This is quite a comprehensive project, but I will try to take you through it, step-by-step. First off, you will need an 8×10 stretched canvas, or board. For best results, you will need either a print, or a screen to view the reference/finished painting; I have included it here. I have also included the roughly traced lines to work with, either by using a projection system or any other method of transferring to canvas. For paint, you will need the following colours in alkyd, (or oil if you don’t mind waiting days for each layer to dry): blue, yellow, red, black, white and green. Linseed oil and a selection of brushes are necessary, of course, along with a bar of olive soap for clean-up. That’s right – you don’t need nasty or smelly chemicals to clean your brushes!
Step One: The Under Painting
The first thing we need to do, is transfer some basic shapes from the reference, to our canvas. There is no sense in trying to include a lot of detail here. Canvas is a rough and bouncy surface to begin with, and due to the nature of layering paint, most intricate detail would soon be covered up, anyway. As for accuracy, don’t worry too much; you will have the chance to neaten things up as you go.
The concept of under painting may be new to some, but it’s an important part of this system. I guess the most important part of this process is to preserve the shapes we just outlined in pencil. The colours chosen are usually close to the dominant colour we eventually want to end up with. Another reason for this sometimes unrewarding step, is to set the canvas up for subsequence layers of paint. Canvas, even when primed with Gesso, presents a very porous surface.
Whereas most of the initial shapes here consist of solid expanses of one colour, there are occasions when it helps to hint at shadows and curved shapes. In the case of our waxed covered cheese, I have added two shades of red, and before the paint dried, I soften, or blur the lines between each. This careful manipulation of paint across the canvas is known as wet on wet, and is an important skill to learn. The only advice I can offer, is to experiment with brush strokes, occasionally cleaning off your brush so as not add too much of any colour back onto the canvas.
When the under painting is completed, it should look something like this, although your colours don’t have to be exactly the same – it’s your individuality that will make this project your own. I know it doesn’t look like much, but this is just the beginning. It will get better.
(One thing to keep in mind – try not to leave any ridges of paint where the shapes meet. These will show up later, and tend to spoil the effect of the painting, especially when viewed up close)
Step Two: Initial Stages
Unfortunately, the smooth background needs to be pristine, and without brush strokes. In step two, the second layer of paint won’t differ much from the under painting, with the exception of a lighter corner behind the wine glass. The colours used here are white and black only. Most of the background is a darker gray, and where it meets the lighter corner, you need to smooth the dividing line. This is best done with a larger, and preferably softer brush. Don’t forget to constantly wipe this brush clean as you go.
(Mix very little linseed oil with the paint for this layer. The thicker the paint, the better, but make sure you smooth the surface as you go – no ridges)
For what it’s worth, this step is complete, and this is how the painting will look at this stage. This wasn’t a very challenging step, but the thicker paint may dry as quickly as 6 hours, at which point you can move on to the next step, the wine glass itself.
Step Three: Starting the Wine Glass & Cheese
To start, we will define some of the shapes within the wine glass. Using only yellow, red, black and white, paint the various shades as shown, then carefully smooth the shapes where necessary, using a larger brush.
This is another example of wet-on-wet painting, and takes a soft touch. It often requires cleaning your brush when too much paint has accumulated. Notice a few of the shapes should have hard edges; the final result looking much like this
We will need to let the wine section dry for now, and since it was a fairly simple task, let’s move on to filling in more areas with a second layer of paint. Starting with the cheese, we will do more wet on wet, but this time more carefully. Any paint strokes at this point will show though when the painting is done.
For the exposed section of cheese, it is important to get the edge clean and accurate. Don’t hesitate to turn your canvas on its side, or even upside down. Whichever angle makes the task easier, and your lines more accurate, is preferable.
Step Four: The Wine
Step Three is now complete, and after it dries, we will come back and start filling in some of the major details within our wine shapes. I am still using the white, black, red and yellow, but will soon start to introduce some green. I leave it up to you to pick out what grabs your attention, or simply try to copy everything you see in. It’s your painting, so do as much as you can, or feel comfortable with, during the various stages. You will still be using only yellow, red, black and white, mixed to form a rich amber hue.
An important addition to this section, however, is the line that’s formed on top of the liquid as it meets the inside of the glass. I am starting to introduce a tiny bit of green at this point. Somewhere near the centre, this line should gradually change to a very light yellow, and then back to the greenish colour. Using this same green, and a larger brush, carefully introduce this into the deeper amber colour near the edges of the wine. You will notice that I have turned the canvas on it’s side; this is an important strategy for working on tricky sections. I find it easier and more accurate to paint up and down, as opposed to left and right, especially when defining clean edges.
Now I have turned the paining upside down, to add a bit of the amber reflection, and to add some basic white and darker gray shapes to the stem of the glass. I prefer to stop at this point, and let things dry, before moving on.
Step Five: Finishing The Glass
Every now and again, however, you will accidentally put some errant paint on another part of the canvas, or perhaps get off track with your brush, and need to remove paint from the canvas. Not paying attention (and I did not do this on purpose), I smudged some green paint on the white section from my fingers. It looks like a disaster, but don’t worry – here’s what to do:
Take a clean piece of cloth or paper towel, and dip it in linseed oil. Dab the oil generously around the area with offending paint, and then using a fresh part of the paper towel, rub back and forth until all the paint in gone. Be sure to remove as much of the linseed oil as you can, since it can dry with a slight yellowish tint.
Okay, we’re back on track. I am continuing to add detail to the wine glass during this step. Basically, wherever I find an area that’s dry, and needs more detail, I will work on it. Sharpening the areas of intense light reflection is a matter of adding pure white to the centre of the shape, and fading outwards. I noticed at this point that the yellows in the brightest sections needed to be more intense, or saturated, so I applied a very thin layer of pure yellow and linseed oil with a larger brush. This is a wet-on-dry technique, and its very much like tinting. By using a clean brush, or piece of paper towel, I can remove most of the colour if it becomes too yellow.
The glass, in places, is just a combination of white shapes contrasting with lighter and darker grays. This applies to the stem as well as the top rim. When you do this, try to analyze what you see in the reference photo, and see what you come up with. If things get messy when wet paint starts to mix together on the canvas, don’t hesitate to stop, and re-work the area when it’s dry.
Step Six: The Reflection
For this next step, I am going to tackle the reflection of the wine glass. I start to fill in some of the larger shapes with gray, and smoothing, or fading them towards the centre. This is another example of wet-on-dry, and the secret is to keep cleaning your brush in order to use less paint towards the softer edges. Next, I added in some of the interesting reflected/refracted light shapes from the amber wine.
It’s not perfect, but is where step six ends. You may have a different interpretation of these interesting shapes, and that’s fine, because it is, after all, your painting. I should mention that I often go back and work on other parts of the painting as I go. This is simply to speed up the process, since I will have to wait for the section I’m concentrating on to dry, before doing any more work.
Step Seven: Shadows
Some of the shadows in this composition are tricky in that they also include a reflection. In doing the grapes, I have mixed a medium gray colour, adding in arcs that move downwards. I then took my bigger feathering brush, and softened the bottoms so that they gradually fade to nothing. It was at this point, that I realized I was a little bit too dark within the wine glass reflection. Using with a slightly brighter shade of gray, I lightened the area around the grapes in the centre.
The shadows for both the cork and the wooden cheese board are fairly straight forward. However, there is a bit of warmer shade on the left edge of the board, and a darker diagonal on the bottom part, where the boards shadow intercepts its reflection. When this step is finished, it should look like this.
Step Eight: The Cheese Board
At this point, I am merely adding on the second layer of paint, this time making sure it is a more accurate colour than the under painting. It should be much smoother and opaque, although letting some of the under paintings colours show through can be effective. It is in this step where I put the shadows for the cheese and crackers. Where they should have softer edges, I use a careful wet-on-wet technique to blend the paint. When you do this be careful not to get paint outside the edges of the board.
Since the paint on the board is still wet, I have to be extra careful. Next, I add in some more detail and edging on the crackers, using a golden yellow (yellow, red, white and a tiny bit of black)
When everything is dry, we are going to add detail to the board. The grain of this wood is different on all three visible sides. The front side consists of four darker parallel lines, that vary in thickness and intensity. I am using my feathering brush to softening my lines in). The left side and top are quite different – you can put as much, or as little detail here as you feel comfortable with.
Everything is dry again, so it’s back to the crackers, and to add some more realism, I am painting in shadows, and then highlights, using darker and lighter shades of the warm golden colour already used. There isn’t much more to say about this, other than look at the reference shot, and decide with areas should be lighter or darker.
There is a rather complex logo on the cork, but it fades in the top section exposed to more light. I have an easy way to do this. Simply paint the logo with the same dark brown and then take a clean piece of paper towel (or cloth), and carefully press straight down on your canvas – do not move it to either side, or you will smudge. If not enough paint has been removed to look realistic, take a clean section, and press down again.
Sometimes complex objects like the crackers need revisiting in several layers. Extra highlights and shadows are more easily refined here, after the previous layer has dried. There are also some dark, almost black specs visible, and these appear to be pepper. You will decide how many, or how prominent these will be on your painting.
As illustrated on the left, I start to add the highlights to the cheese. I do not use white until the very last layer of paint; instead I use a very light pink, carefully blending and softening its effects.
Step Nine: Finishing Up With the Grapes
The grapes may be a little tricky, and the secret to getting the colour right, is to realize that there is a lot of yellow involved – maybe even equal parts with the green. Since I have already refined the correct shade of green from my original under painting, and am now defining some darker areas in the grapes. After this has dried, I add in more detail, both in terms of shadows and highlights.
At this point, the painting is essentially done. Congratulations, you have finished this exercise, or at least, read to the bottom of this page!