Yellow almost done

Yellow   almost done

On one of my walks I stayed in a B&B which was a rebuilt farm. It was beautifully done, preserving the farm’s former character. Some of the walls were more than a foot thick – I shot this sunlit china collection in a recessed (ex-) stall window during breakfast. Next is the underpainting and a first tentative sketch. What I wanted to capture was the yellowness of everything, the walls, the teapots, the sunlight streaming in. (The title refers to a song by my current favourite band, Coldplay.)

Early stage

Early stage

Below is the final, I actually like the lightness of the former stage at the top of this post because it comes closer to what I wanted to do. But I like the juiciness of this last version as well.

Yellow done, oil on canvas board

Yellow done, oil on canvas board

For the next painting I revisited some photos of still lifes. I wanted to paint the white cloth and capture all the colours in white in different lights. I struggled with various versions of this one. They say that a painting is never finished, it just stops somewhere interesting.

Acrylic underpainting

Acrylic underpainting

Sketching in first oil layer

Sketching in first oil layer

Apple and lemon, oil on canvas board, many versions later

Apple and lemon, oil on canvas board, many versions later


Following the colour wheel

January 20, 2014

Had a good morning working in luscious honeyed yellows, oranges, and vermilions.  The fruit is handled in the way I hope to eventually be able to paint everything, I ‘know’ it from within, and only have to enjoy following the colours and contours. My old teacher and mentor Abe Weiner told me that when painting apples, for instance, you can follow the contours with colours as they are arranged on the colour wheel. So your reds will be next to oranges, which will merge into yellows, and these will lead to the greens. It is a good guide for dealing with the myriad shades in apples and pears. Although, sometimes the greens will be right next to the reds, which makes for some visual excitement.

A little bit of the white edge of the bowl is sketched in, have to work into that more later.
I’ve been following Cezanne on this part only so far as he often uses very dark or black outlines to sharply define certain edges. I have been applying this to see how it feels to me. So far I like it but am not sure if this will be part of my own working method. Basically I’m only taking a few hints from the examples I have of his set up in the studio, I like, for example his lack of blending on certain areas. and I like the slightly raw quality that gives. But mostly I’m following my own instincts on this part because I’m more sure of myself, having recently had about 8 months straight of painting fruit! Not to mention numerous still lifes from my previous painting history.

Last week friends came over for dinner and just before leaving late that night, came up to the studio to see my recent oil paintings. They have been loyal followers and collectors of my art from several periods, and they hadn’t seen this recent development. Turned out, they couldn’t leave without ‘Pears in Sunlight’.

Pears in sunlight    Oil on canvas board

Pears in sunlight Oil on canvas board  SOLD

So that is my first oil painting sale from this recent period of work. It feels wonderful and vindicates my feeling that one can sell according to one’s own convictions, and circumvent the galleries and internet selling sites. The price made sense to both parties (without the 40-50% gallery mark-up). It was sold in the atmosphere of personal connection between friends, and a painting of mine will now continue its life as part of theirs.

Bonnard, Pierre - La Salle a Manger a la Campagne - Nabis - Oil on canvas - Still Life - Minneapolis Institute of Arts - Minneapolis, MN, USA

Pierre Bonnard   La salle a manger a la campagne  Source

In 1998, the London Tate had a comprehensive show of Pierre Bonnard’s paintings. Looking at the catalogue I see that the exhibition filled no less than 10 rooms. I remember moving through these rooms being immersed in the wonderful colours of these paintings.

I bought the accompanying book of the exhibition , ‘Bonnard colour and light’ by Nicholas Watkins and have recently come back to it. There is a curious item in the section on Bonnard’s language of colour describing how the artist felt about his palettes:

For Bonnard a palette did more than establish a colour scheme and an overall tonality of a painting; it was in a sense an embryo painting. Pictorial ideas would develop out of his responses to the actual colours put down on the palette. …On a studio visit in 1943, André Giverny noted that he kept a separate plate, an improvised palette, for each painting. ‘Why destroy a series of ideas which could be useful?’, Bonnard observed.

The idea of establishing a palette as a tool for determining the tone of a painting was new to me. I’d been wanting to adapt some of Bonnard’s glowing warm/cool contrasts to one of my next fruit bowl paintings, hopefully breaking me out of my fixation (in my oil painting work at any rate) with reproducing colours realistically.

This is the acrylic underpainting. (This painting was completed, by the way, before I started the 37 minute series, and already has some of their freshness.)

Jantine's  underpainting

The next stage was completed fairly quickly and left a bit rough without reworking it.

Interim stage

Interim stage

Completed painting below- looks like it loses a little a little strength perhaps, partially due to different lighting when shooting the photos.

I wanted to capture the blue glass bowl and reflections.

Jantine's  oil on canvas board

Jantine’s oil on canvas board

palette for this painting

palette for this painting


May 28, 2013

Rose watercolor, 6x6 inches

Rose watercolor, 6×6 inches

One of the most persistent problems you hear beginners as well as more experienced painters complain about is ‘ backgrounds’.  In realistic painting, the subject is painted somewhere in the middle of the paper or canvas (since I’m talking about watercolors here I’ll talk about ‘ paper’), completed to satisfaction then oh, oh what to do with the  ‘background’.

It  is something like the dilemma of people cooking for vegetarians- they leave out the meat and all they have on the plate are the potatoes and beans!  You take away something and try to create a meal out of what’s left, instead of starting out with the idea of creating a vegetarian meal as a whole, using lots of different ingredients.

Are you still following me?

The way to solve the ‘background’  dilemma is not to try to figure out what to do with the background once you’ve completed the main subject but to treat the background as an essential ingredient, already integrated into the painting from the beginning.

Rose in process, working across the whole subject including background

Rose from above in process, working across the whole subject including background

It can help to decide on an overall color palette for the painting before you even pick up a brush. And look at the negative spaces, how the light falls, and try to shift how you see. Try to move away from perceiving just an object against a’  background’  to an intricate interplay of puzzle pieces- each equally important.

Anne's kitchen

Anne’s kitchen

Pears in sunlight 2

Pears in sunlight 2

These are basically travel sketches and I’ve been trying to keep my work really loose, so it only partly illustrates my point here.

This penny just recently dropped for me, so I’ve included some of my attempts in watercolor above. But it would be good to look at some classical oil paintings by Cezanne, for example, where the negative shapes are more clearly defined.

my trusty little traveling watercolor set

my trusty little traveling watercolor set