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I have a ridiculously great life, playing with paint in the studio and flexing my time around the needs of my family. Took me a while to work out the balance, but I figured it all out and am loving every second. You can see my artwork at and I'm on twitter (ksantini) and facebook (Kimberly Santini), and the FB studio is Kimberly Kelly Santini.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Lou (otherwise known as "My Personal Struggle with Values")

Sometimes a painting, a really good painting, doesn’t just roll off the brushes. Lou is an excellent example.

The reference material was beautiful – lots of backlit poses, no flash photography - just Lou in all his feline confidance, lounging, napping, ignoring the photographer. Typical cat stuff, which translates usually into a wonderful painting.

First I stretched a yellow canvas. A side note: Sometimes I choose to work with a colored ground (meaning that I didn’t tone this one yellow – the canvas actually came that way) – it alters the way the pigment rests on the surface, and does some very nice things with reflections within translucent layers.

So I stretched a yellow canvas and blocked Lou in. He looked great. And then the fabric dried and got all lumpy. I restretched and resoaked, and tried blocking without the stretchers. Nothing would salvage the yellow canvas – every time it got wet, it dried all lumpy.

So back to the drawing board. I stretched a new canvas, traditional artists weave this time, and got to work.

Of course, I didn’t like what I was getting. After working on the yellow, my colors seemed flat.

So I started a new one. And another. And another.

Which led me to today’s efforts. I had rubbed out all of what I’d done on the last piece, and had a blurred shape with just a hint of shading begun.

I started with highlights, working with my cadmium red and yellows again. I used pthalo blue (red) for some shadows. I started from the lightest area, and worked my way back across the painting to the shadows.

I also decided to eliminate my stronger shadows altogether. I brought them from about a 10 to a five. That brightened the piece up tremendously. (NOTE: This is the danger of working from photographs, as they always contain a full value range. Shadows become flat black shapes, and highlights are entirely washed out)

Then I decided it still wasn’t light enough yet, and softened the value range even more.

Then I wiped the entire painting out, and started over again, using only 3-4 values. Yeah, I'm crazy. But it just wasn't measuring up.

The final result of today's painting session is a very soft, green gray yellow painting. Nice blurred edges everywhere but in Lou’s face, as though the only thing that really matters in this world is the enjoyment of this particular moment, which in all reality is how the feline brain works the bulk of the time.

So I think I’ve finally gotten Lou down. Or rather, the beginning of Lou's painting. There's still lots of work to be done.

It'll be a long night!

As always, thanks for looking!

Kimberly Kelly Santini
distinctive pet portraits
& 4-legged paintings


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