September 3, 2012

Working from Life

Vegetables in Sun - wide,
Oil pastel on canvas board, 17.7 x 9.7"
The three paintings in this blog were all done from life.  In the past,  I've not generally worked that way.  I usually work from photos.  I've often felt a little guilty (a little less than) for doing this.  Why?  Because most people I've talked to -- artists and non-artists alike -- assume that paintings made from life are better, more-dynamic, than those that use photos as a resource.

Vegetables in Sun - tall,
Oil Pastel on canvas board, 12.3 x 16.5"
When I look back on my early works, I have to admit that some of  my paintings had a stiffness about them.  This was because, like a lot of beginning painters, I assumed that my paintings got better the more slavishly they duplicated their photo resource. While I've let go of that mistaken approach, I still often rely a lot on photo references because freezing an image at a moment in time preserves the way the light and shadow influence the shape, color, and depth of field. Working outside in the sun complicates that because natural sunlight changes all the time.  However, over the years, I've loosened up the way I use photos.  Now,  I am happy to edit the images and composition (in my own head and the final painting) to create the visual story that I want to tell.  In fact, it isn't uncommon for me to go so far as using elements from several photos in a single work.

      Vegetables in the Sun -  wide, and Vegetables in the Sun -  tall, are two works I created on a single piece of canvas board, and  that I later cut up to create the final pieces.  I worked in oil pastels and set up each still life on my porch using some of my favorite late-summer vegetables from Lancaster County farms.  I played with dramatically changing the point of view and the composition to add an unexpected element  to the works.  I have to admit that rushing to capture the light does add a dynamism to the way I laid down the image.  I love that -- particularly the more-realized Vegetables in the sun - wide.

Which Came First ....?,
watercolor and acrylic on canvas, 8 x 10"
    The final work I have here is a more-standard still life, set up under studio lights.  It's a topic I normally wouldn't do, but I was working to complete a Daily Paintworks Challenge  about painting a broken egg.  I have decided that one way to get back into painting is to do more of these challenges.  I chose the broken egg challenge because I knew it would really test me -- since I had no idea how I was going to do it.  It took me a couple of days to come up with the idea of breaking an egg on an image of a chicken so I could call the work Which Came First ...?  This work was my second attempt to complete the challenge because painting egg shells is ... challenging.  If you look at the original watercolor of the chicken, you'll notice I simplified and darkened the tail a lot so as not to compete with the main subject of the painting -- the broken egg.

       You can go to my gallery on Daily to participate in the Auctions for the two larger works (bidding starts at $35 because they are larger, and will be priced higher after the auction), or you can pay $15 for the challenge painting.



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