How To Paint a Cactus with Acrylics

I found a really interesting video tutorial today from a very talented artist by the name of Rudy Kistler. This is a still life painting lesson on how to paint a cactus, a subject that you really don’t see that often.

This tutorial is broken down into 10 different steps for your convenience making it easy to follow. Below is a short summary of the steps in this video.  Please watch the video below to follow this tutorial in its entirety.

Follow this link to visit Rudy’s YouTube Page to watch more of his videos.

Step 1 Priming the Canvas

Rudy begins his painting by priming his canvas with an orange color.  This orange color is not part of the final composition but it adds a nice complimentary undertone to the finished piece.

Step 2 Mixing Your Palette

For this painting, Rudy will be using an analogous color scheme which is based on colors that are next to one another on the color wheel.  The colors he has chosen are between yellow and blue. He will only be using a limited palette of three colors to mix all of his colors and those are Yellow Deep, Magenta and Thalo Green.

Step 3 Blocking in the Composition

Rudy then begins to block in his composition.   He starts by painting in the background and then the cactus and pot.  This is just a quick rough block in of the subject. We are not looking for detail at this stage.

Step 4 Toning the Background

Roughly block in the background at this stage. No need to be overly detailed as of yet.  Add a darker grey background toward the tip of the cactus since it is the lightest. This creates a nice contrast.

Step 5 Adding Color

Here you begin adding color starting with a dark blue for the pot.  Then a neutral color for the soil followed by a green for the cactus. Working all colors from dark to light.

Step 6 Filling in the Background

Now the background receives some more attention.  Here the colors are added more opaquely and any traces of the background are covered. Other  adjustments are made.

Step 7 Adding the Details

Now some of the finer details are added starting with the spine of the cactus…

Step 8 Filling in the Background Again

We go back in the background again to make the paint even more opaque. Some magenta is now added to warm up the gray a bit. The warmth of the background will now contrast with the cool green of the cactus. A foreground is suggested by adding a lighter color toward the bottom.

Step 9 Detailing the Background

More lights are added to the foreground to make it stand out a bit more. Other adjustments are made.

Step 10 Making Final Corrections

The artist steps back to assess the painting.  He sees that the overall value of the cactus is too dark so he lightens that up a bit. He also neutralizes the green somewhat. He also makes some adjustments to the cast shadow.

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