Nina Weiss

Reference Materials: How to Start

Nina Weiss
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Duration:   25  mins

Artist Nina Weiss is tackling the question, “What do I paint?” She recommends that you paint something in front of you that is 3D so that you can study color, form, value, and composition.

Have your canvas in front of you with the still life directly in front of your canvas. Have a direct light source such as a lamp or window.

Value studies use only white and black paint. Monochromatic studies are one color plus white and black, creating tints, shades, and tones. Tints are a color plus white, shades are a color plus black, and tones are grays.

Complementary neutralization studies use complementary pairs such as yellow and violet.

Setting up a still life

When setting a still life up, keep objects in groups of threes, have varying heights, and remember that cast shadows become part of the composition. Allow for overlaps and negative space while building a cohesive still life.

Nina suggests beginners look for objects that have one color so that you can concentrate on value changes instead of color changes. The local color is less important than how the light moves around the form. Drapery is a great way to add color and dimension to your still life. Start with simple objects and colors like white eggs and white vases, then progress to fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Take your time in your exercises.

Self portraits have a long tradition because they are a great way to study three-dimensional form, shadow, and light. Nina discusses different poses for self portraits and how to set them up effectively so that you can find your pose again easily in your mirror. Don’t be afraid to study yourself in the mirror for a couple hours.

When Nina travels, she photographs a lot of different landscapes and settings, pulling back to encompass more of the scene. Then she’ll print the photo out, mount it, and then crop it to create a strong composition. Create a cropping with a specific ratio so that your canvas or paper can be the same ratio. Before you start painting, creating a preliminary drawing will be beneficial to create your composition.

Nina demonstrates the difference between sketching and gesture drawing. When establishing your composition, look at the bigger form divisions first. This keeps you flowing through the composition and looking at everything all at once. Nina likes to use a soft pencil for a preliminary sketch. The details to exclude in the sketch are value and color, and remember to not actually block in anything specific. Just focus on scale and placement. You might do a few different thumbnails in different formats to see what works best. Remember: you are not copying a photo; you are creating a painting.

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