Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Autumn triptych

a triptych of Autumnal paintings of peppers and squash. a still life painting by Karen Robinson
Three little paintings that I painted from life. The squash, for anyone who doesn't know - I didn't - is a baby Harlequin squash. There was a big heap of them in the farm shop and I was enchanted having never seen one before. Quite expensive, too, hence I bought the smallest one on the heap.

Usually, I paint from reference photos. It is not practical to paint people's pets from life, even assuming we live on the same continent. There is a big part of me that feels this practice is not "proper" and that to be a "proper" artist you should paint from life. It is going to take some practice, though, because all the little tips and tricks I use to get the drawing right are much harder when working from life. 
For example, I depend heavily on the negative shapes.

For anyone unsure what I am on about - sorry if this is too basic - here are the negative shapes marked out on a b&w copy of the first painting, to show where the veggies should be placed on the canvas and in relation to each other:
still life painting with negative shapes marked in red
Basically, a series of squidged triangles. The trouble is, every time you move your head even a tiny bit those 'triangles' of negative shape - change shape!!
It drove me nuts but then I had this thought: I wonder if that is what Picasso and the other cubists were on about: every time you move your head a fraction, the "reality" in front of you changes. So how can you ever capture it in 2D?
Picasso, Still life with fruit, 1930
I do realise that this is likely a statement of the bloomin' obvious, but it came as something of a revelation to me.

Meanwhile, for a complete contrast, here is a painting by a still life artist whose work never ceases to amaze me, Frans Snyders (Dutch, 1579-1657). 

Frans Snyder, Still life with food
Frans Snyders (1579-1657) Still life with food

How did he paint this from life, do you suppose? Believe me when I say it would have taken a very long time.The grapes would have shrivelled up, the game rotted away and that lobster would have become very, very stinky. I have no idea. 

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