Probably the most difficult thing to learn when painting is how to determine negative shapes. It is in discovering this that an entire new possibility and challenge is presented to us as artists.
Crystal and lace are best described and illustrated by the use of negative shapes. Lace, usually being white or ecru, is defined by the open spaces (negative shapes) that create the pattern.
Crystal, on the other hand, is transparent and is a negative shape itself. The reflections seen in the crystal and the objects that are inside or behind it are the positive shapes (broken up by the negative, clear crystal).
Learning the pattern of lace
It is important to spend a little time selecting, drawing, and memorizing a small pattern in the lace object that you will use in your painting. Once you have drawn it, draw it again. Then try to paint only the “holes” in the lace.
When you have familiarized yourself with this repetitive pattern, you may begin to design your work of art. At this point you can take liberties with the pattern.
You may begin by creating several shadow washes to create the folds in the proposed lace. Then it is easier to paint the lace to create folds by having the pattern of the lace follow the shape of the shadow.
It is not necessary to be exact in your painting of the pattern which is photo-realism. All you want to do is create the illusion that you have gone to great detail to represent the pattern. Crystal is defined by the shapes of the objects seen through its facets. The facets have a shape which you will need to define more accurately than the shapes of the objects seen through it. Those can be faked quite easily.
If the crystal is extremely faceted, those shapes can also be suggested rather than accurately drawn. If it is a more simple design, you must memorize the shapes and draw it accurately just at you did with the lace pattern.
You can see the colors and the folds in the cloth through the vase and the crystal paper weight. It doesn't have to be like a photograph. Just the suggestion of an object beyond the glass tells the viewer that it is transparent.
I think that I digress back to painting crystal with this subject, but usually you see both crystal and lace in the same painting.
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