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Still Life Lessons - Painting Bottles

This lesson illustrates a step by step technique for painting the transparent and reflective qualities of glass bottles.

Still Life - Painting Apples

This step by step lesson explains and illustrates the technique used to paint the bottles from our Still Life Painting lesson. By following the illustrated stages below we lead you through the key points of their painting technique from the flat underpainting of shapes to the subtle mixture of transparency, opacity and reflection that we find in glass objects.

Step 1 - Paint the background first

Step 1 - Paint the background first.

It is more practical to paint the objects in order from back to front, as it is technically easier to paint the edge of any object over the preceding one.

  • Note how the bottles are painted in order with the background and apple painted first, slightly overlapping the edge of the bottles.

Step 2 - Underpaint the bottles

Step 2 - Underpaint the bottles with flat colors.

Each bottle, one light in tone and the other dark, is neatly underpainted in a flat opaque color.

  • Take care to establish their outlines as accurately as possible.

Step 3 - Apply the dark tones

Step 3 - Apply the first glaze of dark tones.

Using a fine sable brush, a thin glaze of transparent brown is applied to the light bottle to establish its dark tonal detail.

  • Apart from the normal refractions you would expect to see through moulded glass, there is an additional complication of drawing the distorted shape of the apple.

  • A deep green glaze is applied to the dark bottle, whose tonal refractions begin to establish its rectangular form.

Step 4 - Intensify the dark tones

Step 4 - Intensify the dark tones.

Some subtle but effective refinements are made at this stage.

  • The dark tones of the light bottle are strengthened to counterbalance the tonal weight of the dark bottle.

  • Similar light green tones are then built up in glazes emphasizing details on both bottles.

  • On the light bottle, the soft green tones enhance the reflected color from the apple and the background.

  • On the dark bottle, their contrast intensifies the luminosity of the deep green glass.

Step 5 - Build up the highlights

Step 5 - Build up the highlights.

In this final stage, the brightest highlights are built up on both bottles using tints of local color mixed with white for added opacity.

Step 6 - The finished bottles

Step 6 - The finished bottles.

When seen in the context of the finished painting, the subtleties of transparency, opacity and reflection depicted in the bottles augment the strong visual elements at play in the still life.