I was just getting used to painting fruits and vegetables in John Murray's still life class. When I saw the above setup last Wednesday, my jaw dropped. Oy! How was I supposed to paint spider chrysanthemums (I have drawn them before with a great difficulty), carnations, cherries, a demitasse with saucer (another drawing challenge), and a clear carafe with stems showing through, for a good measure! The composition was awkward too. The mums were pretty much stacked together where I was standing. I had to persuade a classmate to swap the easel spots with me.
As you can see from the photo, I still didn't like the position of the demitasse, but couldn't possibly move it to my liking without getting thrown out by other classmates. So I took an artistic license by moving it slightly to the left in my painting. I did consider painting only the flowers, but rejected the idea. Why?
John is an experienced still life painter, who knows what he is doing. He brought three primary-colored objects (yellow carnations, blue cup and saucer, and red cherries) for this complicated setup. I didn't understand his rationale behind the purple mums, which nonetheless contrasted with the light, yellowish neutral drapery. There had to be a good reason for them. I did get the dark blue kitchen towel on the table; it anchored the whole thing. Look at the beautiful shadows and reflected light on the pale drapery--greens, violets, and even oranges. Wow! I would have never come up with the combination. I had to paint the entire setup, not a portion of it, to do justice to John's vision.
John doing a long demo for the attentive class
Do you know what the biggest challenge was after I settled on the composition? It was the colors of the mums. I saw and painted them too cool; so did some other students. The mums in John's demo painting were much warmer in temperature. I had to steer them toward warm pinks, purples, and muted oranges. I am constantly fascinated by how people perceive colors differently. Perhaps, John's is right. I have the violet tendency!