April 2016

April 2016

In This Issue:

  • Deadline Fast Approaching
  • They Want What?
  • Liner Brush Work
  • Value Control: Certification Critique
  • Intensity: Certification Critique
  • Stroke Control: Certification Critique
  • Color Management: Certification Critique
  • Certification Videos

Deadline Fast Approaching

By Sue Pruett MDA, Certification Committee Chair



Tuesday, May 9, 2016 is the postmark deadline date to mail and complete this year’s Certification test submissions! This means the Society of Decorative Painters International Conference & Expo is fast approaching and the anticipation of hearing your name called is in sight.

One of the main objectives of the Certification Committee is to help you learn and achieve your goals. If you are struggling with your painting right now and need help, search for answers through the many resources we have provided. Take a day off from painting and read, observe, and listen; this may be just what you need for that extra push to help you reach the next level. Here is a list of resources that are available for you.

  • Certification Corner in The Decorative Painter – Articles and painted examples in each issue
  • Certification eZine - Past eZines are available on the SDP website
  • Certification Videos
  • Facebook Group Page – SDP ADP/CDA/MDA Quest to Excellence

Also available for purchase are a variety of compilations created over the years. Check out the Certification Store on the Society of Decorative Painters website to see what’s available.

This eZine is loaded with information to help you succeed on your “Journey to Excellence”. We have compiled several Certification Corner articles written to help applicants understand what the judges are looking for when completing the critiques and judging stroke work, value and intensity. Also, Susan Abdella MDA has generously shared a video clip from one of her online classes demonstrating how to achieve beautiful line work and stroke work. Thank you to Art Apprentice Online Art School for allowing our program to use this video.

If you will be attending the 44th Annual Society of Decorative Painters International Conference & Expo this year in San Diego, California, the judges will be scheduling 20 minute critiques to answer any questions you may have. Check the Certification Booth for time slots available.

Enjoy, and please let me know if you have any questions regarding the Certification Program.


They Want What?

By Kay Baranowski MDA



Submitting a stroke entry to be judged for Certification is not about what they (the judges) want – it is about submitting a stroke painting that exemplifies and is indicative of stroking with one continuous flowing motion of the brush. Judges are not looking for perfection from the applicant. It is about a painting that demonstrates freshness, spontaneity, movement and flow. The various required Certification tests involve totally different painting techniques. The floral and still life tests require smooth applications of paint, lack of transparency (except for depicted glass) and lack of brush marks. This application is accomplished by applying color/values side by side usually with blending strokes of the brush. The colors and/or values are then blended together to establish depth, dimension and realism to the objects. We pat, nudge, soften, mop, glaze, clean up edges, etc., etc., and overpaint if necessary. These techniques are not what demonstrate skillful stroking for the stroke category test. While all test categories obviously require ‘stroking’ with a brush as opposed to a mechanical device, the stroke test requires a different technique; application of paint with a brush and appearance.

A successful passing stroke entry demonstrates freedom of movement, confidence and spontaneity. It should not appear mechanical, air-brushed, stenciled, overworked, cleaned-up or ‘back-painted’. The viewer’s eye should flow through the design via proper paint application and color and/or value placement. If scrolls and long ‘S’ strokes are in the design, they are there to convey movement and should be painted with a stroke of the brush to carry the eye through the design. Cross-blending, long flowing elements such as scrolls, leaves, and long ‘S’ strokes disrupt flow. If paint is correctly applied to these elements in one continuous motion of the brush, color appearing across the element is inappropriate and incongruous. Comma strokes should follow the line of the design. When placed along a stem line, they should not cross over that line or touch it – rather they should appear to flow along it. If they are within a larger element, they should flow with and follow the contour of the element. Large elements can and should be stroked as well. Stroke requirements state that paint is to be applied in one continuous motion of the brush. It means just that – one! The evidence of stroking in this manner is brush marks, possible transparency, value changes within the elements and slight variations throughout. Double loaded strokes (Master level) means that two (or more) colors/values loaded on the brush are to be applied to the surface in one continuous motion of the brush. Double loaded strokes on the Master stroke tray require the majority of the strokes to be double loaded: this is more than 50%.

Good stroke painting, regardless of style or ethnic background, requires good brushes, properly prepared background surface, appropriate paint consistency, and pleasing color and value placement. It requires a display of confidence. Above all else, it requires practice – and more practice to attain and display proper paint application using one continuous motion of the brush.

Liner Brush Work

By Susan Abdella MDA



Line work is most often associated with the stroke categories in the Certification Program. But, it is also found in the floral and even the still life categories. So it is important that artists know, understand and are comfortable with the liner brush. Here are a few tips to help you master that sometimes scary brush:

  • Paint consistency should be thin like ink. Use water or medium to achieve this. If you can write the alphabet without reloading, you know the paint is the correct consistency.
  • Choose a brush you will be comfortable with. Some liners are shorter than others and these are usually easier to handle. Though a longer liner will give you more mileage.
  • Load the full length of the bristles up to the ferrule. Do so by stroking the brush on one side and then the other. Touch the bristles at the ferrule with a paper towel to absorb any excess moisture.
  • Hold the brush vertically straight up and down – not resting in the ‘V’ of your hand.
  • Brace your painting hand by using your small finger, or resting that hand on top of the other hand. Pull from your shoulder towards yourself.
  • Just doodling with your brush and water on a newspaper or paper bag is a good idea; it also helps to break in a new liner brush.
  • Most importantly practice, practice and practice some more!

Watch this video for more tips on using a liner brush.

Value Control: Certification Critique

By Sharon Hamilton MDA



The Certification critique has an area called ‘Value Control (Dark-Medium-Light)’ and relates to the value of the elements within the design, value of the background and how the overall value has been controlled to pull the viewer through the design.

Value is the relative lightness or darkness of a color. We don’t see our world in shades of grey but use color to describe what we want to convey in our paintings. Value represents light and shadow. All objects within a painting are subject to light and shadow regardless of their placement. The knowledge of form will help you to comprehend and render the contours of an object's form.

All color has value and it varies from one color to another. Train your eye to see the value differences in color and understand the subtleties between color and its relationship to value. This understanding helps you develop a palette to create the desired effect in your paintings.

Below are the criteria included on the critique form relating to value control.

The value of the ____ is too light for its position in the design.
Sometimes an overall element or the highlight of an element is too light in value for its placement in the painting and causes it to be a distraction because it is too prominent. This can relate to the background as well as elements.

The value of the ___ is too dark for its position in the design.
If the judges deem an element, area on an element or the background is too dark relative to the surrounding elements it will be indicated on this area of the critique. The ‘too dark’ area usually stops the flow within the painting.

More value control needed to create flow and interest.
When value control is lacking, the flow and interest of the painting is affected negatively. Understand where to assign values within the overall arrangement of the composition. The range of values and overall value placement are always relative to the key and style of the painting. Value and value placement within the painting are used to create the illusion of dimension and depth from the foreground to the background.

Value changes within the stroke groupings are ________.
This question relates only to stroke submissions and indicates whether or not the groupings of strokes have enough value change to keep the flow moving within the stroke design.

Lack of proper value change causes the ________ to appear flat.
Value changes are needed to create three dimensional form. Any element that doesn’t have enough value change will make it appear flat or without dimension. The minimal amount of values to use is three, which when blended properly will give you five values. Obviously the more values used, the more the illusion of form is created.

The values of the __________________ cause the eye to jump and/or stop abruptly.
Sometimes the values of an element change too quickly (under blended), don’t change enough (over blended or lacks enough values), or may be too light or dark and can cause the viewer’s eye to jump to that area or completely stop the flow of the design.

Value of the background is supportive / too light / too dark.
The background is the largest area within the design area so it is important that it doesn’t demand too much attention or make the design become lost within it. Determine the correct value for background that will work with your elements before painting them.

Knowing when and how to manipulate the values will lead the viewer’s eye through a painting. A high area of contrast draws the eye to it and can be used to pull the viewer into the painting. Perhaps there are some buds or leaves in the background, but they are not part of the center of interest. Value can be used to make them recede by painting them closer in value to the background value or using lower contrast.

Overall depth of the painting can be created by assigning the largest range of values to the most important areas of the painting – the focal area or center of interest. It is used to draw the viewer’s attention into the painting. A smaller range of values outside of that area and then the area outside of that would have an even smaller range of values.

Intensity: Certification Critique

By Sue Pruett MDA

The intensity of a color is relative to another color of equal, more, or less intense.

The Certification critique form is divided into sections each focusing on a specific part of the judging process. Each section has specific questions that focus on the most important properties of color, blending, neatness, background, stroke control, varnish, and the frame. The goal of breaking down these questions is to help the applicant understand the questions on the form. The judge’s job is to answer these questions as they relate to the applicants painting.

Intensity, also referred to as Chroma, is one of the three dimensions of color. The other two dimensions are; hue, which relates to the actual color of an object; and value, which describes how light or dark a color is. Intensity/Chroma describes how weak (dull) or strong (bright) a color is; low intensity is weak and high intensity is strong.

Question: ________________ is too bright in relation to other areas. When one color stands out more than another quite possibly this is because that particular color is more intense/brighter than the others, and therefore, too bright in relation to other areas. When the eye travels around a painting it is more pleasing to have the colors flow, meaning similar intensities. If one color is brighter than the rest, the eye will jump to that one color throughout the painting.

Question: ________________ is too dull in relation to other areas. If a color is too dull in relation to the other colors it may get lost on the background, and therefore, needs to be brighter to show up. Stand back from the painting to make sure all colors show up from a distance.

Question: More intensity needed to create flow and interest. When the eye travels around a painting it is more pleasing to have the colors flow with similar intensities. If one color is too dull in relation to the other colors that color will look weak or lacking in relation to the other intensities.

Question: The intensity of the __________________________ causes the eye to jump from ____________________ to ________________________.

When one color stands out among the rest it probably means that color is either lighter/darker (value) than the others or brighter and more intense than the others. When this happens the eye will jump from one intense color to another.

Question: Intensity of the background is supportive / too bright / too dull.

The background is the largest area of the painting surface: for this reason the intensity should be toned so it ‘rests’ in the background and does not overpower the entire painting. If the background is too intense it will compete with the objects and overpower the painting.

Stroke Control: Certification Critique

By Susan Abdella MDA

One of the categories on the Certification critique form is designed for the applicant who chooses to paint the stroke test. If the applicant submits in the still life category, he/she will not have the stroke section on their critique form.

When the judges come to this category the focus is on strokes, line work, and how well the strokes flow with the line of design. The judging team discusses each question before writing the answer on the critique form. If this is the first time the applicant enters the Certification process some of what the judges are writing may not make a whole lot of sense. Below are the questions as they are written on the critique form along with an explanation of what this question means, and what the judges are conveying to the applicant.

Question: Pulled strokes are/are not evident.
A pulled stroke will show evidence of the brush bristles as the stroke is executed. There may be ridges in the stroke and the background will often be visible. When strokes are heavy or sterile in appearance, too opaque, and evidence of clean this forces the judges to question the authenticity of pulled strokes. If there is not adequate evidence that the strokes are pulled in one fluid motion of the brush it can be cause for deduction and/or disqualification.

Question: Double loaded strokes are/are not evident.
This is only required in the Master Decorative Artist Category. A double loaded stroke consists of two colors loaded side by side on the brush. When a double loaded stroke is pulled both colors are visible with a nice transition between values due to proper blending on the palette. Tipping, floating, glazing or layering is not double loading.

Question: Sufficient evidence of double loaded strokes.

This is only required in the Master Decorative Artist Category. The majority of strokes must be double loaded, that means more than 50% of the strokes must be doubled loaded. Four or five double loaded strokes are not showing sufficient evidence.

Question: Strokes are/are not well shaped.

A good comma stroke consists of a head, a body and a tail, meaning it is nicely rounded at the beginning then gradually tapers in the body ending with a nice thin tail at the end. An ‘S’ stroke is pulled in a thin – thick – thin movement of the brush while following a graceful ‘S’ line.

Question: Strokes do/do not flow with the line of design.
For example, let’s take line work or a flower stem line. It originates or flows from one point and strokes alongside it should flow from that same point. In other words, if you draw a line down the center of the stroke and continue that line it should stem from the same originating point.

Question: Strokes do/do not follow the contour of the objects.
This means that strokes must follow the form, shape, or curve of an object.

Question: Graduation of size of strokes within grouping is/is not well done.

Strokes should graduate in size in a controlled and pleasing manner.

Question: Negative space between strokes within grouping is/is not consistent.
Strokes are evenly spaced between groupings.

Question: Long line-work is/is not consistent and does/does not flow with the design.
Long line work is steady, even and controlled and it does follow or flow with the line of design.

Color Management: Certification Critique

By Sue Pruett MDA

All color is relative to another color, no color stands alone, and color is judged how it relates to other colors in the painting.

On the Certification critique form there is a section entitled ‘Color Management’. This section specifically relates to color and not value or intensity. The judges evaluate the entry in regards to how the applicant has handled color relating to color scheme, balance, repetition, flow, and harmony. If the applicant does not understand these concepts, it can lead the applicant to failure.

Below are the questions included on the critique form regarding color management. When the judges evaluate the piece, the subject of color and how it relates to the painting is the only consideration in this section.

COLOR HARMONY: When a combination of colors looks good together there is a sense of harmony in the painting. Learning to achieve color harmony is just as important as learning the mechanics of how to paint. Harmony can be achieved with proper use of color schemes and toners to control the intensity of colors.

Question: Color harmony has/has not been handled well.
Many times the judges will mark that it has been handled and then cross out the word well to let the applicant know this area can be improved upon.

COLOR SCHEMES: A color scheme, also known as color harmonies, or color chords, is a combination of colors that naturally complement one another. When certain colors are used together the chemistry can create vibration, excitement, calmness, and serenity. The artist can set a mood, create tranquility, or demand attention to an area of the painting through color choices. Choosing a color scheme is like having a road map to follow when traveling to an unknown destination. It is not a requirement to use a color scheme and the applicant will not be marked down if a color scheme is not used.

Question: The color used for _____________appears to be beyond the limits of the color scheme.
Whether a color scheme is used or not, if a color does not relate to the other colors, or stands out on its own, this color can be distracting. Beyond the limits of the color scheme means this color stands alone or does not go with the other chosen colors.

BACKGROUND COLOR: The background color should be part of the color scheme and relate to the other colors used in the painting. As an example, if the background color is red/burgundy/toned red and red is nowhere else in the painting, then the choice of red for the background color may not be supportive to the rest of the painting.

Question: Choice of color for the background is /is not supportive.
The background is the largest area of the painting surface. For this reason the color should be toned so it “rests” in the background and does not overpower the entire painting.

REPETITION AND BALANCE: Each color should be repeated several times in the painting. This allows for color flow and helps the viewer’s eye to continue through the composition without the eye stopping. Without repetition of color the eye may stop before it picks up again on another color.

Question: There is/is not adequate repetition of color.
An example of adequate repetition of color can be three separate objects spaced throughout the design as the same color. Other ways to carry color is by using tints and accents on leaves and flowers.

Question: The color(s) of the____ causes the eye to jump and/or stop abruptly.
When there is a lack of color repetition the viewer’s eye can jump from that color to the same color used across the painting or just stop abruptly if that color is not repeated again.

Question: Color balance has/has not been handled well.
Balance can also be tied to harmony, when several colors go together and one color stands alone the balance is off.

Question: More color control needed to create flow and interest.
This question lets the applicant know that flow and interest are lacking in the painting. Many times the judges will mark out either flow or interest if that statement does not apply. The painting can have flow, but lack interest and have interest but lack flow.

Certification Videos

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