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 www.davinciinitiative.org.
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.