I said I wouldn't paint the French lace tablecloth again but I lied. There is something about the fabric and intricate pattern of beautiful grays that calls me back time and time again. When I was in Denver for the OPA National Exhibition, I discovered an interesting ceramic pot in an art gallery that I just had to have. Put the two together and magic happened. This pot offered the challenge I was looking for. The pattern is more of a three dimensional relief that reminds me of the stratus of earth sections when you view a cross section. The siennas and oxide reds are beautiful and very dramatic. I've been asked just how I paint the lace and this intricate cloth. That's not a simple question to answer but I do have some basic advice for the beginning pass that I can share.
First, it is critical to look at the cloth and see two values, light and shadow. Ignore the small light catching lace that is dark all around but because it is raised, its surface catches small spots of light. Mass in the lights with a value of about a two and a half to three and the darks with a value of around five. In my earlier paintings I made the dark shapes too dark because when you squint they do appear darker but now I know not to be deceived by this dark value. Open lace work like the left side and at the bottom is massed in loosely. The left side is in the light and the bottom is mostly in the dark. I'm not concerned in the first pass of the subtle value and temperature shifts. That comes later. My two values are made with raw umber and zinc white. Zinc white is more transparent and mixes with less chalkiness. Keep edges soft even if they appear hard. A hard edge where needed can be added later. The other important decision and part of the first pass is to decide on your background air color. Here I have chosen a dark, almost value 9, of my black mixture with a heavy amount of transparent red oxide. This is applied with lots of turpentine and applied thinly. Mix a lot of air color to be used in the next layer when the first layer has dried.
The next pass is more complicated but know that it takes a lot of squinting and adjusting of values within the light and shadow value. These white values have slight temperature changes that I don't always see but I paint them nevertheless to give it the lace feel of dimensionality and tonality. Directions at this point is almost impossible. I go on autopilot and work on sections at a time usually top to bottom, right side to left side. I think it's a brain dominance thing. One thing at this point is to let the painting tell you what it needs and what looks bests as opposed to what the actual white fabric looks like in front of you. I don't know if any of this helps but this tablecloth has taught me more than any workshop or class I have ever taken. If you have any specific questions about this process, I will be happy to try to answer them.
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