Sunday, April 17, 2016

Starting A Painting

I started a new painting the other day, and it is the first one in quite awhile that was not done for a show.  It was nice to just be able to play around with my props until I found something I liked.  I had an idea of what I wanted to paint.  I wanted to do a still life using a silver dish filled with fruit.  As you will see, that is not what I ended up with at all.

The first thing I did was stop by the store to grab a bag of fruit.  I always buy way more than I think I'll need.  You never really know what you will need until you are actually setting up, so you should always have extra.  Whatever you have left you can eat!

For this set up, I got a bag of red grapes, oranges, plums and pears.  Next, I went about setting up the still life.  I tried many configurations, but the silver plate was just not working.  After pulling a bunch of my props and trying many different set ups, I realized the silver plate would have to wait for another day.

Once I gave up on my original idea, I quickly got a set up that I liked.

Now it was time to start the painting.  Years ago when I started painting, I did not have a clue what I was doing.  I had no idea how to start a painting or how to proceed once I did.  It really held me back.  Then one day I got very lucky.  After being on the wait list for quite awhile, I finally got into Gregg Kreutz's class at the Art Students League.  The very first thing he taught me was how to begin a painting.  Gregg's formula is this:  placement, background, shadow, light.  Having a formula to follow was life changing for me.  I no longer sat looking at my blank canvas wondering what to do.

As you can see, I painted in the outline of the objects in the still life.  I could not decide if I wanted to go vertical or horizontal so I tried both.  Horizontal won out in the end.  This is not a step that should be rushed.  It is a lot easier to correct mistakes at the beginning than later on in the painting.

Once I was satisfied with my composition, I painted in the background.  After the background, I painted in the shadows.  It's so helpful to know from the beginning where your darks are going to be.
Next comes the light.  My goal is always to get the canvas covered on the first run through.  This way when you come back to the painting you can just get started working on the whole thing.

I have worked on the painting twice since the initial block in, just letting the paint build up.  I took a day off today as I wanted it to dry up a little bit, but I'll be back at it next week.

I've done a lot of still life set ups in my day, so here are a few tricks that I use.  To fill up a bowl of fruit, you don't need to use fruit for the whole thing.  I stuff a dish towel into the pot and let the fruit rest on top of that.  Grapes are notorious for falling all over the studio, so if I can't get them to stay in place, I use a push pin in between the stems and that helps keep them where they are suppose to be.  There will be wine in the glass decanter, but instead of opening a bottle of wine and wasting it, I use grape juice as a substitute.  It looks exactly the same.

I hope you enjoyed this little peek into my process of setting up a still life.  Soon I hope to show you the finished painting.  Spring has finally arrived here in New York.  Hope the weather is great wherever you are!

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