Painting in 7 Easy Steps

Bear with me: this is a constant gripe of mine. Still, whenever I see something like this going on and get annoyed, I remind myself how much more I’m learning by not giving in to the photocopy machine ethos, and I feel a bit better (not that it will last when my result slip comes back with a ‘C’)

I have no issue with photo reference. I think photography is an amazingly liberating and helpful tool for all kinds of artists. What I do dislike is copying the photo blindly without taking into consideration the intent of the piece.

A Recipe for Instant Art

You will need:

  • A camera, preferably digital
  • An overhead projector (optional)
  • Models (optional)
  • Lights (optional, strongly encouraged)
  • Pencil (2B) or thin vine charcoal
  • Paint (oil is best to ensure the final work has an artsy flair)
  • Support (canvas preferred)

Preparation Time: 1 day ~ 3 weeks


  1. Come up with a concept, and shoehorn it into a contemporary context – preferably one which you have easy access to (e.g. your messy kitchen).
  2. Draw three thumbnails and pick the one you like most.
  3. Scout for a location and conduct a photo shoot. If you considered lighting in step 2, arrange lights as necessary prior to shoot and do not experiment with lighting once shoot has commenced. If done correctly, you should leave with precisely one sharp, well-focused image.
  4. Make A4 print of image. If using a digital camera, be sure to print with an office color laser printer and ensure that a strange color shift is present before proceeding to next step.
  5. Proceed to paint image onto support. A paint-by-numbers approach is especially useful. Cropping is allowed but only use if absolutely necessary (e.g. you have ordered the wrong size of canvas). Take care to copy your photograph slavishly and always draw contours, not three-dimensional forms! Remember to follow the colors of the photograph as closely as you can. Doing otherwise diminishes the verisimilitude of your final piece.
  6. Allow painting to dry. In the meantime, you should write an artist’s statement about the painting. Include two or more of the following words/phrases for maximum impact: “mimetic”, “built environment”, “contemporary”, “disengagement”, “appropriation”, “question”, “social mores”.
  7. Exhibit and win awards at contemporary art shows.

The following steps can be performed between steps 4 and 5. They are optional, but they will shorten the preparation time drastically, especially if you are not a skilled draughtsman.

  1. Make print of image onto projector slide.
  2. Project image onto canvas.
  3. Using pencil or charcoal, carefully trace outline of photograph – including highlight and shadow areas – until you have something that resembles a contour map.
  4. Seal line drawing to avoid accidental smudging while painting.

Common Problems

Q. I started painting, but realized that I don’t have a good ‘feel’ for my subject. Should I do some studies to familiarize myself with it?

A. Resist the temptation. Extraneous studies will only slow you down. If producing the painting for school examinations, you may be required to produce studies; in this case, avail yourself of a lightbox. Remember the Golden Rule: copy contour, don’t think about form.

Q. I’ve started analyzing the scene I’m painting! I’ve come up with ideas for lighting and edge treatment to convey the forms and concepts more clearly (I think). Should I still follow the photograph?

A. Yes. You do not want to waste all the effort you have put in so far.


Painting of the Year (2010) Entry

"Digital Painting" copyright 2010, Jessica Yang

Digital Painting

© 2010

Acrylic on Canvas

207 x 127 cm (or something, I can’t remember)

Is it paint? Is it pixels? Who cares anyway?

Artist’s Statement

Now I’m allergic to gray paint. Also I hate that the gray keeps changing its temperature. See area above Starry Night for example.

Oil Paints!

Oil paints!

I was going to post this on SIGMA+ but after considering that this blog has been post-less for so long I’m posting this here first, then crossposting to S+.

So, yes, oil paints. I got 5 colors today, from the student Winton range by Winsor & Newton (slightly cheaper than the Artist’s Oil Colour range, and all colors cost the same).

Cadmium Red Hue (slow drying)
I was trying to decide between Pale Red, Indian Red (both of which are oxides, so they have a more rust-like color), Permanent Alizarin Crimson and Cad Red Hue for reds. I’d read that something called Venetian Red is well suited to a limited palette like what the old masters used, and that the closest substitutes here would be Indian Red, followed by Light Red. But then another source said P. Alizarin Crimson was very common on many artists’ palettes. I felt it was a bit too pinkish, but what do I know, really? Anyway finally I read Cad Red was more versatile so I got that.

From the online Winton color chart:

Light Red Indian Red Permanent Alizarin Crimson Cadmium Red Hue

Burnt Sienna (medium drying)
This was originally Payne’s Grey, until I read online that Burnt Sienna is dead useful.

Titanium White (medium drying)

Cadmium Yellow Pale Hue (slow drying) 

French Ultramarine (medium drying)

W&N have also got a series called Artisan Water Mixable Oil Colourwhich I was quite interested in, because I don’t really like dealing with solvents. I couldn’t find it at Art Friend though (or maybe I saw and forgot). Speaking of solvents, I picked up a jar of Low Odor Thinner (Daler-Rowney), left it on a shelf while I went to swap Indian Red for Cad Red Hue, and forgot to buy it.

I also saw W&N’s oil “canvas” (actually just textured and treated paper) pads. A pad of 10 sheets costs about $13, so I decided to just use my existing acrylic pad (20 sheets for the same price). As far as I could tell the difference is in the finish of the paper – oil pads feel a bit more like canvas, they do feel a bit like cloth – whereas D-R’s System3 pad looks a little bit smoother and glossier.

The staff at Art Friend sucked today. Maybe they were hungry (I went around noon). The weekend people are much better.



Originally uploaded by krysjez

Well, it’s finally done. I present to you Andúril, Flame of the West.

Well, it’s my first time trying to actually paint something realistically on a computer. I hope it turned out okay. The cross-guard looks kind of flimsy, and the designs on the blade are sharper than I would have preferred.

It has recently come to my attention that my computer screen displays things really bright as compared to other peoples’ monitors, so if this comes out looking underexposed on your computer, please let me know and I’ll upload an alternate version with a Curves adjustment

Photoshop, Wacom Graphire4 tablet, and almost 5 hours (I think).

Coursework Update

Coursework Update

I’m slow. But I work faster under pressure and with distractions removed. Pigeonholer (top left) took about 2 months (!) to finish, Sneak (heron-face) 1.5 months, Insatiable (green thing) 1 month. But the deadline I’ve set for the fourth creature is Wednesday, so I’m knee-deep in nasty things.

After finishing everything, I still have to do a whole bunch of layout, write the body text, add in additional visuals (maybe I should abandon them?) and postproduction crap. Then send it out for printing.

I should be a grave-digger. I’d be good at it. I know I’ve done mine up pretty well.

Random Green Woman

From SIGMA+, my AEP blog.


Yong suggested algae mermaid.

I drew woman with funny shell hair and barnacle corsage. Then I colored her green.

And now I must go for my break, because I really don’t feel like doing any more art, and then I’ll come back and write about Inspiration so I can get a good grade for AEP and fill myself up with empty words of praise from my parents.

Also, I’m frightened. My language pulls my marks up in essays, not my reasoning, and for my practice exposition I got a low mark range of 21-23 (estimated; I’m not entirely sure how the teachers calculate things based on that iffy HCI rubric) upon 30.

Watercolor Prep

Watercolor prep for AEP EOY, done during, uh, final time.

Plant on the right is the ref. It has a name and it belongs to Mr Lim.

Changed theme. Alice Moby hasn’t died, she just migrated to our class whiteboard. You can still watch her rotate moods randomly here: