Robert Burridge demonstrates how to practice shapes, lighting and color by doing a basic still-life warm-up before a painting session. Read the rest of the feature article “On the Move!” by Christine McHugh in The Artist’s Magazine (June 2013).
Daily Painting Warm-Up
By Robert Burridge
I’ve developed this particular exercise as a workshop warm-up. (I also use it before I paint in my own studio.) It’s a practice session for painting nine small pears on a full sheet (22×30) of watercolor paper. I call it practice because that gets rid of the pressure to make a perfect painting! See Keeping It Loose and Free (page 33) to understand my general process for working in a series with acrylic.
1. Prepare the Surface and Palette: I seal the watercolor paper with an orange acrylic gesso. These nine, 6×9 warm-up paintings are to be monochromatic, so on the table I squeeze out only the colors red, yellow, orange, magenta and white. Later, when the paintings are dry, I mark off the borders of the individual paintings.
2. Start With Basic Shapes: Without looking at a photo reference or a real piece of fruit, I make up the shape of a pear, or any other fruit or vegetable, starting with basic shapes. (See A, B.)
3. Add the Light: Next, I determine the direction of the light. Here, the light source is from the left, so I loosely lay in white on the left side, the dark color on the dark side, plus a shadow. (See B, C.)
4. Create Dimension: I develop visual drama by painting a dark color next to the light side of the pear and a light color next to the dark side, which effectively makes a gradated background. I add a light color for a table surface and a dark shadow color to anchor the pear. (See D).
5. Paint Progressive Steps: I go from painting to painting—finishing one step on all the pieces before going on to the next step, maintaining loose and dramatic brushstrokes along the way. When I’m finished, I brush on a coat of acrylic varnish. (Image D shows all nine paintings lined up.)
6. Play With Color: Sometimes for more playtime with color, I wipe in what I call fluid acrylic dyes—creamy, saturated, high-pigmented, liquid acrylic paints that I thin down evenly with water—for a staining, patina effect, as is evident in E. Then I seal the paintings with a final coat of varnish.
In addition to “playing” in his studio, Robert Burridge is a juror for international art shows and an instructor for college-level courses and national painting workshops. He also teaches a fine art mentorship program in his studio in California. Recently selected Honorary President of the International Society of Acrylic Painters, in which he holds a signature membership, he is also a signature member of the Philadelphia Watercolor Society. His original paintings can be seen in six international galleries and on Starbucks coffee mugs, Pearl vodka bottles, eight tapestries and fine art edition prints in upscale retail stores and cruise ships. Learn more at www.robertburridge.com. Read the full feature article in The Artist’s Magazine (June 2013).
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