Still life with conch, finished

Still life with conch, oil on canvas
Still life with conch, oil

I started this painting in June. It is my second oil painting, larger in size than the first (20 x 24) and filled with challenging objects. I had no idea it would take months to finish. At the rate of one studio class per week, it tested my patience. I meant to blog about the process step by step, which I might do in retrospect. For now, here it is, drying in my home studio. I learned a lot about setting up a still life, how to arrange the drape, choose the objects, paint reflective surfaces, select colors, apply glazes, how to start, how to finish and when to stop. I hope to remember what I learned when I paint my next still life.

Still Life with Conch: sketch and underpainting

A few weeks ago, I started my second oil painting with a still life of objects gathered from my house. Each object brings different textures, shapes, and subtle colors that are challenging to paint. As I go along, I sometimes question why I set up such a complicated still life, but that seems to be the best way to learn. If I just repeated what I already know how to do, I would be stuck. At least, that’s what I tell myself.

Still Life with Conch, photograph of the setup

The orange has provided unique difficulties, mostly associated with the fact that real fruit (or flowers) rot over time so I have to either recreate the peeled orange repeatedly or work from a photograph for that piece of the still life. I might write a separate post about the “Orange Problem.”

Still Life with Conch, charcoal drawing on canvas

The drawing went well and the first daubs of color were mostly okay. The trick is to not “lose the drawing” as the paint goes on top of the drawing. So far the problems are, or will be: the orange, losing the drawing, and later, I’m sure, the reflections from the silver and who knows what else at this point? What sadist set up this still life? Right. Me.

Still Life with Conch, underpainting

Three Glass Bottles

I just finished my first oil painting after using acrylics for almost two years. The two mediums can look similar on canvas, but the feel of the paints is very different. Oils seem more like soft butter versus the stiffer feel of quick-drying acrylics. I can’t think of a good analogy for acrylics. It’s just more difficult to push them around the canvas than it is with oils. There are probably tomes written on the pros and cons of each medium, so I won’t go into that discussion here. For now, I’m learning how to use oil paints. Here is my first work in oils: The Glass Bottles.

Oil painting of glass bottles
The Glass Bottles, oil on canvas

The Foxes in my Sketchbook

Foxes pop up in my sketchbook in the same unexpected, and I hope charming and rather mysterious way, that real foxes turn up in my suburban neighborhood. They are always smaller than expected and trot so quickly past that they are easily missed. The top two-page spread of a Red Fox seems to have a story. It seems like an excerpt from a children’s book, but that’s all there is…so far. The portrait of the Fox also seems to have some story to tell. That seems to be the nature of these elusive animals. A flash of red, and then it’s gone.

Red foxes in the woods, painting
Red Foxes in the Woods, mixed media
Red foxes in the woods, painting
Red Foxes, mixed media
Drawing of a red Fox
Portrait of Ms. Fox, Conte crayon

My favorite story about a Red Fox was told by a friend. She believes that foxes symbolize her late mother and that when she sees one, it may carry a message for her. Her story was so magical that I painted my yearly Christmas card based on her tale of seeing a Red Fox on the beach. Here is the link to my story of Red Fox on the Beach

Back to my sketchbook: charcoal

My 2020 “Pandemic Sketchbook” chronicled my life during the lockdown through the advent of Covid vaccines. In 2021, I started a new sketchbook whose themes were more hopeful, so I didn’t think of it as a pandemic journal. It was just a way of keeping a habit of sketching several times a week. In 2022, I started a third sketchbook, smaller and the paper is best for dry media only. I made several charcoal sketches in early spring based on museum postcards, snapshots from my 1990’s instant camera and other visual cues uncovered while decluttering my house or reading the news.

Silver Vessel, charcoal
Garden Statue of Pan, charcoal
Sunflower for Ukraine, charcoal