Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Still Life- From Life!

Over the past couple of years I have painted quite a few still lives. However they were all pretty much studies of Dutch still life masters and stuff from my imagination as my still life vocabulary grew. Recently I decided to stop being lazy and set up an actual still life.

While I was in art school at VCU I sometimes added still life objects to my figurative work. This might be a bowl of fruit on a kitchen counter or a breakfast plate with burnt bacon bits and runny egg residue. None of that was actually observed from life. I just invented it and while the objects served their purpose they could have been more convincing if I had the actual objects in front of me. The last time I worked from an actual still life set up was in basic painting class where everyone brought in a object and contributed it to a giant mound of stuff set up on a model stand. After doing some sketching our task was to take a photo of elements of the still life, distort it in photoshop, then turn that into a painting. I was mostly into figure painting at that time and my composition included a female nude inspired by Philip Pearlstein. 

Fast forward to last month I decided to start painting some still lives from actual objects in front of me. I had anxieties about setting this up and I got hung up on trying to find a good lamp. I still haven't got one but the light in the space I am working in worked just fine. It's not dramatic lighting but it still gets the job done. The light box was one of eight I made for my Scholars Atelier students using black foam board and construction design from 

I decided on the blood oranges because I like the contrast between it's purple flesh, the light rind, and orange skin. Last year I tried blood oranges for the first time and I liked it's unique flavor. Since then I hadn't seen any in the grocery stores until two months ago. However the recent batch tasted like citrus flavored water which was disappointing. For still life purposes they look great.

My support was a 9" x 12" ACM panel which I toned a brownish ochre color. I began the drawing with Van Dyck Brown and I filled in the background with German Vine Black. I admit I did get a bit careless with my drawing but everything was loose and I could go back revise it. You can see this with the sliced blood oranges.
The first session for this was within a 1 1/2 hour period on a Sunday night. This included starting the drawing and ending with with what you see here. I would have kept going but I had to hit the sack for the night. The table was colored with Bone Black and Lead White # 2. Bone Black is a new addition to my palette and I love the cool bluish grays it produces. The only drawback to Bone Black is that it takes an unholy amount of time to dry even when I'm using Venetian Medium.

The next session I refined the contours of the objects and I began to develop them further. The palette I used for this was Ercolano Red, French Red Ochre, Vermillion, Alizarin Crimson, Minium, Naples Yellow, Van Dyck Brown, Bone Black, Black Roman Earth, Venetian White, and Lead White # 2. The flesh of the blood oranges at this stage was French Red Ochre and Van Dyck Brown along with some translucency created with Minium. 

The finished painting. 

I can't remember how many days I spent on this, but it was done over the course of two weeks. I put the sliced blood oranges in the fridge and I pulled them out as I needed them. The reason why this was dragged out over two weeks is because the Bone Black areas were taking too long to dry along with the blood orange flesh. 

The rind's texture was created using Lead White # 2 without any medium.

I had a lot of fun creating this painting and I plan on doing more still lives from still life set ups over the next couple of months. Yesterday I started a seashell still life inspired by 17th Century Dutch still life painters such as Adriaen Coorte. I will be doing several seashell still lives and I found a supplier that sells many different types for reasonable prices. Future still lives will include an acorn squash, a ham hock, and other perishable goods. In addition I will do several still lives using World War I US gas masks I have collected over the years. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Cat Painting # 2

Willem's Kat and Pieter's Salt Cellar, oil on ACM panel, 18 1/2" x 19 1/2", 2016

Recently I've taken an interest in painting cats. For the past couple of years I've painted mostly dog themed stuff along with a testy looking rabbit and some shrimp loving hamsters. Now I'm onto cats.

Once again I've made a 17th Century Dutch inspired still life and included a modern pet. Scottish Fold cats did not exist in the 17th Century. At least that's what my research has concluded. But in my art the accuracy of time is of no matter. If I want to include a pug among some 17th Century still life then bam! There he/she is about to twerk next to the oysters and roemer glass. In a later post I'll talk more about combining modern pets with still life.

One of my favorite still lifes is Willem Heda's 1635 masterpiece, "Still life with gilt goblet." Check out the Rijksmuseum's image for some insane high resolution zooming-,0

This painting has always intrigued me because of the skill Heda used to render the materials he's depicted and the painting painting has a nice atmospheric quality. I also find the palette he has chosen to be exquisite in it's simplicity. The part that I love the most is how the roemer glass contrasts with the background. That's the atmosphere I mentioned earlier.

For awhile I had contemplating trying a Willem Heda inspired still life. I was going to do that last year with a black pug but I ended up painting an anthropomorphic pug based on Bartholomeus van der Helst's "Treaty of Munster" banquet painting instead. So this painting is my Willem Heda influenced piece. It actually combines Heda with Pieter Claesz and Jan Davidsz de Heem ( for the lobster), but Heda was my inspiration for the overall look. 

I threw in the Scottish Fold wearing a circa early 1630's ruff as worn by Rembrandt and dudes seen in Frans Hals paintings. At first I was going to have the cat climbing up to the table as I've done with several of my other paintings. However I decided to have an anonymous pair of hands hoist the cat into the composition to make it even weirder.

As with all of my paintings from the past 3 years I have used Rublev Oil colors. I have different palettes which I use depending on what I'm painting. This painting used a variation of my 17th Century Dutch Still Life palette along with few extra additions. The colors I used consisted of Blue Ridge Yellow Ochre, Brown Ochre, Venetian Red, Ercolano Red, Roman Black Earth, German Vine Black/ later on Bone Black, Van Dyck Brown( Cassell Earth), Genuine Naples Yellow, Lead Tin Yellow Type II, Malachite, Vermillion, Minium, Transparent Mummy, Lead White # 2, and Venetian White. My medium of choice was Venetian Medium though I did dabble with Italian Varnish a bit. I'm still learning how to use the Italian Varnish with my technique.

This is a detail shot of the texture on the lemon and knife handle which I invented, inspired by fruit knives in Pieter Claesz and Heda still lifes.

The lobster came from a Jan Davidsz de Heem pronk still life. I enjoyed painting the lobster in the tabby cat painting and I had to do another one. Colors I used for this were minium, genuine vermllion, Ercolano Red, Venetian Red, and a bit of transparent mummy. Minium is a bight, fiery, opaque orange that costs less than a tube of modern Cadmium Orange. I bought a tube three years ago and recently I had to buy another because the other tube hardened and was unusable. Compared to other Rublev colors minium has a short shelf life and dries faster than other lead colors. I plan on using it more this year. 

Pieter's salt cellar, a prop which Pieter Claesz used in a few of his still lifes. I'm still mastering painting glass and this roemer was studied from Heda's roemer that I love so much. For the glass I tried out some malachite which I mulled myself using pigment from Natural Pigments. 

Finally here is a detail shot of the oyster plate and bread roll. The texture on the white of the bread was created using Lead White # 2 straight out of the tube. I also used pure lead white utilizing it's wonderful stringiness to create the rims of the oyster shells and highlights on the oyster flesh.

I'm taking a short break from Dutch still life over the next month or so as I focus on still lives I am working using actual still life set ups, a painting commission, and a landscape. This summer I have a pronk still life planned which will be a large, elaborate, ambitious project. I still haven't decided whether there will a dog or cat included. Maybe I'll do both.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Beer and a painting

What do these paintings by Leonardo, Rembrandt, and Edvard Munch have in common with my Bonsai Tree and Rabbit painting? If you're familiar with the history of the paintings you probably know what today's blog post is about.

This afternoon I noticed I had a missed call from Jack the owner of Hellbent Brewing in Lake City, Seattle, WA. Last month I had three of my paintings publicly unveiled as part of the brewery's permanent collection. I also had two other paintings up- Still life with tabby cat, and Bonsai tree with rabbit. I returned Jack's call and he told me that last night someone had stolen the Bonsai Tree and rabbit painting. Say what? 

Jack told me a police report had been filed and he was trying to get leads on who walked out with the painting. I wasn't angry about the theft. I was saddened but at the same time strangely flattered. He told me that there was a possibility that someone got drunk and walked off with the painting. Maybe he/she would wake up today and realize the mistake they made. As a precaution Jack had taken down the cat painting and he posted on Hellbent's Facebook page regarding the rabbit painting.

Within an hour Jack called me back and said that a woman brought it in. Evidently she was a bit inebriated so she took the painting down, stuck it in a trash bag, and took it home. My fiance Cheryl said "Naw that was premeditated. She had peeped out the painting before and used being drunk as an excuse." Who knows. I'm glad the woman was honest and returned the painting. Cheryl did tell me she felt guilty for stereotyping because she had thought a dude stole the painting. 

Now that the painting is safe I do have one question. Where did the woman get the trash bag? I certainly hope it wasn't from one of the restrooms. I'm a germophobe and I'm picturing the trash bag's former contents.

The three dog banquet paintings are up permanently at Hellbent Brewing. Stop by and check them out, buy some beer, and bring your furry friends.