Here is a brief sequence showing how a painting I did recently came together. I appreciate being asked to post this, and I hope you find this helpful in seeing how I paint. Thank you.
My set up, easel, and prepared panel.
My still life set up consists of a hard foam foundation, approximately 28" square mounted to a camera tripod. This way, I can adjust the height and
rotate my set up. I use three pieces of card board, sprayed black, velcroed
together at the corners for hinges as a shadow box. It moves easily to position as needed. The light is a Smith Victor RS 8 tripod mounted photographer's light with barn door kit. It has a 6500K daylight bulb. It is available from Amazon. The bulb is available at Lowe's. This whole deal is about $100. My primary interest is painting in the chiaroscuro style of painting, meaning strong contrasts between light and dark. A strong, adjustable light source is a must, in my opinion, to accurately light your set up to give you the visual cues you need. The barn doors are a very big plus to adjust the intensity and direction of the light. I like to paint at night so my background is practically non existant and my colors are even more direct to the eye.
The set up will hopefully be close enough for me to paint an interesting painting from its visual cues. David Leffel once said we are not photographers, we are artists..The set up always looks flat and very mundane to me. It is our job as artists to dramatize and embellish the painting based on the visual input the set up gives us. I wish I had said that, but Jeff Legg told me that in a workshop and I've never forgotten it.
The panel used here is 1/4" mdf board with one coat of Fredericks gesso on one side, and sanding sealer on the other. I usually scrape the gessoed surface with a palette knife lightly to remove any high spots and that's it. More about tinting it momentarily...
My palette consists of a piece of glass mounted to a 1/4" piece of plywood I keep my colors on and a piece of plexiglas I mix on. The glass palette doubles as my outdoor palette. I used to use a glass secondary mix platform but dropped my turps container on it and broke it..so the plexi surface seemed like a better choice. I use several different color palettes because I seem to experiment all the time with them. I keep the tubes of paint organized by the palette I am using in several drawers of my taboret for easy access.
I keep a good assortment of brushes. I primarily use filberts, but keep a few flats, sables, and daggers too. Among my favorites are the Langnickel 5590 series and the Silver Grand Prix 1003 series, but I can't seem to pass a brush up if I see something that looks interesting. To me, brushes represent the personality of the painting..each is like a different person..I have found, however, you can get a lot from a single brush by the way you hold it, position it, press on it, and move it...it amazes me how versital they can be. I experiment with a variety of mediums. I sometimes shoot my set up and bring it up on my IMac to explore value and compositon decisions before I paint. I also paint landscapes in studio from it from time to time.
You may be interested to see things start very rough. I tint my surface with mixture of medium and color..it varies with how warm or cool I want to start..just something to get the raw white surface toned down so I can judge light areas..I am only interested in establishing rough shapes and position...I use burnt or raw umber with a bit of ultramarine ..there's usually a lot of that in the finished painting anyway, to get things going...but I find myself already doing a bit of detail, which I should be doing later...bad habit...
And so it begins...I start to refine my shapes...and this goes on to the finish..I constantly compare positive and negative areas and try to see them as shapes and compare them to one another..that's the way I finally get my shapes accurately drawn...some artists draw their content on and get all their draftsmanship done before ever putting any paint down...I don't..I can paint more spontaniously by the open method..but how it works for me doesn't mean it works for others...I also decided to add a piece of cloth draping over the front edge..I like this device to add a bit of demension if I feel it's needed..
More refining...I will use that word over and over...here I decided to rid myself of the strong horizontal dark stripe areas on the bronze colored vase and concentrate on the general surface properties, then place the stripes...you'll find the shapes beginning to interact with one another..a reflection of color, an overlap suggesting one shape's position in space to another, etc. Important elements in the painting that add interest. This all goes back to something I failed to mention earlier, and that is concept. A plan should be put in place in the initial set up as to what is going to happen in the painting...is it the way the light falls across the subject matter..is it the contrasting colors each shape has, or contrasts in texture, man vs. organtic shapes, and so on...the idea ties the painting together. If done properly, the viewer can sense this..or sense the lack of it, as well.
A background is blocked in now. I like to paint the air..black indicates *nothing* and a bit of lighter value suggests *something*, or, the air.
The cloth gets a bit of rendering help, and the canteloupe get it's first bit of color..I will find the postion of the canteloupe doesn't work about this time and change it from a side to 3/4 positon. Putting more detail in areas draws the eye, and I like to get only suggestive in detail away from the focal point or area, suggesting what happens in our peripheral vision area in real life.
The canteloupe is rendered in detail. It is the main actor in my painting, and I felt it necessary to bring it to completion in order to better judge how far to finish other parts and other decisions now. A leaf is added as an extra demensional draw and a compositional device for the canteloupe. The cherries will be secondary shiners, but the stopper cherry at the right will be dark red..to many bright reds will take away from the composition in my opinion.
The final rendering work finishes now. This is where the most time is spent for me. I now decide to modify textures and values all over the painting to further guide the eye and add more viewer interest. The final leaves fall in from the right, a guide path for the eye to re enter the painting. I love to play man made vs. organtic shapes with one another. Symetrical vs. non symetrical. I don't try to suggest this or that with a meaning...it's all just light hitting shapes and textures...dark vs. light...draftsmanship, shape placement in space, and so on. I don't find a formula to make these paintings happen..I think they just have to be thought about, set up, lit, and painted. Thousands of decisions will be made throughout the process. No one painting will have the same questions and answers as another.
I hope you enjoyed seeing these sequence images. I thank you for your time and wish you all a successful upcoming painting.