I wish I could paint outdoors 365 days of the year. Unfortunately this is not possible especially here in Montreal where snow and cold are with us a good part of the year. I work in my studio on these days mostly from sketches and reference photos.
Painting from three dimensional objects
However, now and then I set up a still life in my studio to get back the feeling of working from life, from three dimensional objects. I find these studies permit me to explore new techniques or different materials and also to sharpen my drawing and observation skills. The other day I had completed a painting and my materials - brushes, tubes of paint, palette and paper towels were strewn randomly on my work table. This gave me an idea. Why not paint a still life from these objects.
Advantages to working from a still life set up
There is an advantage to setting up objects on a table for a still life. First, you are in control of the composition. You manipulate the objects physically through trial and error arranging them to suit an interesting and meaningful composition. Secondly, you can orient the light source to your advantage so that if casts convenient shadows to enhance your design. Third, once you are satisfied with the set up you can re-position yourself to paint the still life from different view points.
Reviewing painting techniques and experimenting
Finally, I find that working from a still life now and then permits me to hone my painting technique at a slower pace. I treat the exercise as a sort of review of the basics of painting and an adventure into exploration. For example, I can experiment with color painting the objects different hues other than those actually in front of me. Or I might use tools I am not accustomed to, a new paint brush for example.
How I painted this still life:
1. I set up the predominantly white objects on a black ground for contrast.
2. I drew the design directly on the illustration board (Peterborough No 79) with a no 03 Micron felt tip pen starting somewhere in the middle and loosely sketching the major outlines.
3. Next, I used my COPIX permanent markers to “paint” the objects and the colored labels of the paint tubes.
4. Using Sennelier watercolor tube paints, Isabey natural hair brushes and Isabey Kolinsky rounds I rendered the colors on the palette, the shading on the tubes, the plastic paint jar and the roll of paper towel.
5. Then, using a juicy mixture of Indigo, Paynes Grey and Lamp Black I painted wet in wet in one go the background around the objects. A fine mist created the mottled effects.
Finally, once dry I added the cast shadows from the objects.
I titled my experimental Still Life: “Color Explosion in Black and White” – mixed media on illustration board, 15” x 22”.
Note: All the products mentioned in this article can be purchased at Art Tec in Montreal.
Raynald Murphy sca