I’ve always subscribed to the idea that it’s important to make art outside of contracted work.  I’m just a better artist if I do. I make a lot of little discoveries in personal studies.

 It’s sometimes struggle figuring out what to paint. I want it to be challenging, but not some all consuming rabbit hole that’s going to eat into actual work or parenting duties. It’s nice to be able to concentrate on a specific idea or concept, and so the challenge is to find an idea that checks all of these boxes.

Above all else, I want it to potentially be a nice picture when it’s done. If I can’t see Some path to achieving this, elusive as it may be, I likely won’t try it. I’m not saying everything will go to plan, it usually doesn’t, buuuut I find it helps to have some idea of where you’re gonna go with it so you’re not flailing.

 Melissa picked up this little tomato starter the other day, and I kept thinking about how it’d be fun to do a quick little painting of it before we plant it, because its cute, and also because it kind of plays into this bigger idea I’m starting to work out.

 Wanted to go wet in wet and paint directly and really just kind of practice simplification, brushwork and edges.

I start out setting it up on my little pedestal thing. I like it a lot because it’s height adjustable so you can get stuff to sit right where you want it eye line wise.

Once I got my lights and set up figured out, I did a simple contour drawing of the plant. At this stage I’m focusing on proportions and shapes, trying to get as much of the drawing solved as possible. I try to think of it similarly to a portrait where it’s all about getting the “likeness”. I ran the container off of the edge of the panel because the panel was just a little too small. felt like leaning in on it and make it a compositional element?


Stained the panel with some acrylic paint to bring it down in value a bit. Sometimes I like the white but for this type of subject with all the little twigs and leaves I didn’t want to have to paint all that white out.


I pre mix some select colors paying special attention to the values. A shadow, a couple mid tones and a highlight color should work for this.

Here’s a (mostly complete) time lapse I filmed of the block in. All in all I think this was probably 3-ish hours? Maybe a little less.

I tend to pick an area, and lay in a few values first to get a better idea of whats working, then carry it into the rest of the painting.

I try not to blend or render too much with foliage, and instead prefer to rely on mark making and letting the brush do a lot of the work. It’s a balance because you want to introduce a nice variety of marks and not be to repetitive or “techniquey”.

Once the plant itself is blocked in, I head down Into the plastic container, and then begin laying in the background. I took some artistic license and mix a few dark muted values for the bg, even though it looks black to me.

little close up

Might go back in on it, but I also might not? I don’t love how it cuts off at the bottom. But hey you gotta take chances and try stuff, right? Can always sand it and re-use the panel.

Here’s where my palette ended up. Didn’t deviate too much, but ended up mixing some weird compliments and accents.


Now I need to plant it in a larger pot and not kill it!