will be painting on location, probably at Gas Works Park in Seattle so I will have to take on the decisive stroke painting another time… besides its kinda scary.

Session Details