Spring Still Life Problem: when the flowers wilt

Last spring I picked some lovely early blooming bulbs from my garden and put them in a vase to be the subject of an acrylic still life. On the first day, I sketched the bouquet in charcoal on the canvas and then blocked in the drawing with an underpainting. I also took several pictures with my iPhone at the end of my studio session. When I returned to my teacher’s studio a week later, the bouquet looked completely different. The flowers were droopy and dying of course. That’s obviously where the photographs come to the rescue in the case of a rotting or dying still life. From then on, I worked from a both a printout of my photograph for the flowers and I looked at the actual vase and drapery which was still set up across from my easel. I continued to work from both the photograph and the non-living bits of the still life for the next six weeks until the painting was finished. The moral of the story is, of course, to remember to photograph any living thing or model you are drawing or painting because things change.

Spring still life, acrylics

Spring Still Life, acrylics

Painting from a photograph

Working from a photograph

Underpainting for spring still life

Underpainting for Spring Still Life

Still life with snowman, week two

Still life with snowman
Still life with Snowman, week two

In my second week of working on the still life, I added another layer of color to the plant, the snowman, and the Christmas balls. ( The canvas is in the middle on the easel with photographs taped to the sides here.) I was working from the still life and from photographs of the still life which I took last week. The poinsettia changed a bit and it was difficult to position it exactly the same as the week before, so the photographs help with the consistency and details of the painting. Next week, I might not bring the plant to class because the car rides in the cold weather seem to be making it lose some foliage.

Still life with snowman and poinsettia
Still life weeks one and two

In the photo collage, you can see week one at the top and week two below. The plant was in the still life, but I had packed it up to ride home with me before I remembered to take a picture of my progress. Basically, I added thicker paint, more accurate colors than in the underpainting, and began putting in more shadows to suggest volume. more shadows than highlights at this point. So from mid tones to darker last week to this week. Next week I will continue from mid tones to darks and maybe hint at highlights. Details with finer brushes and reflective highlights probably come last, or later, although there are no strict rules on the order of operations for me.

Still life with snowman
Posterized Still life

While playing with my photographs of the still life, I made a chronological photo collage for a quick look at the painting’s progress over time. I also began to wonder if making a ‘posterized’ version of the photo would be useful to help me think about the shapes of the colors and shadows in a very simplified way. Photoshop has a posterize filter, but for the photograph above, I used a website that allows you to upload and posterize any image. It was simpler to use my iPhoto on iPad to play with this option than to use my computer (Windows 10) and Photoshop. I am straddling, and struggling, with the two worlds of Apple and Microsoft and have just added into this technological tangle a small Canon Elph point and shoot camera. These platforms do not always play well together which can be frustrating. Using paints, brushes, canvases and looking at a real still life seems easier than climbing the technology learning curve. But climb we must, I suppose.