How to Use Glazes to Create Luminosity in Your Oil Paintings

Do you love the luminosity of stained glass? Then you’ll be happy to know that you can achieve clear, glowing colors in your oil paintings with multiple transparent glazes.

These radiant layers give objects depth and form, so they seem to lift off the painting surface. Below artist Arleta Pech demonstrates step-by-step how to do it. Enjoy!

Luminous Glazes in Oil

Red Wine Decanter by Arleta Pech | How to Use Luminous Glazes in Oil Paintings | Glazes, Light in Oil | Artists Network

Red Wine Decanter by Arleta Pech


I created Red Wine Decanter with thin applications of oil paint mixed with glazing medium in a process called optical glazing. The term describes how the eye perceives light moving through layers of transparent colors, translating those colors into a final hue.

The key to this technique is knowing when to use transparent, semitransparent, semiopaque and opaque paints. Each has a different effect on the luminosity of your subject. But first, you need to determine the opacity or transparency (coverage) of your colors.

Here’s how: Paint a black stripe on a scrap piece of board. After the paint dries, use a glazing medium to thin your favorite colors into a medium value and then glaze each one over the black stripe onto the white board.

If the color disappears or is very light on the black, it has some level of transparency. On the other hand, the more the color shows on top of the black, the more opaque it is. (See Coverage Test, below.) Be aware that from paint brand to paint brand, colors with the same names have different covering powers.

Once you’re familiar with the coverage of your colors, you’re ready to start glazing. The following demonstration explains how I used this technique on Red Wine Decanter.

1. Start with the lightest values

Looking at the finished roses closely, you can see the layers of colors that make their red hue. Glazing those colors in the right order is key. Because you work from light to dark in oil, I looked for the lightest color that I could see in the roses—a pink glow under the red and near the highlights.

I chose permanent rose for my first glaze. If the roses had shown a warm orange glow, I’d have chosen a yellow glaze to start. Once the first glaze was dry, I could apply the second.

The color of the second layer should be the next value up in the subject; I chose quinacridone red. The same process and colors were used for the wine.

I started the leaves with sap green and Indian yellow in a blended glaze. For the glass and silver, I started with the lightest value of gray, which I mixed from transparent colors of ultramarine blue (green shade), burnt sienna and a tiny touch of alizarin blue lake.

The white areas of canvas were left for the whites in each object. I knew that if, toward the end of the painting, these areas seemed too bright, I could tone them down with a glaze.



2. Add warm and cool areas

It’s fun to add cool or warm glazes to deepen values or create special areas that glow. I used semi-transparent Winsor orange to add a warm glow to the lower right corner of the wine and a glaze of alizarin blue lake on top of the wine for a reflected color bounce from the white wall.

Notice that in these two areas, there are still parts of the first two glazes showing. If you totally cover the previous glazes each time you add a glaze, you’ll flatten the object, but letting some of the previous glaze show builds form and deepens value.



3. Build deeper values

To build deeper values, select transparent colors with more power, such as the permanent alizarin crimson I used on the roses. This cooler color, which deepened the value of the flower’s crevices, was actually glaze number five on the roses, and each glaze slightly affected the flowers’ hue.

Before they’re finished, the roses will have acquired 10 glazes. The value structure that each glaze creates and the luminosity those glazes achieve result in a very different, more realistic look than that of a work painted with an impressionistic opaque process.

For the wine decanter and the leaves, alizarin blue lake is the more powerful and cooler color that adds value and depth.



4. Apply reflected colors

There are no set glazing mixtures for painting silver because reflected objects around the silver alter its color. Accordingly, I had started the silver with a transparent gray glaze to establish its form. I then chose subsequent glazes based on surrounding reflected objects, giving the silver sparkle and color bounce.

When I was ready to place the darks, I mixed a transparent black with alizarin crimson, sap green and alizarin blue lake. With those three colors I can create red black, green black or blue-black, simply by adjusting the mixture.



5. Take care with semitransparents

There are times when you need to alter an object or pull it together with a large glaze. I wanted the rose highlights to have an orange-red glow, and the shadow side of the roses needed more depth.

I knew I would have to give up most of the pink glaze that I had worked to save. I chose a semitransparent bright red for a thin glaze across most of the rose petals.

Be careful with semitransparent glazes; too heavy a layer will destroy the glow you’ve been building. Hold off on this glaze until you have good values in three to four other glazes, so that the form of your subject (in my case, the roses) holds.

Once you bring a semitransparent color into your painting, place it in at least three areas to move the eye through the painting. For this reason, I also added my semitransparent color to the wine and as a very thin glaze in tiny areas on the silver.



6. Make adjustments

The semitransparent glaze dulled the darks in my roses, so I used a mixture of alizarin crimson and sap green with a touch of alizarin blue lake for a very dark red black to place the darkest darks in the roses.

The leaves underwent many alternating glazes, but the final glaze was a transparent dark green mixture of sap green, alizarin crimson and alizarin blue lake.



7. Touch up with opaque white

Can you use opaque color in a painting created with transparent glazes? The only absolute rule in art is to paint your vision and use whatever you need to do so. I prefer to leave out mixed opaque colors because they tend to look like adhesive bandages over transparent glazes.

In Red Wine Decanter, however, I did use titanium white to clean up the edges of my whitest highlights and to add a few tiny sparkles that I had lost in the wine.

Also, the background cast shadow looked too deep, so I toned it to a softer hue with a very thin glaze of milky titanium white.


Red Wine Decanter by Arleta Pech | How to Use Luminous Glazes in Oil Paintings | Glazes, Light in Oil | Artists Network

Red Wine Decanter by Arleta Pech, final oil painting


This article appeared in a past issue of The Artist’s Magazine. Check out past issues of this magazine here, and be sure to subscribe here.

Painter and workshop instructor Arleta Pech is the North Light Books author of Radiant Oils: Glazing Techniques for Paintings that Glow.


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The 3 Cycles of Painting: Freedom, Faith and Healing

Best Ways to Paint in Your Studio

3 Cycles of Painting, Acrylic Painting, Nancy Reyner, Painting Process | Artists Network

Energy Field & Water by Nancy Reyner, acrylic on canvas


Someone once asked me if I go to my studio every day, or do I wait until I feel creative. This got me thinking about my art-making process. I discovered that I paint using three different cycles: beginning, continuing and completion.

Perhaps this may seem too simple. But by identifying these separate cycles I realized that each one requires a different type of energy, technique and approach. This, in turn, increased my productivity and gave an ease and flow to my studio time. In a nutshell, beginning is about freedom, continuing requires faith and completion is about healing.

I go to my studio almost every day, regardless of how I feel. But when I get to my studio, I start by taking a moment to choose the activity that best pairs with how I feel. Creativity takes on many guises.

Freedom in Beginning

3 Cycles of Painting, Acrylic Painting, Nancy Reyner, Painting Process | Artists Network


Sometimes I want to try out new things, have high levels of active energy, want to engage in something playful, or I just want to experiment. I always have lots of extra canvases and surfaces around (even a stack of cardboard will do) and I may launch several to a dozen new paintings in one day. This is my beginning cycle using freedom and play.


Faith in Continuing

3 Cycles of Painting, Acrylic Painting, Nancy Reyner, Painting Process | Artists Network


Other times I get to my studio feeling overwhelmed with too many paintings in process, or I have a less active, more meditative energy. In this case, I turn all my canvases except one to face the wall so I am not distracted and can focus on one painting at a time.

This “continuing” cycle is often the toughest for me. The work can lose its initial surprise and excitement, or hasn’t yet become something cohesive, so I need to trust and have faith that by working on the painting one step at a time, one area at a time, it will start to mature.

Healing in Completion

3 Cycles of Painting, Acrylic Painting, Nancy Reyner, Painting Process | Artists Network

Hidden Rainbow by Nancy Reyner, acrylic on panel


Over the course of two months, I will usually spend at least half my studio time starting new work, in the beginning cycle. About a third of my studio time is in the continuing cycle. The remaining amount of time, perhaps only a small percentage focuses on completing work.

Finishing a painting takes a very particular type of energy. On these very valuable and rare days, I can clearly see what each painting needs to make it the best it can be. I will give that last finishing touch to several in one day—finishing them all! Then I go out and celebrate. It’s more of a struggle for me to work on one painting, by itself, through all its cycles. Having many choices of paintings to work on simultaneously takes the “attachment” factor out of working on just one. In this way, I can put my energy to its best use.

When I am painting a commission with a deadline for completion, I will paint it all the way through, but I still take occasional breaks to play on some other paintings to keep the juices flowing. I find it easiest to work in one cycle for the whole day, and not switch during that day. For instance, if I spend several hours flinging paint in a freedom engaged session of “starts” I will not be as adept on that same day to try to finish a different painting.

How to ‘Create Perfect Paintings’

The clip above on my three cycles of painting is pulled from a video I made which features highlights from my latest book, Create Perfect Paintings.

You can watch the entire presentation at my YouTube Channel, which includes the best ways to bring attention to your painting, extend its viewing time and heighten the viewing experience.


3 Cycles of Painting, Acrylic Painting, Nancy Reyner, Painting Process | Artists Network

Nancy Reyner


From creating costumes and sets for theater and film to coordinating public arts programs for the state of New York, Nancy Reyner has had an extensive career in the arts. She has been painting for more than 30 years, teaching and exhibiting both nationally and internationally.

Learn some of her painting techniques through her video workshops, streaming now at You can also find her video and book, Create Perfect Paintings, in the North Light Shop. Happy painting, artists!

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A Summer Adventure of Art Travel and Inspiration

When it comes to celebrating the best in watercolor, Splash 18 showcases gorgeous pieces from more than 100 artists. A lot of the works in the book this year made me want to get out there and feel the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. It’s definitely time for an art travel adventure.

You can enjoy a summer of art travel by going on your own adventures, or by flipping through Splash 18 and living vicariously through the gorgeous and inspiring pieces that are showcased in the book. Enjoy!

Traveling to New Places Through Watercolor

Summer always brings the desire to get outside. I’m sure we’re all feeling the itch to get out and travel and take in some sun instead of being cooped up in an office or studio!

Whether it’s sipping some coffee on a patio with the light streaming in, hunting for seashells on a sandy beach or wandering in a new city, summer is a time for exploration and art. These seven artists perfectly captured gorgeous moments outside:

Splash 18 | Afternoon Tea by Ronnie Rector

Afternoon Tea / Ronnie Rector
Transparent watercolor on rice paper / 24″ × 18″ (61cm × 46cm)

“I got exceptionally lucky with this painting as it was my first attempt at batik, and I patiently completed it in one very long day. … The final step, ironing off the wax, is like opening a present: What is revealed can be extremely joyous or just another pair of tube socks.”
– Ronnie Rector

Splash 18 | Under the Accademia by James Toogood

Under the Accademia / James Toogood
Watercolor on 300-lb. (640gsm) cold-pressed Arches / 22″ × 30″ (56cm × 76cm)

“This Venetian nocturne depicts a delicate quality of light and atmosphere unified by a ton of Phthalocyanine Blue…It was painted in the studio after several studies and two previous Venetian nocturnes.”
– James Toogood

Splash 18 | Available Seating by Donna Jill Witty

Available Seating / Donna Jill Witty
Transparent watercolor on 140-lb. (300gsm) cold-pressed Arches / 29″ × 19″ (74cm × 48cm)

“When I first came upon these glorious red umbrellas, it was late afternoon on a cloudy day. I need morning sun! Lots of sun! I was rewarded two days later. Returning with my camera, I found that by standing on a low wall I could manipulate the shadows to create an interesting composition.”
– Donna Jill Witty

Splash 18 | Among the Pieces by Richard P. Ressel

Among the Pieces / Richard P. Ressel
Transparent acrylic and watercolor on 140-lb. (300gsm) cold-pressed Fabriano Artistico / 18″ × 12″ (46cm × 30cm)

“I have always been fascinated with ordinary clamshells. … To create the texture of the sand, I built layers of color with repeated applications of block-out medium splattered in between.”
– Richard P. Ressel

Splash 18 | Fog on the Tiber: Rome by Thomas W. Schaller

Fog on the Tiber: Rome / Thomas W. Schaller
Watercolor on 140-lb. (300gsm) rough Saunders Waterford / 30″ × 22″ (76cm × 56cm)

“The use of a dynamic range of value is the most effective tool we have as artists to convey a sense of space and depth.”
– Thomas W. Schaller

Splash 18 | Market La Colmena – Barcelona by David L. Stickel

Market La Colmena – Barcelona / David L. Stickel
Watercolor on 300-lb. (640gsm) cold-pressed Arches / 22″ × 20″ (56cm × 51cm)

“As my wife and I were making our way to Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia (Gaudi’s) Cathedral, we spotted it: the large front window of La Colmena, one of Barcelona’s finest little pastry shops in the heart of the city! Not only did it have the most delicious-looking goodies on exhibit, it had everything my ‘compositional eye’ looks for in a window piece.”
– David L. Stickel

Splash 18 | Summer's Gift by Susan Crouch

Summer’s Gift / Susan Crouch
Transparent watercolor on 300-lb. (640gsm) cold-pressed Arches / 18″ × 26″ (46cm × 66cm)

“My photo reference was taken early one August morning amidst acres of sunflowers, each golden face with a personality of its own. Choosing my favorite flower was akin to choose a favorite child, but I decided to focus on this single backlit blossom.”
– Susan Crouch

To make your art travel journey fun and easy, try creating a travel sketchbook kit. You can grab it quickly and feel free to explore anywhere without lugging around a giant case of paints or pencils. Plus when inspiration strikes, you’ll be ready!

Ready to start that summer art travel now? Grab a copy of Splash 18 to take with you for even more watercolor inspiration. It’s available now from Amazon, Barnes and Noble or the North Light Shop. What would be your dream location to explore for the summer? Comment below!

Splash 18 | North Light Shop


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Showing Pride: LGBTQ Artists In History

Imagine a time when identifying as LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning) wasn’t just socially unacceptable, but was also worthy of a prison sentence. Such was the case around the globe, and remains true today in some parts of the world.

To celebrate Pride Month, we take a look back on a few artists who boldly represented the LGBTQ community in a time when they were being marginalized and persecuted.

Henry Scott Tuke


The Critics (1927; oil on board, 16×20) by Henry Scott Tuke

Best known for his studies of the male nude, Tuke’s reputation faded some after his death in 1929. He was brought back into the zeigest in the 1970s, and has since become something of a cult figure within the LGBTQ art community.

Simeon Solomon


Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene (1864; watercolor on paper, 13×15) by Simeon Solomon

Simeon Solomon’s work is best known for his depictions of Jewish life and same-sex desire. In 1873, the artist was arrested for attempting to have a same-sex relationship, and sentenced to three months in prison. Although he stopped exhibiting after his time in jail, he’d acquired celebrity status between artist and literary circles, including Oscar Wilde and Walter Pater

John Craxton


Head of a Greek Sailor (1940; oil on board, 13×12) by John Craxton

John Craxton’s style was most often considered neo-Romantic. He traveled with a great fervor after the war. Writer Richard Olney remembered Craxton during the summer of 1951:

“Most nights, John Craxton, a young English painter, arrived to share my bed; we kept each other warm. He moved in a bucolic dreamworld, peopled with beautiful Greek goat herders.”

Keith Vaughan


Drawing of Two Men Kissing (1958–73) by Keith Vaughan

Keith Vaughan is remembered as much by his neo-romantic turned abstract style as he is by his revealing journals, selections from which were published in 1966 and 1989. In his writing, he expressed his troubled relationship with his sexuality. After being diagnosed with cancer in 1975, he committed suicide by overdosing in 1977, recording his last moments in his diary.

David Hockney


Life Painting for a Diploma (1962) by David Hockney

David Hockney’s work is arguably the most revealing in terms of the artists sexuality. His portraiture explores the nature of LGBTQ relationships, specifically those between two men. In We Two Boys Together Clinging (1961) the work refers to his love for men. In 1963, Hockney painted two men together in Domestic Scene, Los Angeles.

The Tate Britain presents “Queer British Art 1861-1967,” a look back at LGBTQ representation in art to commemorate the partial decriminalization of male homosexuality in England, on view through October 1.

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How to Use Large Brushstrokes to Build Composition

From Still Life to Landscape — Learn Painting with Identical Steps

Lemon Wedge (oil, 6×6) By Karen O’Neil. Article contributions by Cherie Haas.

Learn painting — with boldness and a big brush. Karen O’Neil shows you how in this extensive step-by-step painting demo. And remember: from luscious citrus still lifes to landscape painting, the approach to composition always comes down to the same steps. But that doesn’t mean finding a powerful composition is always easy, which is why Johannes Vloothuis’ Paint Along 36 is Composition Lessons Using Mass Planning. Reserve your spot for the class and gain insider knowledge from one of the best painting instructors teaching today! Enjoy!


Beginning Shapes

1. Using a No. 12 bright. If you aren’t used to such a big brush, I recommend taking five minutes and just playing with strokes on a scrap surface. When you feel comfortable, block in the large shapes of the lemon. For me that came down to the rind and the segments.



2. Make each shape with one stroke of a No. 12 bright. Do a few fake strokes in the air. Hold in your mind how you want the stroke to happen, and then do it. The shapes join to become the flat plane, or the side of the lemon in shadow.



3. Using the thin edge of a No.10 synthetic bristle bright, I produce a crisp, clean edge—without using a small brush. Learn painting with big brushes not because it is easier, but because it forces you to really be aware of every stroke you put down. That’s the key to all this!



4. Using a No. 8 bright, I put down the lemon rind in one continual, crisp stroke. Just because you are using a bigger brush doesn’t mean there isn’t precision there. Be mindful of still keeping to a light, controlled stroke.


Bring in the Biggies

5. My well-worn No. 20 bright makes quick work of the foreground and background shapes. It’s mammoth, right? There’s a lot of power in a big brush. Don’t be afraid to use it. Start by painting backgrounds with it and take it from there.



6. With the same No. 20 bright, I block in the cast shadow. Notice the variety of the strokes. Big brushes don’t mean you get one-dimensional art. Every brush has the same capabilities, but on different scales. It is all in the way that you use it.



7. With the shadow shape fully blocked in, I make the thin lines under the lemon with the edge of a No. 10 bright. With the same brush, I also make the more subtle movements of the half-circle shape in the center of the lemon and the suggestion of lines separating its segments.



8. With a No. 12 synthetic bristle bright and one decisive brushstroke, I reshape the rind by repainting the lemon segment to its left.



9. I need a #4 bright to darken the center seed shape. A larger brush wouldn’t allow me the control I need for this quick, small brushstroke, but I challenge you to try. You’ll learn a lot, even if you need to do some reworking.


Sweet Victory!

10. Lemon Wedge (oil, 6×6) is finished! I’ve captured the essence of the lemon; the light works, and each stroke has contributed to the compositional movement of the painting. While the paint was still wet, I scratched in my signature with the handle of a No. 4 brush.



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Making Art in a ‘Vacuum’?

5 Simple Ways Savvy Artists Can Exhibit Their Artwork

Gary Hallgren | Dean Nimmer | How to Exhibit Your Artwork | ArtistsNetwork

This cartoon by my friend, Gary Hallgren, shows an artist working alone on a blank canvas in the “vacuum” of his studio.


At times you may feel you are just making art for yourself; no one sees it; no one knows about it; and, ultimately, no one cares about it. However daunting showing your artwork to others may seem, it can help you get out of a rut and become more confident with your art-making process.

Ready to be seen? Here are five helpful ways you can start exhibiting your artwork and garner more exposure as an artist.

1. Get Your Foot in the Door

If you don’t have much experience, seek out possibilities to show your work at public libraries, government agencies and municipal buildings. Check into your local city hall or chamber of commerce, which may have empty space available to use for free. Likewise, you could find a native politician willing to put up your work on loan to decorate their office—a win-win for them and for you.

Another great way to start promoting your art is by joining a nearby art club, artist co-op or nonprofit gallery to exhibit your work. Restaurants, coffee houses, and other businesses in the area might also be willing to let you showcase your art.

Various places and businesses around your hometown are generally low-cost, high-effort prospects that offer exposure and free publicity and visibility for your work. Keep in mind you likely will pay for show cards, listings on social media, reception costs and doing any necessary legwork on your own, but this all saves a lot of money in the end (while also putting you in the right direction to start making money!).

2. Collaborate with Other Artists

If you are really ambitious, make up your own show with a group of artists by renting a space in a vacant storefront and sharing the costs. You likely can get free publicity from news outlets looking to cover something unique—an art “happening” rather than just another gallery opening.


Dean Nimmer | How to Exhibit Your Artwork | ArtistsNetwork


I organized a show in a local hardware store where the artworks were placed in and among the tools, nuts and bolts, fertilizer bags and barbecue grills, mixing art into an everyday business.

Local as well as national media sources covered this peculiar event, which brought in more than 150 people at the opening reception. In fact, the store doubled its business over the two-month run of the exhibit.


Dean Nimmer | How to Exhibit Your Artwork | ArtistsNetwork


Please feel free to steal this idea if any hardware stores in your town would be up for the exhibit. At the very least, I hope this unusual art exhibit inspires you to think outside of the box. The lesson here is to use your own creative brain to make a place for your art.

3. Be Cognizant of Online Opportunities

A cautionary tale, there are lots of opportunities to exhibit your work all over the web. These online exhibits most likely will encourage you to enter art competitions for a fee, sometimes exceeding $30 or more. Though many of these are legitimate contests and galleries offering actual exhibitions and prizes, it’s important to remember there are a lot of scams, too.

Read over the entry guidelines, look for past winners or featured artists from preview competitions and galleries, and find out what all is included if a fee is charged.

Remember, these competitions are pretty much art lotteries that may or may not go your way. Make sure if you do enter any online galleries or competitions, that they are worthy of your investment. For example, international shows and contests will attract large numbers of people from across the globe, which means tons of other artists are also submitting their art, too.

Moreover, look into how the online gallery/competition requests your art. Are there shipping or uploading costs involved in addition to the entrance fee? Are there any limitations or extra charges for weight and size dimensions?

My advice: Do your due diligence and research, research, research. Make sure there aren’t any hidden fees and that the online gallery/competition is legitimate before submitting your work.

4. Take the Open Call

Oftentimes, open calls are available to artists to apply for shows organized by public galleries in museums and colleges that have little or no application fees. If you find an open call for such an event, it’s well worth the effort to apply. Often these sites have thematic exhibitions that your work may fit into—landscapes, portraits, still life, abstracts, etc.

Due to the exposure and the likely large-scale audience that will be in attendance, these opportunities are very desirable to most artists. What’s more, being accepted into a museum show is also a very good footnote on your resume, too!

Apply for Galleries

Dean Nimmer | How to Exhibit Your Artwork | ArtistsNetwork

By Design by Dean Nimmer


Applying to show with an established private gallery can be an intimidating and frustrating process. A reputable gallery already has their own group of artists, many of whom have been with them for several years, and they rarely look for newer artists to invest in.

Running a private gallery is indeed a huge investment of time, effort and money which can be a tough road no matter how good the economy. So when a gallery director looks at your work, it’s not just about whether they like it, but rather if they can sell it for a profit.

Private galleries typically get 50-60 percent commission to exhibit your work, and that’s standard in the business. If that seems outrageous, keep in mind they have to pay an expensive rent, a salaried staff, for advertisements of your work as well as foot the bill for the reception and any other expenses.

The real talent of sales managers at galleries, however, is to convince a prospective buyer that your work is worth the price they’re asking. If they fail, you fail, too; and that’s a lot of pressure all around.


Dean Nimmer is a North Light Books author, artist and teacher. Check out his art his fun-filled video workshops on and/or at the North Light Shop. You can also learn more about Dean and his art by visiting his website,

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3 Still Life Paintings for The Perfect Facebook Challenge

Take Three: A trio of friends who’ve never met in person hold a still life painting challenge across the miles.

A few months ago, I was chatting via Facebook with my friend and fellow painter Anne Hightower-Patterson White. Although we’ve never met in person, we’ve developed a great connection through social media.

We determined that we were both ready for a new creative endeavor and devised a virtual still life painting challenge. She brought our friend Susan M. Stuller on board, and we were off and running.

Simple Guidelines

We’d each select and share three favorite pieces from our glass collections, and then we’d each paint a still life painting based on some of those pieces. We shipped the glass items back and forth until we all had photographed a still life setup using at least five pieces from the collections.

The agreement was not to tell one another which pieces we had chosen—or to share our works in progress. There was a lot of excitement to see how our different painting styles would translate into compositions featuring the same subjects. Here’s a look at our experiment—as well as some tips for painting glass objects.

Try It Yourself

I encourage other artists who are friends on Facebook or other communication outlets such as Instagram or email to try a similar project. It’s always interesting and educational to see how someone else interprets the same subject through their own eyes and creative style. This even can be done internationally, by emailing the same reference photo or idea to friends around the globe and having each create a painting in his or her individual style. -Laurie Goldstein-Warren

Doing the Prep Work | Anne Hightower-Patterson White

STEP 1: I began the process by doing two 5″ x 7″ value studies (below) to work out the composition and plan the pattern of lights and darks.


Step 1

Step 1


STEP 2: I then did a complete 9″ x 12″ color study in which I tried out some darker shadows that I decided to leave out of the final painting. I focused on triangulating the colors to provide a visual map through the painting. For this, I altered a few of the reds and blues from my photos to improve the color harmony.


Step 2


STEP 3: I completed a detailed line drawing of the composition (3a) and then masked the areas where I wanted to preserve the white of the paper (3b).


Step 3a

Step 3a

Step 3b


STEP 4: I created the initial washes to begin to define the light values and establish the local color.


Step 4

Step 4


STEP 5: I removed small amounts of masking and began establishing the middle and darker values, as seen in the upper left.


Step 5

Step 5

Once I had the values in correct relationship, I did what I call “a finishing step.” I go through and tighten up shapes that seem ragged. If I’ve lost a highlight, I either scrub it out with a fabric dye brush or use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to lift color, especially staining color. I think the traditional scrubbers are a little rough on 140-lb. paper; however, the fabric dye brushes by Loew Cornell are just right.

If there’s a small point to highlight, I’ll use my go-to opaque white—Shiva white casein. In the final assessment of While the Fish Danced (watercolor on paper, 21½” x 28″), I determined that the lower corners needed less emphasis, so I used a neutral gray mixture and lightly floated it across the bottom from corner to corner, which helps to lift the eye to the focal point.

Final Step

Anne’s Watercolor Tips

Begin by observing the glass reflections carefully. Do a detailed still life drawing of the reflected shapes on paper. Make any corrections before transferring the drawing to watercolor paper by using either transfer paper or a light box.

Avoid erasures on your watercolor paper, and use a hard pencil to complete your drawing to prevent losing your marks in washes. Mask the shapes that will remain white or very light.

Layer color one glaze at a time using transparent or semi-transparent colors. Ensure one layer is dry before applying the next.

After painting the initial glaze, apply masking to preserve the lighter values before adding darker ones. Remove the masking once the darkest values are complete. Use a small, stiff brush to soften the edges of the shapes that look too hard.

Anne’s Watercolor Toolkit:

  • Paper: Winsor & Newton 140-lb. cold-pressed white
  • Paint: Sennelier: red orange, lacquer red; Winsor & Newton: burnt sienna, Winsor blue (red shade), cobalt, aureolin, Indian yellow, raw sienna, brown madder, sepia, French ultramarine; Daniel Smith: quinacridone rose, quinacridone gold, quinacridone coral, sap green
  • Brushes: Jack Richeson Extreme Kolinsky, Art Xpress Charles Reid Kolinsky

Using a Limited Palette | Laurie Goldstein-Warren

STEP 1: I do my initial drawing on oversized white drawing paper. When I’m happy with the composition, I move the drawing to my watercolor paper using transfer paper. I then go over my lines with a hard graphite pencil and mask off my whites and any other shapes that I want to remain pure in color.


Step 1

STEP 2: I paint in a glowing layer first using quinacridone gold, quinacridone rose and cobalt blue.


Step 2

STEP 3: When that layer is completely dry, I lay in my first dark layer (value 8 or 9) using quinacridone gold, quinacridone rose and Antwerp blue.


Step 3

STEP 4: When the dark layer is dry, I remove all the masking fluid and begin to paint in the mid-value (3-7) shapes using the same limited four-color palette.


Step 4

STEP 5: Once I’m satisfied with the values and shapes, I use a gray wash from the remaining paint in the palette to push back some of the glass pieces and bring others to the forefront of the painting.


Step 5

FINAL STEP: I achieve the finished look by masking off just a few of the white and pure color spots. I then apply a violet-blue wash over the entire painting to unify it. Finally, I use a soft brush to prevent disturbing the underlying layers of paint in Stars in the Dark (watercolor on paper, 30×22).


Final Step

Laurie’s Watercolor Tips

Don’t just shoot a photo of your still life and begin. Study the light, reflections, refraction and surfaces. Only draw reflections and shadows that are important; not every detail is needed. Join values that are close together to create larger shapes.

Soften the edges of masked elements in some areas of the still life and leave hard edges in others, always considering the variety and quality of your shapes. Push back some pieces in your still life; not all of the objects should have equal importance.

Laurie’s Watercolor Toolkit:

  • Paper: Fabriano Artistico bright white 140-lb. cold-pressed
  • Paint: Daniel Smith: quinacridone rose, quinacridone gold; Winsor & Newton: lamp black, cobalt, Antwerp blue
  • Brushes: Silver Brush Black Velvet 1½-inch flat wash; Yasutomo/Haboku stroke 6060L

Building Up Shapes and Values | Susan M. Stuller

STEP 1: I photograph a variety of still life setups with strong light. After choosing several, I proceed with a few value studies and then select the one I like the best.

I do my value studies on tracing paper with a Sharpie pen and a pencil and mark the center of the paper with an “x,” so I don’t arrange anything in the center. Next, I proceed with several tracing paper layers to refine my drawing.

Step 1

STEP 2: When I’m satisfied with my tracing paper drawing, I transfer my drawing to my painting surface with graphite paper and mask the whites I want to preserve using Winsor & Newton masking fluid.


Step 2

STEP 3: I like to apply the glow colors first so I know where they are and can paint around them. Next, I wet the paper and add a warm light wash, dropping in some neutrals in
the corners.


Step 3

STEP 4: I start to build up shapes and values, gradually using colors I know won’t lift as I proceed to glaze over them. Most of the light to mid-tone grays are painted using a mixture of cobalt and burnt sienna, and I occasionally drop in a little permanent rose if I want a violet tone.

The masking fluid is removed during the glazing process of this step, so that the hard edges of the mask will be softened in subsequent layers.


Step 4

STEP 5: I continue to refine shapes and values while adjusting the temperature. I wait until
I have more completed shapes before I start on the blue vase.


Step 5

STEP 6: I rewet the background around the glass items and, using a round, soft mop brush, I drop in a warm neutral wash using indigo, raw sienna and a little alizarin crimson. I also use some Dr. Ph. Martin’s liquid watercolors to brighten up the strong colors in the marbles and some of the glass items.


Step 6

STEP 7: I start slowly on the blue vase. Putting in the glow colors first, I paint more of them than I need, knowing that as I change values I’ll lose some of the color. I then add small amounts of those same colors around the painting to help guide the viewer as he looks at the painting.


Step 7

FINAL STEP: I continue to glaze color on the blue bottle as well as add several glazes in the background using the same indigo wash. I also use the indigo wash to push back some of the glass shapes.

Cheap Joe’s scrubber is great for softening any remaining hard edges left by the masking. I decide to add a few cards to Something Borrowed, Something Blue (watercolor on paper, 21×29) to strengthen the focal point. I continue to soften edges with the scrubber brush and add a few final glazes to push the values


Final Step

Susan’s Watercolor Tips

A great drawing is a must when painting intricate glass still life paintings. Create clear light shapes that make the glass sparkle, even crafting or eliminating some shapes for composition’s sake.

Mask the major light shapes carefully; they’ll be important to the final painting. Design is important to the overall success of the painting; don’t make it too busy. Always keep the following in mind as you paint: values, values, values.

Susan’s Watercolor Toolkit

  • Paper: Arches 300-lb. cold-pressed
  • Paint: Holbein: cobalt blue, ultramarine blue, Prussian blue, cerulean blue, alizarin crimson, burnt sienna, raw sienna, indigo, new gamboge, permanent rose, permanent red; Winsor & Newton: Winsor green; Mijello Mission Gold Watercolor: cerulean blue; Dr. Ph. Martin’s: phthalo green, blue, yellow light, ultra-marine blue Brushes: Silver Brush Black Velvet
  • Brushes: Silver Brush Black Velvet jumbo round; Loew Cornell 6 and 14 rounds, 1- and 2-inch flats; 2- and 4-inch hakes


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Article written by Laurie Goldstein-Warren, Anne Hightower-Patterson White 
and Susan M. Stuller

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