June 2015

In This Issue:

  • A New Year of Certification
  • Adding Shadows to Still Life Designs
  • Looking at Cast Shadows
  • Picturing Your Painting Through the Camera Lens
  • Accredited Decorative Painter (ADP) FAQ
  • Test Your Knowledge Quiz Answers

A New Year of Certification

By Sue Pruett MDA



Now that our SDP 2015 Conference has come to a close, the Certification Committee is gearing up for a new year of brainstorming ideas to help you succeed in our program. Our goal has always been to teach the basic principles of art to those who want to excel in their skills. Even if you are not interested in becoming a Certified painter, the information and resources we provide are invaluable to all artists.

This eZine focuses on a few important principles pertaining to the still life category. The basic theory applies to all levels, whether your goal is to pass the still life category in our Certified Decorative Artist (CDA), Master Decorative Artist (MDA) or new Accredited Decorative Painter (ADP) program.

In the included video, Cheri Rol MDA demonstrates and discusses the importance of adding shadows to a still life design and how to paint cast shadows. Without cast and contact shadows, items appear to float in midair instead of grounded. If this is something you struggle with, watch her video for advice on how to improve like observing items in different sources of light.

Speaking of cast shadows, Susan Abdella wrote an excellent article on this subject in our April 2014 edition. This eZine will recap her article, but also know you can access it along with several of our previous Certification articles on the SDP website’s Certification page.

Lastly, Joyce Sieve CDA reflects on how she approached setting up and photographing a MDA still life design from the Certification Program prior to painting it.

I would love to hear from you about what you would like to see and learn in our future eZines or in the Certification Corner in The Decorative Painter. If you have any suggestions, or questions regarding our Certification Program, you can email me at suepruett@artapprenticeonline.com.

Adding Shadows to Still Life Designs

By Cheri Rol MDA

Watch Cheri Rol MDA demonstrate and discuss the importance of adding shadows to a still life design and how to paint cast shadows.

View the Certification Video Library»

Looking at Cast Shadows

By Susan Abdella MDA



What exactly is a shadow and what causes it?
A shadow is an area that is created by an object that interferes or blocks the path of light, thus creating an area void of light, which in turn creates a shadow. Light rays travel in a straight line and will continue to do so unless something solid stops the rays; when this happens, a shadow is created. Read the full article in the October 2014 Certification eZine.

Picturing Your Painting Through the Camera Lens

By Joyce Sieve CDA



When I approach a new still life painting, I find it helpful to arrange the composition so I can photograph it. This picture is an excellent tool to observe where the light and dark values should be placed, as well as the size and shapes of cast shadows. Take several photographs from different angles with your camera lens. See a line drawing from the Certification portfolio for help on how to arrange the items.

I have an area on my kitchen counter that works well for taking pictures. Refer to the image and notice the three lights above the counter. I can unscrew one of the light bulbs to defuse the light, which allows me to observe different amounts of light on the objects. Take photographs when it is dark outside, turning off the other lights in the house and having just one light source. Turn off the flash on the camera so the flash does not compete with the light source. Also, set up a backdrop to hold the light on the subjects. Notice I used a cardboard/foam core storyboard to hide the objects in the background.



Another tool that can be used for the light source is a hand held spotlight. One advantage of using the spotlight is to see the design with different light sources (i.e. upper left, upper right, center, high and low). Move the light around to observe how the shadows move depending where the light is coming from, and how close the light is to the objects. Before breaking down the arrangement, download the pictures to your computer and observe them on the monitor. You may need to take more at this point if you are not satisfied.

If you end up enjoying taking a lot of photographs, you may want to invest in a variety of backdrops and surfaces. Light bulbs are available in warm and cool tones, which will change the look of the overall effect.

Here is the finished photograph that I will use to paint my next still life piece.


Accredited Decorative Painter (ADP) FAQ

1. How does the Accredited Decorative Painter (ADP) level differ from the Certified Decorative Artist (CDA) level?
The ADP level is a stepping stone to the CDA level. The design is laid out into small sections instead of one entire composition. If you feel the CDA level is too hard try the ADP level first to get a critique.

2. Do I start with the ADP level prior to attempting the CDA level?

You can start with either level. If you begin with the ADP level you will still have to complete the CDA level prior to the attempting the Master Decorative Artist (MDA) level.

3. Is the ADP test graded at the same skill level as the CDA test?
The ADP level will not be as challenging as the CDA level and will not require the same degree of skills in order to pass.

4. If I have previously started with the CDA level, do I have to stay with this level or can I try the ADP level?
Individuals who previously entered into the CDA category and did not pass may continue with the CDA category or move to the ADP category.

5. Can I paint the ADP level with any medium?
The ADP stroke entry must be painted with either acrylic or oil paint. The ADP and CDA still life category may be painted with a variety of mediums including: oil, acrylic, colored pencil, watercolor and pastel.

6.Will I receive a critique telling me what my strengths and weaknesses are?
Every applicant will receive a written critique comprised from MDAs.

Test Your Knowledge Quiz Answers

1. On the critique form what is meant by ‘negative space between strokes’?
a) Within a grouping of strokes there is a negative space between each stroke. It is more pleasing to have some consistency between each stroke in that grouping.

2. On the critique form what is meant by ‘gradation of strokes’?
a) On the line drawing a grouping may start out with a larger stroke and then gradually decrease in the size. This can also mean the gradation between values of each stroke in the particular grouping. The latter statement is found in the ‘Value’ section of the critique.

3. Is it a requirement to add a table line to the still life designs?
a) It is not a requirement, although adding a table line does add depth and helps the objects to appear as they are sitting on a surface. Anything added to the design will be judged on the execution and accuracy.

4. Can the applicant use a different surface than the one provided with the Certification Kit?
a) All entries must be painted on the surface that is provided in the official Certification Kit. The surface requirements for watercolor, colored pencil and pastel entries vary; please read all ‘Instructions For Applicant’ (pink sheet). Additional questions should be addressed to the Certification Chair by email or phone.

5. Will a poor varnish application stop me from getting a passing score?
a) Varnish is needed to protect the painting, and the applicant will be judged on how well the varnish application is executed. Poor application of varnish is part of the overall score but that alone will not stop an applicant from passing.