About a year or so before I actually starting painting still lifes, I started to collect things that caught my eye as something I might want to one day include in my paintings. As any still life painter will tell you, we all love our "stuff" and usually have it stashed all over the studio. You never know when you will need just that perfect thing to complete your still life. You'll find us hunting through the thrift stores for that must have tea-cup or bowl or even the odd knickknack. I've noticed that sometimes I use what I buy very quickly; other times, things that looked good when I bought them seem to lose their appeal once back in the studio and are doomed to sit and collect dust until I notice their charm once again. Well, that little statue in this painting was one of the first things I ever bought for my still life collection. I actually have two of them, along with a few other little figures that I got for $2 at an estate auction almost 3 years ago. Then, there it sat on the shelf in the window collecting dust. I tried it in a few other set ups over the years, but it never really worked out so I always removed it and put it back in its place. Well, I'm happy to report after three years, I finally used this little guy in a painting! Hopefully another three years don't pass before I use it again.
Here's how this painting came to life:
I took this image at the end of my rough block-in. At this stage there's very little paint on my canvas. I mostly just thinned my paint down with a little turpentine and used a paper towel to wipe out lighter areas, like the vase in the upper left and the statue in the lower right. The reason I like this approach is because it very quickly gives me idea of the overall colors of my painting and a fairly accurate layout of all the objects in it. From here, I can concentrate on each section of the painting and know that I'm not going to run out of room for everything in the painting.
I let the rough block-in dry for a few minutes. Once the turpentine evaporates, it's more or less dry. Then I start painting. Since I'm fairly confident that the placement of all my objects is correct I can bring the objects I'm painting to an almost complete state. I do go back and make some small adjustments as needed while I finish, but most of these areas are done now. I started with the statue since it's my center of interest and I want to judge the rest of the painting against it. It's also one of the more difficult things to paint, so I figured I'd get it our of the way first. This way if I need to wipe if off and start over I don't risk messing up areas I already painted. Notice how many other objects the statue leads to just to get it painted correctly. Most of the foreground is done in front of it and a large part of the background needed to be done to complete the statue.
In this image, I continued working on the background, almost in a counter-clockwise order. The reason I did this is I like to rest my hand on the canvas when I paint and by leaving the foreground till the very end I'm able to do this without smudging the paint. One thing that doesn't show in these pictures is one important step I did so I could paint that blue ribbon in. First, I drew the edges of it with a little bit of paint so I knew where it went. Then I took my palette knife and scraped off any paint that's under the ribbon. I even used a paper towel to wipe off some of the it. Then, I could paint the ribbon cleanly without having to layer on the paint. I don't have anything against thick paint, but I want to use that effect where I want it and not just to cover up the paint under it.
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