It doesn’t take you more than five minutes to breeze through an museum, book or gallery to realize that “fine art” often times means “fruit art.” Maybe that’s why so many artists are starving – they would rather paint their food than eat it.
I’ve never been a fan of doing still life art. I did a few drawings in high school, but avoided the subject completely until after college. My first real still life was in 2006. It was a present for my mom, and included: 1 teddy bear, 1 bottle of wine, 3 books, 1 glass of wine, vines with fruit and and a red velvet blanket. Needless to say this was filled with bad decisions for a budding still life painter! Fuzzy fur, flowing fabric, foliage, clear glass, shiny glass, liquid… The painting still turned out pretty well, but I realized then why artists tend to stick to simple bowls of fruit!
A year later I decided to try my hand at fruits and took a few shots of peppers (Fun fact: Peppers are both a fruit and vegetable!). I sat down took a series of shots of peppers, cut up, on the board, in sun light, spot lights, with the knife in shot etc… I finally decided I liked the image above best and started working… and stopped.
Fast forward 3 years and its finally done! Painting these peppers was so boring, and the knife so challenging that I couldn’t take it. I would pick it up, work on it a few weeks, get bored, get frustrated, and away it went! After being inspired by the latest Jeffrey Larson exhibit at the Galleria, I decided I would finish it this month! It didn’t need to be fantastic, it just needed to be done!
A few tips I have discovered while doing still life paintings:
- Don’t just see the peppers as one color. Its very tempting to pull out all the orange and yellow tubes in your drawer. I wish I had earlier shots of the painting, but the very first coat of paint I put down for those peppers was red. There are lots of subtle colors in any object – use them all – sometimes use ones that aren’t even there! Its painting after all.
- Avoid black. Unless you are in perfect darkness, shadows don’t make things black or gray. I try to avoid taking out the black tube of paint until the very end and use it very sparingly in specific, extremely dark spots. Otherwise, I’m mixing blues, purples and greens to create my shadows and dark areas.
- The cell phone and mirror are your friends. Seriously. Take pictures of the painting a long the way, or stand in front of the mirror with it. I learned this trick from my high school art teachers and found it invaluable! The the different angle that the mirror gives and the shrinking blur effect the cell phone camera will help you see errors, but also see what your painting probably looks like to other people. Sometimes you will see things like I did in the image to the right, sometimes you will see an area you thought looked horrible, actually looks great.
- You will always notice more errors than anyone else! Don’t point out your errors to others. Maybe its the only thing you see in your painting, but there is a good chance no one else will notice it. In my opinion, some of those should be left in anyway – that’s why this is a painting and not a photograph! One of the most challenging aspects of being an artist, is learning how to say “DONE!” I could probably work on this painting for another 3 years if I wanted to, but I feel its at a point where it can be hung.