Sunday, February 19, 2012

"Mums, Carnations, and Cherries" (oil on linen; 14" x 11") sold


The still life setup for the painting

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!