Monday, May 23, 2016

Steps in setting up an oil painting of vintage thread

I've been trying to come up with a title for this painting since I started playing with the spools. Lots of ideas to do with threading and unraveling, but nothing quite fit. So I set that thought aside and focused on the work. And there was plenty to think about.

Setting this up was like playing chess with spools and boxes. Pieces were moved, stacked, rearranged - and you wouldn't believe how many times the measuring tape loops were adjusted.

Then a thorough drawing is made of the set up. Painting is hard enough without having to make decisions about angles and shapes. Drawing is where the forms and perspective get nailed down. 
sketch, spools, threadd

The drawing is transferred with a neutral earth tone like burnt umber (the process is explained in this previous post). The board is basically masonite prepared with several coats of gesso toned a mid-value grey to contrast with both darks and lights.
burnt umber transfer

In the first pass of color (below) I start with an area of high contrast - the tape measure against the background, in this case. That sets the parameters for value range throughout the composition.
oil colors, still life, spools, thread

Here, just about all areas have a first layer of color. Except I'm avoiding the spool on the upper right, for fear of making it too bright. Which I eventually did. Too bright. It needs work.
WIP oil painting, still life, vintage

In this version, more details have been added and the lights and darks have been differentiated further. Always the Goldilocks syndrome: "this spool is too light, this spool is too dark..." Shooting for "just right."
first pass of color, still life, oil painting

I need a better photo, but here is the final painting. Check out the numbers on the tape measure (!) and the lettering on the pin cube - that's the little box-shaped-thingy. Apparently they used to sell dressmakers pins with their tiny, black glass pin heads sticking out of a cardboard cube. That was fun to paint!
oild sewing supplies, vintage painting.
Taking Measure, Following Threads ©2016 Dorothy Lorenze
So those are the steps. It took a week... and a few days more. All the while, mentally struggling with the title and enlisting help from family and Facebook-mates. There were plenty of interesting ideas but nothing felt exactly right. Then, while describing the steps, this title evolved: "Taking Measure, Following Threads". Which felt like what I was doing while painting as well as during the writing process. Must be the right one.

Thanks for joining me on my art journey.


  1. Hi, Dorothy. Do you use any medium to speed up drying? I'm new to oils and find my colors get muddy if I don't let things dry between layers. Add being impatient to that as well. Thanks, and I love your work. Kathy

    1. Hi Kathy, thanks so much for your comment and kind words.
      I don't use any drying medium. For me, the fact that oils remain wetter longer is an advantage that allows more seamless blending.
      If you are working on panels or boards (as opposed to canvas) the surface will feel more slick - which can take getting used to. I generally put down a thin layer of paint (thinned with turps or gamsol) to get the painting started. It dries more quickly and tends to give the paint a little something to cling too. That's just for an underpainting. Don't "paint" with turps. Remember "fat over lean" so you don't want your top layers to be leaner (more turps).
      Another consideration to keep from making mud is to not use too much of a color's compliment when blending. Mixing complimentary colors = mud. Complimentary colors are great for de-saturating color as long as they don't become too muddy, too often.
      Have fun!

    2. Thank you so much! And congratulations on your award at Kent's President's Show! I also have a piece there. Perhaps we will run into each other at some point. Kathy

    3. justdrawinglines,
      Thanks so much! Sorry for the VERY delayed response! I had issues with this email account.What sort of work do you do? I hope you are having success at Kent.


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