Here is the finished painting of the trompe l’oeil ornament piece I completed at Salon in St. Petersberg, Russia. I was asked to do a live demonstration about a large scale ceiling ornament that is meant to be looked at from a fair distance. The scale of the ornament accentuates the shadows and highlights to be more legible.
The process started by choosing and drawing the ornament (blowing it up on the photocopier until I got the correct size is one way to do it quickly). Then, the preliminary drawing is refined onto a vellum paper (thick, transparent paper). The trompe l’oeil ornament was carefully pounced with a small prick and then transferred onto a prepped canvas using a pounce bag (small cotton bag filled with ground charcoal).
Next, it is crucial to pre-mix and test all of the colors before starting to paint. A recipe card is created to fully demonstrate the tonalities as reference for this job. Using the elements of light and shadow principle to mix the different values is key before you begin. The difficult part is taking all of the tonalities into consideration and how they interact with each other (always incrementally trying out the newest value over the previous value).
Firstly, mix the ground/base color of the ornament then you begin mixing the shadow system from light to dark followed by the highlights from dark to light and finally, the cast shadow from dark to light. It’s important to work with a system so once the colors are mixed, you only need to be concerned with the correct placement of each value.
*This step may take one or two hours so mixing the sample and full job is basically the same amount of prep time so you might as well mix for the full job. Remember, the element of light and shadow take on the color of the ornament they are placed over (if the ornament is grey, the shadow and highlight system will be based on a grey color; if the ornament is blue, the shadow and highlight system will be based on blue tonalities).
This is a test piece with a few of the shadows, in order to really gauge how each value interacts with each other.
Here is one of my selections of trompe l’oeil and lettering brushes used for this scrolly ornament (which features curves, spirals and shapes like the letter ‘S’ rather than straight lines) that vary in brush hair type, length and shape. I always organize my brushes by type, (i.e. marbling, woodgraining, etc.) each in different a rollie so they are all in one place and can be safely secured and fastened when packed up into my case.
Once the transferring of the design is done by pouncing, the ornament base color is carefully painted in over the blue background. I carefully leave out the inner lines of the design (left in blue) so I can follow the drawing and leave the inner details.
Just as in a previous post showing the step-by-step of a medallion, the half-tone and accent are placed first. Including the cast shadow of the ornament onto the blue surface. Notice also that the entire ornament is outlined with the half-tone. This is for effect when viewing at a considerable distance.
Next, the super accent are placed to give the darkest nooks and crannies a punch.
Lastly, the highlights are added which finishes the ornament and adds the extra dimension.. Always start with the shadow system first because 80% of the effect comes from the shadow system, therefore, your ornament should read very well without any highlights.
A candid picture of the demonstration in progress which went well although it was a ton of painting in only 1 hour.
Finished ornament. Success is measured by the fact that viewers all the way in the back were able to read the trompe l’oeil.