Dinosaurs and Mushroom Painting Exercise – Block 3 #20

I finished Block 3 at last! This painting exercise is part of the Evolve Artist course, and is #20 from Block 3. It was painted from life.

Dinosaurs and Mushroom - oil painting exercise on canvas. Evolve Artist Block 3 #20

Evolve Artist Block 3, #20 – Dinosaurs and Mushroom. Oil on canvas.

I don’t normally post work in progress shots, but decided to add a few here since it’s the last painting in the block.

Dinosaurs and Mushroom - photo of still life box with the objects to be painted

Here are the objects in the still life box. This is just a snapshot, so the angles and colours aren’t quite what I was seeing from my work area, but it gives an idea. The dinosaurs are from a set of toddler bath toys that I bought for these exercises, and general sketching practice. Cute animals are one of my favourite subjects 🙂 I got the wooden mushroom on eBay, and painted the cap with acrylic paint in a colour that coordinates with the other objects and the background.

Setting up a still life normally takes quite a bit of experimenting to find a composition that works. We’re supposed to make each painting slightly more complex than the last, but to keep it manageable and not over-stretch ourselves. As the instructors point out, it’s better to paint a simple still life well, than a complex one badly. For Block 3, I’ve also focused on having a good variety of different colours in each painting, to get more practice with colour mixing.

Dinosaurs and Mushroom - rough sketch

This is the rough sketch. Each painting from life starts with this kind of rough drawing where I figure out the relative proportions. If I was doing one of my own paintings, I wouldn’t bother with all this precise measuring unless I was finding something especially tricky to get right. As I mentioned back in Block 2, I find it tedious and my arm gets tired, so I prefer to measure by eye rather than using the needle and having to put a number to everything. But it’s part of the Evolve method, so I always use it for these exercises as I want to have the best chance of getting everything right. There’s no point paying for an art program if I’m not going to do what they teach. And this type of measuring does work really well!

Dinosaurs and Mushroom - final drawing on canvas. Evolve Artist Block 3 #20

This is the final drawing on canvas (excuse the weird banding on some of these photos!). All measurements are double checked and scaled up before starting to draw. I don’t like drawing on canvas, as the rough texture makes it hard to get any kind of precision or detail, and it’s hard to rub out mistakes (and I have plenty of those lol). But of course drawings under a painting aren’t meant to be perfectly precise or detailed. It’s just how I’m used to drawing on paper, and it’s a hard habit to let go of.

After doing the drawing, I used a putty rubber to lighten the lines as much as possible, and they ended up lighter than in this photo. You don’t want graphite to smear into the paint, and also some pigments are more translucent than others, so the pencil lines can show through the paint if they’re too dark.

Dinosaurs and Mushroom - colours. Evolve Artist Block 3 #20

After finishing the drawing but before starting the painting, it’s time to figure out the colour mixes. In this block it’s simplified to one hue for each object (or each separate part of an object, like the spots), plus the corresponding shadow value. Evolve suggest using scrap canvas to test the colours. I don’t have any spare canvas, and don’t want to waste what I have on this, so I use paper instead. Sometimes I get accurate mixes right away, but more often than not it takes a few attempts. Colour mixing isn’t my strong point! This painting also has more colours in it than usual, so it took a while.

Dinosaurs and Mushroom - partially finished painting.

Finally ready to start painting. In this shot, the mushroom is finished, and the pink dinosaur has gradients but no highlights and reflections yet. The eye also needs more work. I normally paint one object per session, or sometimes more if they’re small and/or simple. It depends on how much time I have and how I feel. In this case I painted the dinosaurs and the mushroom over three days.

I don’t really like how the shadow side of the mushroom looks – it’s too grey, whereas the actual mushroom is a dark blue. But this was as close as I could get just by adding black to darken the original blue colour (as per the current method) while still going dark enough. I’m looking forward to being able to paint accurate colours in the shadows in future.

Dinosaurs and Mushroom - partially finished painting

Now all the objects are finished, and there’s just the background to do. I love getting to this stage, where the hard parts are over and the rest of the painting is easy. Painting the background is normally quite relaxing, unless I do something stupid like realise the colour is wrong after filling the whole thing in, then have to start over (only happened a couple of times!). Of course this will change after Block 3, when we switch from painting the objects and background separately to a different method (direct painting) which doesn’t make that distinction.

I thought the green dinosaur would be the hardest object, so I left it until last. But it was actually straightforward, and I had more trouble with the pink one, where I messed up the eye and the spots and had to make some corrections. There are a couple of bits that I still don’t like the look of, but too late now!

Dinosaurs and Mushroom - oil painting exercise on canvas. Evolve Artist Block 3 #20

Finished! I feel okay about how this painting came out. It’s not perfect, and while editing the photos for this post I spotted some mistakes that I didn’t see when I was actually painting. But that’s how it goes. The main thing is to try to learn from my mistakes and keep improving a bit with each painting. When I think about the various criteria that the instructors evaluate when we submit paintings for review, my progress so far in the course looks like this:

  • Paint density – the paint needs to cover the canvas (no specks peeking through), and be evenly applied and not too thick. I’ve never had any problems with this.
  • Sharp edges – edges need to be clean and precise. No issues here either.
  • Gradients – gradients are supposed to be smooth. It was a while before I felt comfortable with gradients. From the start, I had a mix of good feedback and ‘could be smoother’ type comments. I’d actually feel a bit of dread when it came to doing the gradients in Block 1 😀 Since getting into Block 3 I’ve mostly felt fine about them, maybe because I’ve had plenty of practice now, but also because they’re a bit easier in coloured paint than the greyscale paint.
  • Highlights and reflections – need to be the correct value, in the right place, and have the right type of edges (hard vs graded). I haven’t really had trouble with these.
  • Colours – should have the correct hue and level of saturation/chroma. Some of my colours have been a bit off in Block 3, but I’ve improved and the later paintings were mostly correct. I do have a problem with putting out the right amount of paint, and either end up with not enough, so I have to mix more of the same colour (which is always annoying and it can be tricky to get a perfect match), or too much and then a pile of expensive paint goes to waste, unless I can use it for something else. Because of this, I’m going to have to buy more of a couple of the colours, even though Evolve provides enough to finish Blocks 1 – 4.
  • Values – need to be correct within the simplified system that Evolve uses in the early blocks (two shadow values, two lights, and admixtures in between). For Block 3, we’re supposed to choose an average value for each part of each object. This is the area where I’ve had the most trouble. I often get them all correct, but quite a few of my paintings have shadows that are too dark. I don’t seem to go too light as often! In this dinosaur painting, the pink dino is a bit too dark in the shadows. So I feel like I still need more practice in this area.
  • Proportions – from Block 2 onwards, we have to draw from life, and the proportions of each object must be accurate. Evolve teaches a measuring system that makes this pretty straightforward. Some of my early Block 2 exercises had a few bits that weren’t quite right, but since then my proportions have been fine. I was used to drawing before starting the course, which probably helped.

So overall, I get most things right in my paintings, but I still make mistakes too. Not usually major ones, but I’d like to get to the point where these mistakes are rare exceptions.

Now I’m really happy to have finished this Block, and to be moving on to Block 4. I started Block 3 last summer, and expected to be finished by the end of the year, but things happened and I fell behind. I’m glad Evolve is flexible and we can go at our own pace. I’ll spend some time this weekend watching the Block 4 videos and will hopefully be ready to start painting next week 😀

See all my Evolve artist paintings.

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