A still life changed my life. It sounds corny, but it’s a little bit true! It was Francisco de Zurbarán’s Still Life With Lemons, Oranges and a Rose. He was a Spanish Baroque painter and I was a freshman searching for a major. Bliss and art history degrees followed.
Although my infatuation has tempered itself in the years since graduation, still life painting continues to hold incredible appeal. It is a genre that has been around for centuries and yet artists continue to find new and interesting approaches to it.
The Mighty Goldfish Cracker
by Philip R. Jackson, 2004, oil, 8 x 10. Private collection.
One such artist is Philip R. Jackson, who brings a touch of whimsy to his still life oil paintings by creating fanciful and imaginative compositions—a Goldfish cracker playing seesaw with a Delftware vase; a levitating eggshell; a cupcake that refuses to be cut in half by a kitchen knife.
But a sense of play is not Jackson’s only motivator. Creating atmosphere or an illusion of space is key. The artist starts with a background layer that has a strong color contrast to the dominant color of one of the objects in the painting. For instance, in a finished painting featuring bright green grapes, Philip used a base coat of intense red-violet.
This initial layer is only the beginning of an intense process of mixing color on his surface. “After developing a full monochromatic study, I begin scumbling many layers of complementary tones and rotating layers of warms and cool shifts to describe both the objects and background,” the artist says. He continues to monitor and adjust paint application and color contrast throughout the process until the painting is finished.
What resonated most with me in this article is that Jackson is an advocate and practitioner of close observation and study, but he believes in balancing these practices with creating an illusion and exercising one’s artistic freedom. His works go beyond observation, and that’s where an artist’s greatest skill and creative insight are often found.
Talk to you soon,