Artist and North Light author Arleta Pech loves transparent color. For over thirty years of her painting career, Arleta worked exclusively in watercolor. Working in watercolor, she developing her transparent color theory, showed in galleries around the world and taught seminars. In 1998, she wrote her first North Light book on glazing called Painting Fresh Florals in Watercolor. A few years after the release of her book, she began experimenting with other mediums—egg tempura, fluid acrylics—before eventually discovering transparent oils. Instead of using oils opaquely, she realized she could achieve the same luminous effects she loved about watercolor by glazing individual layers of thinned oil paint, a technique practiced by the Old Masters. Ever since, she has infused her works with radiant color using the classic transparent glazing technique. Try your hand at the free exercise below, a simply study of shiny and textured fruit, and learn how to make your paintings glow with light with transparent glazing.
For more great instruction on glazing in transparent oil, check out Arleta Pech’s second North Light book, Radiant Oils, published in early 2010. It includes 5 simple studies like the berry demo featured below, plus 5 full-length demonstrations of stunning still-life paintings from start to finish (scroll down to view Sweet Perfection, one of the feature demonstrations in the book).
Free Demonstration: How to Paint Berries with a Glaze
5″ x 7″ (13cm x 18cm) Ampersand gesso board
Alizarin Blue Lake
1-inch (25mm) mop (for smoothing the background)
nos. 2, 4, 6, 8 filberts (for applying glazes)
nos. 2, 4, 8, 16 scrubbers (for blending)
Walnut Alkyd medium
Transfer your drawing or draw your composition directly onto a prepared canvas using a hard pencil. Keep in mind that cherries and blueberries are not always round and that all of the bumps and holes of raspberries make for irregular shapes.
Glaze 1 image:
Glaze 1: Establishing the Forms and Highlights
The first glaze establishes the white highlights and the form of the fruit. You want to save much of the white of the canvas, so go easy as you apply the paint. If you can see the paint on the brush you have too much.
Values: Begin by glazing the dark values of each piece of fruit with a no. 6 filbert and blend with a 1-inch (25mm) mop to create lighter values. Thin the paint with a bit of medium. Use a blending brush when you want the glaze to be lighter, but don’t load your brush too heavy.
Edges: Paint hard edges around the cherry highlights (still the white of the board), and lightly blend the soft edges of the shadows. The raspberries have highlights on their bumps and the edge of the stem hole, but you don’t have to paint around all of them. The blueberries have both hard and soft edges depending on how the light catches the tops.
Glaze 1 Colors
Cherries: Winsor Orange (fruit), Sap Green (stems)
Raspberries: Quinacridone Red
Blueberries: Alizarin Blue Lake
Cast shadow: Alizarin Blue Lake
Glaze 2 image:
Glaze 2: Adding Warm and Cool Values
Mix some warm and cool values to create different reds for the cherries and raspberries. A yellow glaze on the raspberries will warm them and move them forward; a cool red glaze will move the cherries back.
Shapes: The outside shape of the cherries is strong from the first step, so you don’t have to think about them again. As you paint, think about the tiny shapes of texture on the raspberries and the split tops of the blueberries.
Values: A darker red value will make the cherry skins shiny and help the lighter values glow. Similarly, raspberries have lighter values between the bumps to give them an inner glow. Blueberries are very dark, so the Alizarin Crimson glaze darkens the blue.
Edges: Adjust each glaze near the edges of the cherry and blueberry highlights if they are near a darker color. Paint around a few more highlights on the raspberries to add value and color dimension to the overall shapes.
Glaze 3 image:
Glaze 3: Creating Different Values Between the Fruits
This third glaze will start to separate the cherries from the raspberries. Repeat a glaze of color to make a cool or warm color more dominant.
Values: Make the cherries a deeper and colder red. Avoid painting over the lighter areas or you may lose the shine of the skin. Glaze Quinacridone Red on the raspberries to create more bumps. Make sure to leave a bit of yellow showing. Apply more staining colors such as Alizarin Crimson and Alizarin Blue Lake to darken the blue values of the blueberries.
Edges: Use a light touch on the soft edge highlights of the blueberries and cherries. Use a Quinacridone Red glaze to paint around a few bump highlights on the raspberries to help raise them up. As you build the glaze, sharpen the outside edges of each object, but don’t completely outline the fruit.
Glaze 3 Colors
Cherries: Alizarin Crimson for the fruit; repeat Sap Green on the stems
Raspberries: Quinacridone Red for the warm red bumps
Blueberries: Alizarin Blue Lake for a frosty blue color
Cast shadow: Alizarin Blue Lake adds cool tone to the shadows
Glaze 4 image:
Glaze 4: Continuing to Develop the Fruit
The fourth glaze is where the layers finally start revealing a value difference. This is typical with transparent glazing. As you move forward, use semitransparent pigments to avoid blocking the luminosity of your previous layers.
Values: When painting the fourth glaze, be careful not to cover the first three glazes, otherwise you risk flattening out the fruit and you will have to start building form again.
Edges: Keep the edges of the raspberry bumps on the softer, shadowy side and only create hard edges on a few. Too many bumps and they will look like they have measles; too few and they will appear flat.
Glaze 4 Colors
Cherries: Bright Red for the fruit; Alizarin Blue Lake for the stems
Raspberries: Alizarin Crimson on the shadow side only
Blueberries: Mixture of Alizarin Blue Lake, Alizarin Crimson and Sap Green to deepen the value nearest the highlights
Cast shadow: Keep the cast shadow a cold blue. Lightly place Alizarin Crimson below the cherry or raspberries
Glaze 5 image:
Glaze 5: Dulling the Brightest Tones
After building four values of glazes, the colors will be bright. Dull a few areas to add depth before the final glaze.
Values: Use a complementary glaze to dull your brightest values and add to the round form of the fruits.
Edges: Clean up your edges during this glaze. Sharpen an edge near a highlight or glaze over a highlight to soften the value. Be careful, it is easy to get carried away and cover the entire fruit. Make sure to leave plenty of the previous glazes showing.
Glaze 5 Colors
Cherries: Alizarin Crimson to dull the bright tones of the fruit. Sap Green to cool and dull the shadow area on the front of the cherries and behind the stem. Cool the stems with Alizarin Blue Lake, dull them with Quinacridone Red or brighten them with Sap Green
Raspberries: Alizarin Blue Lake to deepen the shadows near the table
Blueberries: Alizarin Crimson to deepen the purple of the blueberry parts in shadow
Cast shadow: Mixture from fourth glaze to darken a small portion of the shadow right under the berries
Glaze 6 image:
Glaze 6: Making Final Adjustments
This last layer—as with any painting—is for tiny adjustments. Here I darkened the cherry with a small glaze to visually secure it in the background. I hope you have achieved shiny cherries, smooth blueberries and bumpy raspberries.
Berries by Arleta Pech
5″ × 7″ (13cm × 18cm)
Oil on board
Visit www.arletapech.com for more information on workshops, gallery shows and to view Arleta’s latest work.
Fun fact about Arleta Pech: while working as a commercial artist for Decals, Inc. in Colorado early in her career, she designed the Denver Broncos logo that was used from 1970–1998.
Sweet Perfection by Arleta Pech
32″ x 60″ (81cm x 152cm)
Oil on canvas
Collection of the artist
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