5. Knowledge of Painting Lights on Four Legs! : Pink Sausage Demo

Think of this exercise as a variation of the basic red ball…

An exercise in painting pink sausages

There are many ways to practice painting by choosing variations on the basic red ball exercise.  My students have practiced upon a myriad of still life objects such as apples, oranges, pears….  We vary the exercise by placing them in front of a crumpled paper sack for the interesting shapes they create.  (Later I’ll post some students’ works when I find them).  I just know you’re clever enough to create a simple still life in your own home with a simple object and enjoy painting them by using the principles you’ve see on the basic red ball exercise.  (If you’re really clever, you can do exactly the same exercise using pastels and other media…. Just so long as your learning to see and paint light.)

Many students prefer to draw/sketch out their subjects, plotting out the composition, before the painting begins.  I’m perfectly fine with this and acknowledge that we are all hardwired differently.  Whatever works for you.

When I’m painting directly from life, I often begin with a strong, linear component, and we’ll be exploring this when I begin to load up some Key #2 lessons and show you my direct painting method.

To help those who’d prefer to sketch, I thought I’d share a brief lesson with a simple drawing as a beginning.

Over the years, I’ve done many still lives, but always prefer to paint something, let’s say… more animated, so I’d like to share with you a simple painting exercises that I did with my students a few years ago, based upon the same principles……Here’s our model….(Ugh!  Did I get messed-up boots getting this shot!)


Wood panel Stained with thin ochre and transparent oxide red

Instead of using plain gray, or white, I often stain the canvas with a thin stain of oil color, or paint it with gold gesso (see recent works). This ensures that:

  • I am always painting in “light”, for if we begin on white canvas or panel, we are always painting darker.
  • Since I love to “excavate shapes”, wiping off paint with a soft cloth or scratching/carving it off with a paint eraser, it’s just lovely to already have an interesting surface to etch into, or wipe off.

For this painting, I simply stained a wood panel to which I had applied white gesso (about 3 coats).

Loosely Sketch Subject

Round pig, linear sketch

If you are the type of painter that chooses to draw/sketch the image onto the ground before you begin, I would like you to please consider the following:

  1. If you use black (the usual), you are going to have a very hard time creating a variety of soft, beautiful edges later on.  Why not try a thin, soupy, warm hue that could be easily controlled, and read as light upon the finished product?  On the following sketch, I used Burnt Sienna or Transparent Oxine Red.
  2. Everything in nature has structure and I believe, should be sketched in a linear manner.  (If one viewed an eggshell under a magnifying glass, even an egg is crystalline in nature).  It’s true that there are some tree branches that are curved, but these are branches that have grown bent, over-laden, or perhaps have suffered through winds or rapid growth.  The most beautiful branches have grown in straight lines, merely changing direction in search of the light.  When I draw horses (or pigs,) I always draw them in a linear, structural manner.  You never have to worry, your left brain will always want to “round things out”.

Apply WLDH: (Form, cast, and void shadows)

Form, Cast & Void Shadows

1. I mixed a gray using my usual formula for creating form shadow:

  • Identify the dominant color of the object/animal as it appears on the color wheel, in this case, red (since it’s pink.)
  • Now look across the color wheel and create a neutral gray using the compliment.  In this regard, I am confident I used Viridian, a touch of brown, and a touch of red, mixed with Liquin and turp.

2. Using a soupy gray for the form shadow, loosely apply shape for form shadow.

3. Next, create the cast shadows using a variation of the shadow color.

4. Create a strong black/dark for the void shadow, using 3 compliments.

Apply WLH: (Local color, high, ambient, and reflected lights)

Local Color:

Local color, high lights, & ambient lights added

Create a dull, warm mix of peach/pink color and apply to the planes upon the body of the pig in large and small, sausage-like shapes that varied in temperature and size.

High Lights:

  1. Create warmer, higher, cleaner, colors and apply them to the planes already applied. On this little pig, I think I only have one, possibly two higher lights.
  2. I applied variations of green for the grass and added a burnt red for the background, to create interesting shapes and colors.

Ambient & Reflected Light:

  1. Using a shade of green that is the same value as the form shadow of the pig (value-grouped), I applied a green temperature to the piggy’s belly, creating ambient and reflected light.
  2. I also reflected the greens and warm reds into the shadow shapes upon the pig’s face & body.

Look what you can do with pink and green sausages!

Even on a 30 minute demo like this one, I am always aware of the shapes that occur on the canvas, so I like to also convert the picture to black and white to check that the abstraction, edges, design, etc., are pleasing, without the distraction of color.

Pink sausage demo (30 mins.) 9 x 12 inches on panel


Viewed as values to check design



Want to see the process in action? Click below.

Final Word….



My life is a living testament to the old statement “What comes around, goes around”’; or “What you do for others in an act of generosity, comes back tenfold”.  In honor of this code, I began writing down everything I know in these lessons in 2011 and began to offer them out, for free…. But it’s very valuable information.  The lessons constitute a lifetime of learning, and are lent to you as an act of generosity to help you on your artistic journey.  If you find this material helpful, continue to ‘pay it forward’ by sharing this website with others so that they too can be inspired with Art through "Lessons With Lesley."

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