Tuesday, June 19, 2012

tea with kathy

Painting a series of similar subjects is a great way to learn; it helps to reinforce similar characteristics and work on different aspects of composition, color and perspective. Right now, I'm working on a series of teacups based on china I've collected over the years. Each cup has a story and this chintz cup is one that is truly close to my heart. It belonged to Kathy: a watercolor painter, antique collector, classical music listener and a dear friend.

Kathy shared her art adventures with me and encouraged me in ways no one else ever had. She even made it possible for me to return to college for my degree - offering to watch my baby even though her own girls had just started school full time! After class we had tea and she always served mine in this beautiful aqua chintz cup... because it's "your color"! 

In the spirit of nurturing artistic abilities, here are some of the stages of painting "Tea with Kathy"...

The initial sketch, organizes the composition and proportions are measured. Vertical and horizontal guides check symmetry.
Because of foreshortening ellipses are not quite symmetrical front to back - the front is usually slightly deeper than the back. The "corners" of the ellipse (widest edge left and right) are not too "sharp" and should be directly opposite one another.
Another good test for symmetry is to turn the painting upside down!

Adding local color creates volume which helps me see if the proportions are correct. Here I noticed that the bowl of the cup was a bit too narrow.

Added basic background and foreground colors and worked on overall values here.
Often shadows are blocked in at the drawing stage, but this cup has a very complicated surface pattern so I needed to keep it simple to start.
Basic shadows on the cup background color underlay the surface design - which also must be in shadow.
Here's the tricky part for me: implying an overall flower pattern for the "chintz" design of this beautiful cup without trying to paint each petal!
...and using brushstrokes that follow the contour of the cup so that the flower forms are foreshortened to prevent the cup from becoming flattened,
...and using deeper values of each flower hue in the shadow areas to create more depth and strengthen the form.

After cleaning up edges, adding stronger highlights, more complex shadow colors and details to the flowers and sugar cubes, the final: "Tea with Kathy."

I'm pretty sure Kathy would have had something sweet to say about the resulting painting.

On a personal note, I have to say, the chintz pattern of this china is amazing and I have always loved it. And even though this was a favorite of their mother's teacups, Kathy's daughters Amy and Becky gave it to me when she died... the finest china with the finest memories! And after all, it's my color.

I know I will paint it many times but I'm pretty pleased with this first attempt.
Thank you, Kathy, for yet another artistic challenge!


  1. I new this would be a tearjerker the moment I saw Kathy spelled with a K... What a special story, special lady and special painting! Gorgeous work mom! Love, that pesky baby that needed watching

  2. P.S. Are colors inheritable / genetic? Because I'm pretty sure that is also "my" color. ;)

  3. Not sure about genetics, but blue eyes + blonde hair = favorite color Robin's egg blue. I'm sure I read that in a color theory class!


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