The Assignment submission page is at: Assignment 2
I’m painting a still life in the style that I feel most strongly about – using expressive, relatively large brushstrokes with a limited number of objects. The outcome is to focus on the subject closely to produce a bold and striking picture.
I assembled a considerable number of objects for consideration.
After a number of eliminations I reduced it to these. The metal shots ‘glasses’ were particularly interesting visually but…
…I was looking for a bit of a story…
…and here I’ve found one. This is a personal memory – staying up all night talking to friends when I was a student (of the teenage kind). I’m a non-drinker so I had tea whereas my friends would dring actual alcohol, like wine. Orla… this might have been you?!
I need to put these into a setting… I prefer a blank background but there could be other ideas.
A lower angle is interesting. It’s also interesting how the wine bottle casts a shadow.
The story here is of an empty wine bottle and an empty teapot – perhaps it’s the morning and the talking is done.
It might be better to have the lid on the teapot… then where’s the bottle top? I don’t necessarily need one.
I would like there to be brighter colour in this… it represents a joyous event, not a sad one. It’s a celebration of good times and friendship rather than a dire warning about the vices of wine and tea.
I found a red cap to use… this definitely is starting to have the same resonance as my carrot and radish…
The arrangement now sits on an old chopping board, which is standing in for a kitchen table… but it’s very bright… I’d rather it was a very deep oak table. I could possibly paint it or stain it darker for the purpose.
I’ve been doing Life Drawing in preparation for Part 3 and learnt that understanding of the subject is gained through drawing it… the mistakes made in scale, angle and proportion direct me to where I need to pay more attention to understand the shapes and tones that are there.
Taking a photograph does none of this, of course, it requires the reproduction through me as the instrument of rendering.
Importantly for this picture, and for all of Painting, I won’t be simply re-painting a perfect and identical reproduction of the object that I can see. I will be personally present in the reproduction by putting my own filter in the middle of the subject and the picture. In this specific case, I wish to emphasise the sense of a pleasant time had… a warm and cosy feeling.
Top, above: my first sketch is fast with XL-sized charcoal in black only. AFter drawing this my attention is drawn to the darkness of the teapot compared to the wine bottle. There is more tonal closeness that I have rendered here but overall the teapot is the darker object.
Bottom, above: I’ve ignored the overall tone in this one in favour of finding out where the shapes are. I’ve discovered the difficulty of the spout – it is a subtle curve and does not look right at all if it is not rightly reproduced in outline… it appears as an ugly teapot.
Closer investigation into the spout and its shape, and how that all relates to the overall shape of the teapot.
Drawing very quickly again I’m looking for what spontaneity produces. In this case, I’ve found the pockets of energy that are representable within the shapes themselves.They are both shiny objects and the various reflections are complicated. When I render a broad impression of them I discover that they leap out. This is a useful idea as I’m looking for how to portray joy and happiness, and the more dynamic energy from the reflections can be employed to help do this.
Blending in the long direction of the bottle. Hard outlines are important. The teapot surface is almost absent from the image – it’s the reflections that show up. Neither object is ‘rough’… hard or soft edges but not heavy texture.
It is time to start using actual paints – this is, after all, the point.
I chose four colours which, from recent experience, I think will do the job of rendering the subject and give me the ability to vary the greens.
After a while I started to realise that the bottle needed a red mixed in with it in places – the green became slightly browner… perhaps the teapot is caught in the reflection.
I added Indian Red and experimented with the teapot.
By this time I had painted, vaguely, a lot of the scene so I roughly finished it by way of experiment, adding Cadmium red for the bottle top.
On the way, I found that I could use the green on the teapot to create the darker glazing and shadows, and the red on the bottle to do something similar.
For me, I feel it’s important to paint progressively thickly – painting into the wet paint to mix and blend as well as painting on top – still wet-on-wet but refraining from mixing in.
The bright highlight on the teapot came out very well – it is white surrounded by yellow, then blended to red. It’s inspired by Turner’s Houses of Parliament on fire which evoked a bright glow using the same kind of stages: white-yellow-red – the blackbody radiation spectrum.
I love the spontaneity of this style; working out the ways of combining the colours before painting the actual picture is important to prepare the way it will be done – although the brush strokes are applied with flowing gestures, they should each be carefully considered so as to render the intended picture. This is also essential in order to make sure that the outlines of these vibrant and dynamic objects are defined in order to show that they are glass and ceramics.
Very pleased with this stage.
Further investigation – I discover how to get closer to the colour of the bottle which is a ‘green’ bottle but a very yellow-green. I understand the nature of the specular highlights now – there are white ones and green ones… the latter are reflections on the inside of the bottle which are filtered twice: once as the light passes into the bottle and once as it passes out again after being reflected. The white ones on the outside are not filtered except at the edges where they are dimmer and tinged green slightly.
In this painting, I’m looking at a few things…
- What are the different areas of the bottle? The teapot is visible through it but makes the bottle dark
- Where are the highlights? They are white and yellow… outside and inside but quite ‘organised’ due to the single light source.
- What is the range of colours? In this painting, the green colour is not right but, nevertheless, I’m going to need black to make the very darkest areas (not achieved here)
- What should my pallet be to achieve this? I’v added another paint colour – Terre Verte – which is a dark yellow-green… and lives up to its name by having an earthy feel like military uniforms.
On the right here I’ve experimented more and found the right range of colours and used black to get to the deepest shades.
This subject has a great tonal range, although a lot of it is in the middle, there are touches of darkest shadows and brightest whites that give the glass and ceramic its smooth texture.
To paint this I’m going to need to paint from the back to the front in layers and areas… defining the parts of the bottle through which the teapot can be seen, for example, and straight away defining the outlines of the objects in a few base colours. I’ll be mixing into these on the canvass to help create the glassy effect.
There’s great scope to heighten the excitement in the picture by using the presence of the reds and greens together. Even though the main areas may be full of movement and gesture the edges of the bottle will need careful painting in with black and dark green to create the shadow and hard edge in the end.
A quick study to get familiar with the proportions.
The wine bottle.
I’m in two, possibly three, minds about this
- It looks a bit real – this is a surprise. I’m not used to producing art that looks real. It’s a long way from a trompe l’oeil – it’s not going to fool you but… it does a bit and I’m attracted to that… but…
- That’s not what I’m looking for. I’m looking for bolder, visible brushwork that contains the realism despite the obvious paint.
- I want to finish it so that I can move onto what I’m actually intending to do / but I want to leave it now and start over in another way.
I think I’m effectively afraid of my own style, butI’ve discovered something in doing this… I was worried about laying down a flat area of green to define where the bottle is so I tried to paint the areas. But actually, my technique relies on a base of wet paint to paint into, mixing the paint in as I go. I need that first layer just to get started.
I think I will finish this one but I want to paint it again… this time laying down the bottle shape in a medium-strong green of the overall bottle colour then working into this to create the shape with bigger bolder brushing.
As my wife points out… the shoulders are not even – she knows about red wine bottles.
This is not the technique I used for the wine bottle but I’m trying it for the tepot – a base for the one object that allows me to concentrate on the rest of the details.
After much huffing and puffing it’s complete. But it’s not the picture I intended to create.
There are some nice details… the teapot has taken on a shiny look to a degree, but I’ve still not been bold enough with the brush and paint to create the brushwork look that I’m chasing.
The red cap for the wine bottle is done very simply and looks right when I stand back.
I’ve got some worries here – that the brushwork, if I find it, will negate the shiny look. I don’t think this is actually the case – I just have to make sure I paint the shiny spot using the brushwork.I’m worried that the bottle will never be right because It’s quite hard to judge.
I’m worried that the bottle will never be right because It’s quite hard to judge. This is just lack of confidence because I have not done enough observational drawing in my life to rely on my own abilities.
Once more then… this time with more brush work.
- Adding green on top of the red to create the shadows worked to a degree… but not entirely. I think I’ll need black too to make some of these low lights deeper.
- Although the colour of the teapot is reasonably close to appearance I’d like to evoke a bit more of an exciting mood so I think I’ll move that colour more towards a deeper red
- The red cap and green bottle don’t create a proper vibrance because the green is not close enough to be a complementary colour, I think, and the tones are not completely the same. But it balances the composition to have that strong area of red on the other side to the larger teapot… so long as the smaller cap is more intense than the larger teapot, perhaps.
I’ve found with Life Drawing that if I draw a single pose several times I can control better what I’m doing with each iteration. So it is with this I hope. I’ve seen a glimmer of what I want to produce but I’m thwarted quite often by the inaccurate proportions and scales that I render. So this time…
I’ve gone back to making out the canvass (primed hardboard) using a charcoal pencil.
The sine bottle is going to be hard to use with the expressive brush strokes because of how it actually looks – it’s mainly a cylinder and all of the reflections from horizontally. I’ve decided I will build it up from the back painting the far side of the bottle and working my way to the front.,
This first stage of green is all about the two different tones where the teapot is (and is not) and getting a little downward texture to represent the far side ‘going around’ the bottle shape.
The teapot has now done what I wanted… it is energetic and bright. The highlights are still done by adding green to the red and mixing it on the canvas. The red is a mixture of Indian Red and Cadmium red with white and green mixed in for each brush stroke to create the texture.
The bottle nearly finished… just the very highest highlights and some more shaping to go.
Finished: (Rough photo, paint still very ‘wet’)
This is much better – far closer to the thing I’m aiming for. There’s a strong sense of reality yet that is supporting a representation that adds more than just the actual look of the objects. The directions of the brush strokes themselves add a new meaning on top of the recognition of the objects – an energy level and a mood.
I can imagine the identical arrangements painted entirely with long vertical strokes in muted colours suggesting a dreary and depressing mood.
There is no blue in this picture – I’ve used only…
- Hooker’s Green
- Cadmium Yellow
- Indian Red
- Cadmium Red
- Lamp black
- Ivory white
I didn’t paint anything as a background or even a context because anything else I through to add would draw attention away from the objects. So instead the situation is not real but the arrangement sits as if on a surface.
Here’s a better photo of it
…or is it worse?