Trying a more complex scene – wine bar

This painting is the reason I haven’t posted anything new here for a while. It took me FOREVER! I’m not sure why it took so long, except that there are a lot of little details that needed to be taken care of.

With this painting, I wanted to try my hand at a more complex scene than I am used to. For as long as I have been making art, I have always been most confident doing single subject pieces like portraits or close-up shots of objects, insects, etc. I tend to do better with detail than with trying to capture a bunch of things going on at the same time. That’s why I have always struggled with landscapes and crowd scenes. It’s hard for me to distill complex scenes down to their most basic shapes without getting too caught up in trying to put in every single detail.

With this piece, I wanted to really focus on building form through the use of darks and lights. Instead of trying to paint every little detail of their eyes and lips, and I wanted to just build the form and leave out the details. That’s why most of their eyes are just dark blobs instead of well-defined shapes.

Overall I am pretty happy with how it came out. I really like how much contrast I was able to achieve between the lights and darks. I think it helps give it a lot of depth. I also really like the guy on the left. I think his overall body, arm and face shape came out well.

The other people are so-so. In my defense, I did run into some technical difficulties with the girl on the far right. I didn’t notice before I started painting, but the paper was damaged on that side. It must have gotten scuffed or roughed up while it was sitting out waiting to be painted. One of the rough patches was on her forearm, which shows up as a dark pink spot. The other was directly on her face – on the lower left quadrant to be exact. Talk about a bad place for it to have happened! At any rate, it made it extremely hard to shade her face with any accuracy because the damaged paper soaked up color like crazy. Achieving any sort of subtle gradients or lighter values was practically impossible.

The guy in the back’s arm is pretty freaky when you really look at it, but overall it doesn’t bother me too much. What I find surprising is that I didn’t notice that the girl in the middle holding the bottle only has three fingers until I scanned the painting in and saw it on my computer screen – haha.

Despite those issues, it was a lot of fun to try to paint something with this many people in it. I definitely found it challenging. I feel like I learned a lot with this piece, so that’s good. Mission accomplished! 🙂

I posted a couple of detail shots below, too. For what it’s worth, this piece measures 5″ x 7″. Oh, and like the other pieces I have been working on lately this one is also painted with three colors – Blue Lake, Golden Deep and Madder Lake Red Light. Actually, now that I think about it I guess it has four colors since I did use a little bit of Payne’s Gray, too.





  1. Except for the 3 fingers, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this painting. I know that the woman on the right is not exactly how you intended, but isn’t the nature of our tools that they sometimes tell us what we are painting instead of the other way around. There could be infinite reasons for the darkness on her face, or her arm. They did not stick out to me at all and don’t look out of place unless you know it wasn’t what you intended.

    • Hi Brandi – I really appreciate the feedback. I think sometimes it’s easy to be overly critical of your own work – especially when it doesn’t go according to plan.

      I’ve been trying to go with the flow more lately, allowing the paint to do what it wants instead of trying so hard to control it, and allowing “accidents” to happen . It makes for a much more fun and pleasant painting experience! 🙂

      Thanks so much for taking the time to check out my blog!

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