Sunday, January 23, 2011

Still Life and Slow Life

It has been a quiet week in Manzanita, to borrow the opening phrase from Garrison Keillor and adding a local twist. It feels like I have been slogging through mud in the studio. I decided that my first formal challenge painting would be a still life. It makes sense as it is winter and getting out to paint en plein air is iffy. I have at least two goals when setting a still life up. I need to make it something that will push my learning. I also need to make it something that may potentially sell as that is part of the challenge too. Not always the best combination as sometimes a learning still life isn't terribly exciting. I gave this set up a lot of thought and am working with what I have. I am acquiring an interesting collection of still life objects and have a good starter selection. As space is a consideration, most of the objects have to have some sort of meaning. So, here is what I set up:
The lighting is not quite so bright on the plaster cast in reality but the general idea is there. I quickly ran into to studio challenges. I just cannot cram this set up in on the smaller canvases I have. I decided to order larger ones, 18"x24" to be exact. I realized that this is the size we used to do our charcoal drawings so that is probably why it feels more comfortable to me than a 9x12" canvas. It is a lot of canvas to cover though and rather large for what I would consider a study. It will be a good challenge.
The other issue I ran into was lighting. I lit the still life and really liked what I saw. The problem was I hadn't lit my easel. No matter where I put the easel light it affected the lighting on the still life in a way I didn't like. After trying a few different light bulbs with different light specs, I finally settled on a full spectrum bulb from Ott light. I had to pin a fabric drape and put a piece of foam core behind my easel to prevent as much of the light as possible from washing out the still life. The new canvas, which I got on sale from Dick Blick came yesterday so I am finally ready to start painting...on Tuesday . Tomorrow I have appointments and errands to run. I might be able to get in and do a thumbnail painting of the still life but I kind of doubt it. I do plan to do a thumbnail or two before starting.
All of this fussing around sort of reminds me when I put my first warp on my big AVL loom. I had never made a warp before and it took a few days to get it on and it was full of errors. After putting on and weaving off several warps, I had it down to a few hours (I like fine warps) with an error showing up on only an occasional warp. I have a feeling that this will be like that. By the end of the challenge year I hope it will be a much smoother, and quicker process. After my summer of dyeing all day every day (see my Renee Weaves! blog archives) a couple of years ago I could get a dyepot going in about two minutes flat from scratch. There is hope!
Speaking of hope, the weather forecast for this week shows that we will be having a couple of warm sunny days. Could get as high as 60 degrees F! That means, if the tides are right, I will be able to get out and do some more plein air. Have to make hay, or paint, while the sun shines here. Actually, I have seen some incredibly beautiful paintings done on overcast or foggy days but I don't think I can take the cold at this time of the year.
I did get to enjoy a life drawing session today. I really, really miss that part of school. Frequent access to models, and the high quality instruction and standard, were quite a luxury. I am hoping to eventually make enough money through various enterprises to be able to hire my own models.
Well, I will have progress to show next week so please stay tuned!
-Renee

2 comments:

Theresa said...

Wow, you have really gone all out for your first challenge. I like the still life collection, but want to place that lemon closer. It looks to me like it strayed. Which might be the point. You want to touch the picture. Some day the set up process will be second nature to you.
Interesting about the modern house. I am not a big fan of modern architecture but I have seen houses here and there that while not my style have so seamlessly incorporated themselves into the setting you couldn't help but not like them. My biggest annoyance is houses that have nothing to offer but square footage done in a fake kind of style, usually victorian, sort of and all on a postage stamp of land. I've never figured out why anyone needs a living room, or bathroom for that matter, that you need a megaphone to talk to one another. :)
Great news that you got to work with a model. I would imagine that would be almost a must and one of the things you miss the most.

Renee said...

Thanks for the comment Theresa. Ah, that lemon. It got moved all over and spun around and put on top of things. I should do a video of setting up a still life. Even though I had some definite ideas of what I wanted you would be amazed to see the objects that come and then go after being moved all around. Should do a stop motion version. It would be funny. Anyway, I have the lemon in there for a spot of contrasting color. It didn't work when I had put it closer before deciding to leave it where it is currently. One nice thing about leaving it set up for a couple of days before starting is to wander back in and stare at the set up, move things, move things back...You get the point! I loved to watch my teacher in Ashland set up a still life. I always gave a sigh of relief when he would move or take away something that bothered me. I strive to achieve the same kind of grace his set ups had.
I will take another look at that lemon... I really want it in there somewhere!

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