Feel Its Rough and Smooth Surfaces

21 Jan 2015

It's the strangest thing. As I have said before, when I started taking art classes so many years ago, I really did not like still life painting. Now I love it, finding objects with which I connect and arranging them. There can be something almost zen about the compositional process with still life art. The connection that began this painting was with an antique French pot, of which I acquired several during the years I was traveling to France.

I arranged the composition on a table in front of me, elevated by putting a large flat box on the table under the fabric. Then to the block in of the still life painting. I did not try to spell everything out in the block in; rather I found the relative positions that I wanted, paying attention to and putting in the largest shadow and light shapes for the flowers and ceramic pot on the wall behind the set up. I did pay particular attention to the shape and light and shadow of the antique French pot. (I did not try to find shadow and light in the flowers.)

I went rapidly through the block-in process to start painting the focal point of this still life: the ceramic pot.
I went rapidly through the block-in process to start painting the focal point of
this still life: the ceramic pot.

After I finished the block in, I went straight for the ceramic pot. I knew it was my focal point and the reason I was painting the still life in the first place. I also knew it would take several layers of paint so I wanted to begin with it directly. You can see that the actual pot was varnished on the top portion, but not on the bottom. I did the whole pot in the same manner initially, with a dull finish. Only after I had that dullness did I start to try to make the glaze, a little at a time, with simple brushstrokes to emphasize the reflective light. Too much would have made it seem artificial or industrial, which is the last thing I wanted. I wanted to produce a pot you could image picking up and feeling both its rough and smooth surfaces, imagining it being made long ago. While I know how important it is to work all over the area of a painting at the same time, I violated that rule in this case, but it worked.

In the end, I judged the success of this still life artwork on whether the ceramic pot's rough and smooth surfaces were executed convincingly.
In the end, I judged the success of this still life artwork on whether the ceramic pot's
rough and smooth surfaces were executed convincingly.

I suppose one lesson I was reminded of was to do the roses early in the still life painting process or do a more complete block-in of them, as they wilted fairly quickly under the light. I actually used six roses before I had a painting of two, and of course each rose was different. The sun flowers were much more hearty.

I think the ceramic pot was a nice success as the focal point of this still life artwork. Next time however, I will spend more time on edges, and take more advantage of the opportunities to merge shapes or shadow or values, etc. Nonetheless I feel good about this one! Hope you enjoy it and learn from it too.

Best, Judith


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on 2 Dec 2012 12:35 PM

Cezanne thinks that a successful painting is not a copy of nature, but something

filtered through the artist's imagination.   Dark values bore this picture to death, sucking the vitality of the sunflowers.

The little touch of red on the left flower takes the attention away from the pot. Maybe a red table cloth would have made a difference.