You Are My Sunshine, A Lesson Painting ~~ Kimberly Kelly Santini

To properly celebrate the kitten's 1st birthday, I thought I'd take one of my demonstrations from the recent workshop and finish it off as a lesson painting. Enjoy!

One of the first things I talk about with my students is taking artistic license, modifying reference photos to improve on the composition AND make the image more lifelike (because photos will chromatically flatten the scene and make highlights and shadows exaggerated and dull). Here are some of the changes I consciously chose before laying brush to canvas:

  • I plan on contrasting the blue and lavender tabby with the honeyed orange floor.
  • I am tilting her head just a bit towards the viewer to create an oval/round shape out of her tail and body.
  • I've also shifted the grain of the wood to run at a diagonal, thus creating a balance to the angle of her body.
  • I will remove the distracting elements in the background.
  • I will further separate the far ground shadows from her own, creating a sliver of lighter space that pulls the viewer's eye straight to her.

I began with an indian yellow and cadmium yellow underpainting because they will properly capture the essence of the sunlight. (Did you notice the directional brushwork I used in the yellows to create a sensation of the hardwood?)

Overtop that yellow ground, I began to roughly place the kitten's form and the shadows. I used a big brush - at least 1" wide. I am working out the basic shapes that will create this composition, without getting fussy. I am also starting to create the pattern of lights and darks.


Next I have redrawn the kitten's form, using relative measurements to make certain she is anatomically correct. I decided to tighten the curve of her tail so that the tip of it breaks out of the shadow and into the light - doesn't this add an element of whimsy and motion to an otherwise quiet composition? I picture it sort of flicking back and forth.

I don't usually add markings this early in the process, but felt that placing them would aid me in modeling her tiny form. So in they went!


Meanwhile, I return to the floor and add saturated colors - these will make up the "peek-a-boo pockets" that will show through the layers of paint that are next to come.

I also glaze over and soften the edges of her shadow - the only sharp edges in this entire painting will be in Mona's body. This is a great trick I use to drive my focal point home. (And photographs' edges are always universally crisp.)

Up next? I will refine my overall values and begin to lay in some playful color. You'll see more tomorrow!

Thanks so much for sharing my art with your friends and family,

Happy Birthday Mona!

Our 2 lb bundle of purr has captured miles of contentment and sunbeams during her first year of life.

We don't really know her true birthday - the shelter estimated she was a tiny 10 week old, but our vet estimated she was 1/2 that. Based on her petite size now (a trim 8 lbs), we think it's likely she was somewhere in between the two.

It's hard to imagine life in the Santini household without this little sweetheart. She is a willing snuggler, an even more willing playmate, and a fierce hunter of dust bunnies.

Even Finnigan has learned to love her. (Well, love might be a strong word. He tolerates her surprisingly well, and does his job to keep her butt extra clean.)

And all came about because she stretched a paw outside her crate, latched onto my son's tshirt, and wouldn't let go.

I heard today that our shelter (the Oakland Pet Adoption Center) has over 170 cats. I imagine shelters across the country are just as crowded.

Mona is a perfect example of the wonderful pets that are waiting, patiently, to bring joy and delight into the lives of those willing to adopt or foster.

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