Get Your Paint On, Week Two

Week Two’s assignment for the Get Your Paint On class was to draw inspiration from a painter or specific painting and incorporate some part of it into our own painting. I ended up drawing inspiration from a couple of artists: Frida Kahlo and Tuco Amalfi.

Kahlo’s vulnerable self portraits that show her exposed heart inspired me to paint an anatomical heart. It’s a shape that I really love but always resisted drawing because it seemed complicated. Once I delved in and started sketching, I realized that it wasn’t so bad!


One painting in particular by Amalfi inspired the rest of the imagery.

I used a framed masonite panel for this painting, which was new for me. I really like the flat, firm surface. It’s only 6 x 6 inches which was a surprise to some people who thought it was much bigger based on the photos.

I painted the entire panel dark blue to start, then traced the shape of the heart onto the surface. I carefully painted a couple of layers of white so that they colors I was planning to use for the heart would have an easier time showing up.

Heart, first layer

Heart, White

At this point I had a couple of thoughts: I wanted to brighten up the background a bit, and I considered painting the heart pink so that I wouldn’t have white peaking through the color.

I painted the entire panel with a thin layer of light blue which brightened up the background to my liking and also turned the heart blue.

blue heart, oops!

I liked the idea of having a blue underpainting for the heart, so left it as is and moved onto the color. However, when I added in the lines that divided the different parts of the heart, I realized I’d forgotten to paint in a section of the heart! I had to carefully paint that little part white, and luckily I still had some of the same blue color to match the rest of the heart.

two blue hearts

Finally I was ready to paint the heart pink. I was eager to get to this stage, because I’d planned to use gouache for the first time. I mixed a few different tones of pink using Holbein’s Acryla Gouache.

Pink Heart

I was really happy with the texture of the gouache and liked how just a bit of the blue showed through. Since for me this class is about pushing myself to try techniques I’m not very comfortable with, I decided to add some shading to the heart to give it a little more dimension. I thought it would make a nice contrast to the final elements I had yet to add which I’d planned to be flat and decorative.

I was really nervous at one point while working on the shading because it was looking really dark and muddy and ugly. I saved it by revisiting the heart with brighter, lighter colors to even out the overly dark shading.

Heart with Shading

The final step was to add lots of fine white lines to create veins that turn into roots, and branches with blossoms. This was the step that I procrastinated on because I didn’t know if I’d have the skill to pull it off.

I spent lots of time sketching various options for the lines and working out their final look and feel. I used pencils, pens, and a little help from the computer to get them just how I wanted. Then I traced them onto the panel with the help of some graphite paper.

Pencil LInes

Once the lines were on the panel, I finally reached the moment of truth when I had to paint the lines white.

Week 2 -- instructor critique welcome

Although I was nervous, I was lucky to have a very fine brush and a steady hand. It took me a while, but eventually painted all the lines. I was very pleased with the final look, and overjoyed that I’d done a good job!

Once I’d finished painting the flowers on the branches, I had the idea to maybe paint the blossoms pink, but I got several responses that encouraged me to keep them white. My friend Maggie Nichols offered me a wonderful insight: “Hearts are on the inside, away from the sun, and when roots, leaves or other plant bits are away from the sun they lack pigment and stay white. So I think that makes sense here. It makes them stand out very well.” I loved her take on the imagery which settled my decision to leave the flowers white once and for all.

This is only the second assignment in the class, and I already feel like I’ve learned so much, just by making the effort to try a few new techniques.

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