Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Silver Globe Pitcher: FINAL

oil on panel
16 x 20 inches
Award: Oil Painters of America 2009 Western Regional Juried Show

I made a video slide show showing all the stages of the painting and some detail closeups. You can see the movie for this painting here.

More about this painting:
In 2008 I began a series of still life paintings using crumpled wax paper as my subject. I was drawn to the material because I can twist, and crush the wax paper into draped and spiraling shapes to create dynamic environments for the simple, antique bottles and pitchers I collect.

I am always on the lookout for interesting vessels to paint, and when I found a spherical silver water pitcher at a flea market, I instantly fell in love.

Certain objects call to me and must be painted. I have learned that collecting something not-quite-right, just because I "might use it someday" is rarely successful. Those objects languish on my shelf for years, always passed over. The objects I paint resonate with me deeply and demand to be painted immediately. I had a vision of the silver globe pitcher draped in a "shawl" of crumpled wax paper, with the shawl arranged as if a small breeze were filling and lifting it.

When I set up a new still life I spend several studio days crumpling paper and discarding it, moving objects around, trying to find the best shape and composition through my viewfinder. The wax paper takes gentle coaxing and twisting to arrange it in with the feeling I am envisioning.

The final arrangement must look fresh and transparent, like it just landed there, no matter how many discarded pieces it took to reach my vision.

I begin all my paintings with a detailed contour drawing in graphite pencil on wooden panel I have prepared myself with homemade gesso. I spend several days on the drawing, first on trace paper and then directly on the board. I find that if I spend the time needed on the drawing, the structure and believability of the final painting is more successful. I never rush the drawing process, even when I am anxious to begin painting.

Once the drawing is finished, I paint in many layers over the course of a month or more, first in grays, called a "grisaille", to establish values, and later in color. I use tiny brushes from start to finish, and work on a small area each day. I move slowly around the painting, bringing each section up to the highest degree of finish possible before moving to the next area. Silver Globe Pitcher took me over 120 hours to complete over the course of 2 months.

It is only the latest stages of my process where I get to enjoy the beautiful and most subtle effects of light and texture on the surface of the objects, like the turquoise tarnished area at the base of the pitcher, the transparent paper melting into the background, the pedestal of the pitcher peeking through the folds of paper. But it requires all the earlier stages of building a solid drawing and value structure in order to successfully render the beauty I see in the surface details.

Silver Globe Pitcher is a rare instance where I include a self-portrait in my painting. I wanted the self-portrait to be a discovery, so the viewer sees and appreciates the whole composition first, before noticing my tiny image reflected in the vase. That way, each viewer has a sense of having discovered something on their own, a small secret in the painting.

My self-portrait embedded in the painting allows each person to discover my own image peering back. The viewer can see the entire little studio where I worked on this painting, and have a sense of being able to get a glimpse into the experience of the painter.

See the previous blog post about this painting here.