Friday, November 30, 2012

Exotic Still Life

As I move more and more into acrylics, I realized that I hadn't tried a still life in acrylic or oils. I know that just about anything is available for sales these days. Any time spent on Etsy or some of the painting web sites shows many, MANY small paintings of fruit, avocados (a big hit) and who knows what else. The styles can be anything from so detailed you almost say, get a camera, to so loose you have to ask, is that an apple? A tomato? Maybe a weird red plum?

Every artist struggles to find a style and many times its a small still life that allows one to experiment. If you look at many of the impressionists you can find many small studies that through the years show their continuing experiments with color and style.

When my wife started getting rather exotic Asian fruit from her kids around Thanksgiving, I was drawn to the colorful persimmons and a strange magenta colored fruit with brilliant green leaves and highlights. The challenge of course was putting the round magenta and two rusty orange colored persimmons together in the same painting. In many ways they go against the accepted color wheel triangle but they were fascinating.

I tried a variety of background colors but finally hit upon a blue and white fabric. The blue with a counterpoint of white seemed to work with all the colors. At least the colors definitely stand out. I wanted the bright oranges and magenta to stand out against the blue. The brown of the stems and the various greens of the leaves are a fine counterpoint.

No matter what the size of the painting it is often the combination of colors, shading and intensity that makes or breaks a painting. I think one of the finest examples of colors, shape and intensity is Monet's  "Rouen Cathedral Series" where he painted the church using a different canvas for each time of the day starting in the morning through the entire day till sunset. The colors of the light that plays off the same surfaces of the day are amazing. There are photographers that wouldn't try that yet Monet did. I think that series more than any other gives us a tutorial of how colors work and change.

Shape is important too. I was just about finished with this painting when my teacher noted that the magenta fruit was not the right shape. It wasn't either. In trying to get the colors to work I had somehow neglected to make sure all the fruit were round, something that drew me to it to begin with! Luckily with acrylic it was merely a few strokes away and there it was, round as could be!

There is a lesson here as well. Color is important. It can be bright and cheerful, gaudy even or it can be muted, dark, mysterious or dour. But shape also has a part to play. You can put a variety of shapes together. However, some will work and others not. You need to keep an eye on what you are doing and be true to either what you wanted to portray, in this case three round shapes with interesting protuberances (still life's are so patient and never going away, well until they spoil of course), or a totally personal "vision" of what you feel they should be.

There is no right or wrong. There is just your painting.

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