November 2016

November 2016

In This Issue:

  • Opening Letter
  • The Line Drawing: Can It Be Altered?
  • Painting Transparent Objects
  • Q&A: Stroke Category Line Drawings
  • The Color Map – Part 2 of the Critique Forms

Opening Letter

By Sue Pruett MDA – Certification Chair



“Someday I will paint my Certification test.”

Have you been telling yourself this, but that “someday” never comes? If that is you, then this eZine is for you. Here, we’ve addressed some basic information that may help you make the decision to pursue Certification this year.

Not sure where or how to get started? Our new Accredited Decorative Painter (ADP) category is an excellent place to start. ADP was designed as an entry level Certification, and a stepping stone to Certified Decorative Artist (CDA), the second level of our Certification Program. This year, 80% of the ADP entries received a passing score. Below are testimonies from two members who received their ADP designation.

My Journey to Certification – Wendy M. Watson ADP, SDP Past President
“I began my road to Certification in the early 90s. I painted what I thought was a beautiful still life and sent it in for judging. However, once I saw my entry hanging in the Certification display at the SDP Conference, I was so embarrassed. It did not look as good as I thought it was when I sent it in. I had a long way to go! I was very discouraged and convinced myself that I didn’t need those letters after my name to be a good artist, teacher and business owner. When the Accredited Decorative Painter (ADP) level was developed and introduced during my term as President of SDP, I felt that I should ‘lead by example’. Not only did I try for the new ADP, but I also sent in a CDA entry. My ADP still life entry in colored pencil passed! What a thrill to hear my name called during the Annual Meeting in San Diego. I had no idea how much those three little letters would mean to me! Upon receiving my critiques, I found out that my CDA stroke entry missed by only five points! Wow! Don’t let fear of failure stand in your way. I will be sending in another CDA entry this year. Will you join me?”

Conference with a Judge – Pat Hull ADP
“When I received the critique form for my ADP submission, I was impressed with the way the judging criteria was clearly noted and explained and referenced on the line drawing. There was only one point that I felt needed clarification, that being the proper way to finish the back of a board. So, I took advantage of the opportunity to have a conference with a judge about this topic, and she explained not only what should be done, but also why. She also reviewed the critiques on the areas that were judged as ‘good’, and that helped reinforce my confidence. As the judging process is totally anonymous, it was nice to be able to discuss it with a judge afterward.”

When I went through this journey many years ago, my goal was to become a better painter. Sure, we can sit in a class and have the teacher tell us what to do; but, what about when you do not have a teacher in front of you? After I received my first critique, and received no score, I was even more determined to learn what it took to pass. I knew where my weaknesses were from the critique, so I studied intensity, value, and color. The next year when I painted my test again, I passed. The written critique you receive is your guide to where you need to study to become more of an independent artist. If your goal is to become a better artist, then this program is for you.

Thank you to my right hand person Marian Jackson MDA for helping me brainstorm and write articles for this eZine. This program takes a lot of volunteer time to keep it going; that’s how much we all believe in, and are thankful for the education we received through the SDP Certification Program.

If you have any questions, you can either email or phone me anytime at suepruett@artapprenticeonline.com or 760-721-1671 (PST).

The Line Drawing: Can It Be Altered?

By Marian Jackson MDA



Leslie S. asked this question on the SDP Certification Facebook group.

Q: “I'd like to see some guidance on what liberties are allowed. Can the line drawing be altered? Can items be added? I look at the line drawing and immediately see how I'd like to use it, but still express my ideas of how it would express a great painting. Tell me what I can't do, but also tell me what I can do.”

Below are two answers that were provided in the Facebook group.

“You can add but the original lines cannot be altered. As long as you alter within the outside line for example, it's allowed. i.e. You cannot change the 'shape' of a pear but you could add water drops, as a simplistic answer.”


“The only thing you can't do with the Certification design is eliminate anything in the design. There will be a point deduction if you omit anything. What you can add are bugs, water drops, table line, and cloth under the elements in a still life. You can interpret containers as glass, ceramic, metal, etc.

If a flower has a specific variety like a rose, tulip, pansy, daffodil, etc., it would not be good to change the species; but many flowers are considered generic and can be painted as you choose.

Colors are not specific either; if you need an orange apple in your color scheme then paint an orange apple, green plum, purple strawberry, etc.”


As a reference, here are additional requirements regarding altering the line drawing:

ADP, CDA & MDA Still Life and MDA Floral Designs:
  • Within the framework of the line drawing, the applicant may wish to decide how to paint a given object. For example, an object may be interpreted as either a peach or a plum, as a lemon or a lime, as blackberries or raspberries.
  • It is not necessary to copy a multi-petal flower (i.e. a rose or daisy) petal for petal, as long as the flower is represented as shown and is contained within the line drawing.
  • The applicant’s individual interpretation of a design can also be expressed by ruffling the edges of flowers or choosing to either stroke or blend the petals of a multi-petal flower.
  • Applicants who choose to interpret a container as glass may add stems or leaves inside the container. If a container is drawn as transparent glass, it must be interpreted as transparent glass, not opaque.
  • Applicants my choose to express individual creativity by adding such things as table lines, cast shadows, reflections, or water drops, keeping in mind anything added will be judged.
  • Still Lifes need resting/sit down shadows to keep the design elements from floating.
  • Any lines indicated on containers should be used in executing the design.
  • The MDA Still Life must show that the majority of the wood surface is stained.
In addition to this, I’d like to comment that Certification is an exam, and as such should meet the judging criteria, which I present below from the sample in the portfolio.
  • Overall Effect
  • Color Management: Refers to the harmony and balance created through control of color: use of a color scheme, color repetition, tints, accents, warm and colors.
  • Value Control: Refers to either a) how light or dark an object is overall, or b) the change from light to dark within and object which creates form. Lack of value control makes for distracting areas and/or flat objects.
  • Intensity Control: Refers to the brightness or dullness of a color and/or object. Lack of intensity control makes for dull or distracting areas.
  • Blending Skills: Gradation of values from light to dark should be smooth without blotches or visible value lines.
  • Linework and Detail: Should be controlled and consistent.
  • Background: Should support and enhance the overall composition.
  • Frame: Should complement the composition and background.
  • Neatness: Should have an overall neat appearance without evidence of tracing lines, misshapen objects, and evidence of clean-up or untidy edges.
  • Finish: Should provide adequate protection for the painting without impurities.
So there you have it. It’s a test of your skills. So if you are unsure of something, or not very skilled, start practicing now!

Painting Transparent Objects

by Sue Pruett MDA

In the Master Still Life category, there is always a glass object included in the composition that is required to be painted as transparent glass. In the Certified Decorative Artist and Accredited Decorative Painter categories, there is always a container of some sort; you can interpret that container as solid or transparent glass.

Below are some tips to help you understand how to paint glass.

Transparent objects like glass, water, and water drops are easy to paint when you understand how to create the illusion that the object is indeed transparent. Just like anything else we paint, transparent objects need both light and dark values to create the three-dimensional form and effect.

Color of Glass



There is no one color of paint that can be specific to the color of clear glass. The color is relative to its surroundings; therefore, the color of a clear object is determined by the background color, or what is directly behind the glass. The background can be a wall, surface, cloth, and so on. If objects behind the glass show through the transparent object that conveys the object is transparent or translucent. Glass can also be affected by colors of objects sitting next to or around picking up reflections and shadows from neighboring objects. As you can see in this photo, the transparent part of the wine glass is a cool gray from the cool white background.

When liquid is added in the glass, the color of the glass (in that area) changes to the color of the liquid. Liquid can be clear or opaque, as you can see in the three different liquids. Dark liquids usually appear opaque depending how the light is directed along with the strength of the light source.



The color of glass is relative to its surroundings. 
The photo illustrates an excellent example of how the glass is influenced by the background color and value. On the blue background, the dark values start with a darker blue continuing to a cool black in the darkest areas. The light values appear white when in reality it would be a very light blue and then continuing to a cool white. The lower backlit light source adds interest and drama. Notice how the value of the blue background is lighter at the bottom than it is at the top. This lower lighting makes a bold statement at the bottom of the glass because of the contrast between the lightest area of the background and the darkest shadows in the glass. The eye is instantly drawn to this area because of the contrast between the two.

Distortion is an Attribute of Glass
Notice the distortion on the glass objects in the background. The amount of distortion is determined by the thickness of the glass or the distance between the objects. The thicker the glass, the more distortion you will see in the objects behind. Also, the further away the object is the more distortion you will see. Notice the distance between the martini glass (above) and the drinking glass in the background, and how much more distorted it appears than the others.

Objects inside the glass like flower stems, leaves, contents, etc. will also be distorted. Again, the amount of distortion will be determined by the thickness of the glass. Being able to see through objects is one of the benefits to rendering glass and will help with the transparency of the object.

Form and Value = Dimensional Shape
All objects are derived from one of four shapes. These four shapes are: sphere, cylinder, cone, and cube. When value placement is applied to a shape, the result is a three-dimensional form. A minimum of three values are needed to start the dimensional process; although, five to seven values are desired to achieve a greater degree of dimension in any particular shape or object. Anything can be painted to look realistic by first recognizing the shape, then knowing how to paint the shape to make it appear three-dimensional.

One of the first things to consider when painting any object is the shape. The shape determines where the values will be placed to create the three-dimensional form. Not so different than a solid object, the form is consistent the difference is transparency. What is different about glass, in comparison to a solid object, is how the sparkles of light are trapped inside the thickness of the glass.

Glass Still Life Painting by Sue Pruett MDA © 2014
Online Painting Class at Art Apprentice Online


Q&A: Stroke Category Line Drawings

By Sue Pruett MDA

We often get questions regarding the line drawings on the stroke pattern. There seems to be a misconception that every stroke needs to be perfect. We, the judges, are not looking for perfection. What we are looking for is that the strokes are all pulled in one continuous motion of the brush. Comma strokes should exhibit the same structure, head, body, and tail. Strokes should be similar and consistent, not some fat heads and some skinny heads, some long tails and some short tails. Consistency in a stroke design allows the viewers eye to flow through the design without stopping at the irregularities. Below I've added some questions we get asked. I hope this helps those of you working on, or considering, painting a stroke entry.

Question: On the stroke designs, why is the size of the strokes and the symmetry on the line drawing not exactly the same from one side of the pattern to the other?
Answer: The line drawings are hand drawn with a pen, which is not an easy task. If you think the symmetry is off, trace one half of the drawing and then flip the pattern and transfer the other side to the surface.

Question: Why is the spacing not the same on the pattern between all the strokes?
Answer: The pattern is a guide to where the strokes are to be placed. You don’t have to follow the spacing exactly; if you want to correct the spacing you can. The judges do not measure between strokes to make sure each are spaced exactly the same. The judges answer questions on the critique form; there is a question that states: “Negative space between stroke groupings is/is not well done.” The judges answer to the question is/is not. It’s a test do your best to have even space between stroke groupings, but don’t be a slave to the pattern.

Question: Is it okay to clean up around strokes with my background color?
Answer: No, it is not okay. Please do not clean up around strokes with the background color. This is noticeable to the judges, especially since there is a question on the critique form that asks: “Strokes appear stiff and overworked due to tipping/floating and/or clean up.”

Question: On the Master Stroke test the instructions state: “At the MDA level, the ability to show value change within the majority of the strokes is required. There must be a clear indication in these strokes that the brush has been double loaded, side-by-side, and pulled in one continuous motion of the brush.” Is it okay to side-load the comma stroke to achieve a value change on the commas? And how many strokes are considered the majority?
Answer: A double-loaded stroke is categorized by two colors/values on the brush at the same time. Side-loading on top of a dry stroke is not an indication of double-loaded strokes. The judges like to see an indication of this; we can tell if the stroke has been floated. The majority is more than 50%; 75% or more is desired.

Question: The flower shapes on the line drawing are generic and appear as ball shapes instead of flowers. Can I embellish the flowers by adding to the pattern?
Answer: Yes. The flowers shapes have been drawn this way to encourage the applicant to be creative by adding embellishments.

The Color Map – Part 2 of the Critique Form


By Marian Jackson MDA

The Color Map is a fairly recent addition to the Certification Program, but is an invaluable help.

The judges put numbers and/or comments to help you ‘see’ what they are saying on the written part of the critique. They may add another number to the listing if something else needs to be said that they feel will be helpful.

BUT – numbers everywhere would be both confusing and overwhelming. So, if some areas were ‘flat’, ‘over’ or ‘under blended’, some would be numbered as examples. The judges are not going to go through the entire painting numbering each and every instance.

Judges *do* like to point out what you have done well with a number ‘2’ or a written comment. This is the fine print on the critique and is worth reading and taking note.

The purpose of a critique is to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses exhibited in each entry. It is not for the purpose of giving suggestions on how to achieve improvements. It specifically points out weaknesses as a means of providing the applicant with the knowledge of what areas need further study and practice.