Candles Painting Exercise – Block 4 #2

This candle painting is the second exercise for Block 4 of the Evolve Artist course, and was painted from a photograph.


Evolve Artist Block 4, #2 – Candles. Oil on canvas.

For this block there are eight paintings to complete, but twenty photographs to choose from. These include two greyscale paintings and six in colour, which are divided into simple, moderately complex, and extremely complex categories. There are four or five photos in each set, and we have to choose two from each. This is the first colour painting in Block 4, and is from the simple group.

It’s quite hard to choose which subjects to paint in this block, as there are more than two photos I like in most of the categories. In the end I decided to just go with the subjects I find most appealing. This candles photo is relatively simple in terms of composition and colour palette, but that doesn’t mean it was easy to paint.

I painted the background and the left hand flame first, then the top right flame the next day. I naively thought I’d get the background and both flames done in one morning, but it took a lot longer! I hadn’t realised how much was going on in the flames until I had to reproduce them. Then I painted the body of the left hand candle, which ended up taking two days because I seriously screwed it up the first time (bad colour matching which made it look neon orange), and ended up wiping off the paint as much as I could, and starting over the next morning. It’s still not great, but at least I got it done and it’s not as wildly off as the first attempt. I learned a lot from this, particularly to slow down with the colour mixing, and not jump around when I’m painting – which I know, but when things start going wrong, I sometimes go into a kind of mild panic and start pushing paint around in an attempt to fix it without really thinking through what I’m doing, which just doesn’t work. Sometimes, like with this one, it’s best to just stop for the day and come back to it with a fresh head.

I ended up overdoing it on this candle, and set off the wrist pain I get every now and then. So after finishing the background and the first candle on the left, I was forced to take a break of several weeks before continuing, which is annoying when I just want to get on with it! In future I’ll stop as soon as possible if my wrist starts complaining. The problem with these more complex paintings is that it can be hard to find a suitable place to stop for the day. A hard edge is best, but sometimes that’s not possible. And if you stop in a graded area (which Evolve advises against at this stage) and have to pick it up again when the paint has dried, it’s hard to get a smooth blend. So because of the wrist issue, and the increased complexity of these paintings, I can no longer always paint an entire object or separate section in one session like I could in the earlier blocks. I just have to accept that I’ll sometimes have less time than I’d like to finish a section, and the painting will only be as good as I can get it within that time. This isn’t ideal, but it’ll force me to let go of some perfectionism and nitpicking tendencies.

Anyway, I like the witchy vibe of this painting, although it has issues, like the back candle which is too dark in value (which I knew while painting it, but I ran out of time and had to stop). These candles definitely weren’t as easy as they looked! I’m not making my photo choices based on easiness, but subject appeal, as I mentioned. At first I thought about choosing the ones that look the most challenging, but I want to have fun with this. Painting a subject that doesn’t interest me at all is a chore, even if it’s valuable as a skill-building exercise. All of these paintings have different technical challenges anyway, so an interesting subject will keep me motivated through the hard parts. The next one is a cat, which I think I’ll enjoy too

See all my Evolve artist paintings.

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