A selection of my attempts and a still life... first attempt!

I've decided to try and improve my painting technical skills and have decided to work on still life subjects from photographs via a course. This is my first attempt. Hope you like it. Oil on canvas 24 x30 cm.

Thanks Kirsten and for the tips, all welcome for sure.
Its up in the house and a few of the family have copies... and my daughter has a cushion version which is weird but works.

Beautiful! I think the 'feeling' of a painting is more important that technique. I think you absolutely captured the falling snow, the cold, the wind, and emotion of the cranes! The organic elements, showing movement, (swaying trees, courting cranes, weather). Also the light and shadow are very good. The only thing that I would mention is the depth, you'll get more of that if you make the things in the background a cooler hue, conversely the foreground warmer. A wonderful painting, I hope it's on display somewhere for others to admire.

Hi Debra... thank you for the comment, I hope to finish it this week... perhaps :-\

Good advice Suzy... I do tend to get into overworking!

I run business building workshops for SME owners. www.puregain.co.uk

Hi Courtney...

The subtle range of colors in the painting so far are splendid. I eagerly await the painting's completion! :)

Wonderful painting, Neil! The atmosphere created by the limited palette of warm colors is appealing yet almost a little eerie. It makes me think there is a fire nearby...perhaps one that is starting to rage...and the building has been abandoned to it. But then, I may be overthinking this. :)

That looks great,try not to get it too finished,its good to have some brushstrokes. What kind of workshops do you do?

Hi Suzy

Standstill.... I've been back to UK to complete my Spring workshop with my clients, only back today so hopefully I can press on this week. How about you?

Here's the progress so far![](upload://3ZgkCeGtFOwvLcyEYxaFeCGE82c.jpg)

I agree,it works well,just shows what you can do with a dull photo. How is your painting coming along Courtney?

Hi Neil

Really like the painting and the changes you made to create a dramatic scene.

Here's a photo I used as reference....

…to paint this…

It would appear we are all on the same page when it comes to the importance of drawing. Upon re-reading my earlier post to you, suzy, I realize I forgot to acknowledge that, since you are working in an unforgiving medium, I understand that aids are important in your work. Since I prefer to work in mediums that are infinitely correctable, I don't have to worry about "mistakes". I merely brush the pastel dust off paper, wipe down or paint over areas I want to correct on oils and acrylics...it is easy to adjust the image as I paint. Actually, that is why watercolor is not a medium I use much. I don't want to have to worry that I can't change something completely in mid-creation. I do like watercolor pencils and watercolors for quick, plein air studies. Neil, thank you for clarifying what you meant. It is difficult to understand full meaning and context in an Internet conversation. Hence, misunderstandings can occur. I am always impressed with your willingness to hash things out. :)

I used cheating as in "cheating!" rather than as a definite no - no. I use photos a lot as I often don't have the time to draw on location and scale them up, move bits around and add and subtract features making them smaller or larger as I want but like Suzy I have over the years, learnt to draw. One of the main things, if using real subjects to paint from, is as Suzy says, to learn how to look as even the simplest seeming objects are quite complex and you need to see how the various pieces fit together in relationship to each piece.

Me too,many years of life drawing and still doing it.Plus my 30 years of storyboarding.

Of course you're not going to use an 'aid 'when drawing from life,can't imagine such a thing exists. I suppose it depends on the style of painting and technique as to whether one draws freehand or not.Can't mess around too much with watercolour,the first brushstroke is it.And as I don't have a watery,wish washy style style,I need to have a trace to place everything.I don't copy photos,I use them as a reference. I think artists can see when a painting is produced without any knowledge of drawing,but not 'joe public',hence the amount of rubbish that I've seen on sale,and bought in art galleries.The problem with the camera lucida and other things is that it takes away the need to look and draw.

I suppose I shouldn't have used the term cheating but I was picking up on terminology that Neil used. The use of aids has been around since Da Vinci used grids and, most likely, they were used before that. I also specialize in portraits, as you certainly know by now. I have no doubt that you draw quite well. I have never used any sort of aid for a couple reasons. First, my most revered art teacher taught his students to never use an aid. He had us do life drawings, every week for 90 minutes, for three years of high school, in order for us to learn how to get down proportions through observation only. I also attended life drawing classes, once a week, for 7 hours per day, for 3 years. I did quick portraits from life at countless venues over many years. I couldn't very well use any type of aid then, especially since most of the portraits were executed in 30 minutes or less. For me, using aids would seem like a waste of all my effort to perfect my ability to capture the proportions of my subject through observation and the relationship of features. I also don't wish to copy photos directly. I like the subtle variances of my freehand execution of features. I have never had a portrait refused and have often been told how I captured the person's personality...even when working from photos of subjects that have been long deceased. It is really a personal preference in the end, though. Chuck Close could never make his large portraits without a grid. Sargent liked to work in masses before he put in details. Whatever gets you from point A to point B is valid. And your work...with the use of aids...looks fresh and effortless. So, you are doing what is right for you. :)

Debra this is a reply to you,I couldn't reply directly under your post.I don't think of projectors or scaling up with grids as cheating,they're aids.I couldn't get an accurate placing of the features in my watercolour portraits without tracing the photo.Of course I know how to draw and that's the first thing one has to learn.

I agree that drawing directly, without use of projection, tracing, etc., is the best way to improve as an artist. I, too, see using those devices as cheats. The only time I resorted to transferring a drawing by the grid method was when I was commissioned by a library to turn a small bookmark design of mine into an approximately 2.44 X .92m painting on panel. One of the things I like most about drawings by the old masters (and mistresses, too!) is seeing where they adjusted their drawings...no erasing at all.

You devil you......

I always practice unsafe drawing