Sunday, November 20, 2016

New Still Life: Pitcher With Tangerines And Grapes

Hello all, hope everybody is having a good day.  After a month long reprieve, winter has finally arrived in New York, which means it's time to hide out in my studio for the rest of the season!

It's been quite a busy week over here.  Last Thursday evening, I finished up a new still life.

This was the (almost) original set up. I started out without the fruit for reasons I'll explain below.   I was not sure about this one from the time I set it up until about four sessions in.  Luckily it all worked out.

This was the original block in.  As you can see, there is no fruit here.  I was doing something else in my studio and got a bee in my bonnet about using this pitcher in a painting, so I set up a still life and blocked it in.  Not the most convenient way to do things, but when inspiration strikes you just have to go with it.

My next day in the studio I brought a bag of fruit with me and started experimenting.  I was not thrilled with the fruit at the market that day.  I wanted to use some oranges, but every one they had was enormous.  They looked like oranges on steroids, so when I happened upon a bag of tangerines, I decided to try using them.  It worked out fine and of course I added some grapes.  We joke in class that it is illegal to do a still life without grapes and it probably should be!  Like a little black dress, they help with a multitude of sins and I like painting grapes, so why not keep using them?

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but alizarin backgrounds can be really hard to paint.  It is a transparent color and takes many coats to look the way it needs to on the canvas, plus drying time in between.  In fact, I had to let this one sit for five days after the first few coats as the paint was just not covering the canvas.

I think this was session three or four.  Finally, it is beginning to look like this painting might be successful!

At this point, I was just adding coats of paint.  I know many people find this stage frustrating, but you have to keep going.  Eventually it all works out.

Finally, last Wednesday, the time came when I knew the painting would work out.  The pitcher starting looking like porcelain, the fruit compote was resembling glass and the darks and lights were evident in the painting.

Then came the fun part:  putting in the pattern.  When you are using a blue and white prop, the painting really comes alive when you get the pattern going.  Some painters do the pattern right at the beginning, and while I definitely understand working on the whole painting at once, I like to do the pattern last for a few reasons.  One, I like to do several coats of white on porcelain objects as I've found it takes a few passes to get the porcelain look.  Two, and most importantly, if the paint is dry when the pattern goes in, you can easily wipe it off if you make a mistake (which happens quite often in my case).  And three, sometimes when I start to put the pattern in, I realize that my shadows are not dark enough and I can easily fix it rather than having to wipe out the whole thing.

Once the pattern was done, I realized the painting needed a few tweaks.  There were a few places where things looked like they were floating, a sure sign that you need to darken the darks and lighten the lights.  I darkened up the shadows under the pitcher and the fruit compote, as well as all the tangerines on the right side.  I then lightened up the fabric in front of the pitcher.  I also darkened the wood shelf.  Even though it was lighter in real life than I've shown it here, it did not work to have the light colored fabric and the light colored wood shelf.  So I darkened up the shelf a bit and that helped the whole painting.

Here is the finished painting.  I'm really happy with how this one turned out.  It's always fun to take a chance and try something new.  Of course, I'm already on to my next piece, as well as attempting to turn a field study into a large painting, something I've never done before.  I'll keep you posted!

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