This evening I painted reflections. I’m really learning a lot about making smooth gradients. It is really important to mix a lot of steps. If you don’t start with closely spaced steps, you can blend until the cows come home and you either won’t have a gradient because everything mixed together, or it won’t be smooth. Use more steps and everything just works.
My magnetic canvas holders have been working really well and I’ve been so inspired by my small pear studies that I want to do a larger piece on a 12″ x 36″ stretched canvas. The only problem is my original magnetic holders were designed for 1/8″ panels. Over the weekend I made a pair of magnetic holders for stretched canvases that are 7/8″ deep.
Up here in the Pacific Northwest we don’t get a lot of sunlight, so we have to supplement with artificial light. For the past few years I have been working with 5000k full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs. These bulbs give off a natural looking, neutral white light and are available in a variety of styles from the traditional four-foot tubes to the coiled compact fluorescent bulbs that screw into standard light sockets. These bulbs are great because they don’t put out a lot of heat.
In the atelier I’ve been using a 27W CFL bulb to light my still-life tableaus. This bulb is not very bright so I have to position it close to my props and this leads to very soft shadows that are hard to discern, even when the props are in a shadow box.
Last week as I was walking the aisles of the hardware store, looking for magnets for my canvas holders, I happened to go down the electrical aisle and saw a new 19.5W LED flood light bulb that puts out 1300 lumens at 5000k.
The LED bulb was about $40 and it has been a huge improvement over the CFL bulb. It is extremely bright and the light falls in a fairly tight, 30 degree cone. This allows me to position the bulb about 6 feet back from the set, which makes it more like a point source.
With this bulb, the form shadows and cast shadows are visible, even when all of the room lights are on. The only problem with the bulb is that it weighs about a pound and this makes it hard to position in clamp-on holder. I find that if I don’t take precautions, the lamp will tend to shift over time until it is pointing at the floor.
I love this simple painting by Brian Blackham. Just a few stokes of the palette knife say everything.
I stayed up late to paint in the backgrounds of my pear and shadow pictures. I’m finding that it is easier to start with the background, particularly if it involves a smooth gradient that is darker than the foreground.
Today I stumbled upon an exciting new image idea: front-lit Bosc pears casting shadows on a sky blue background. Like many ideas in art, this one was born of serendipity. I had been painting citrus with front lighting against a light blue background when my classmate Christina remarked that the shadow of my easel on the painted background created a deep dark blue that looked really nice.
Then today I was testing out a new, super bright light bulb (Philips 120W Equivalent Daylight 5000K PAR38 Dimmable LED Flood Light Bulb) with some pears and the light was bright enough to cast visible shadows in the ambient light of the studio. The interplay between the shapes of the shadows in the background and the pears in the foreground reminded me of my Less Is More print series. It seemed that any arrangement of fruit and shadows showed promise. Here is one example:
Since I’ve been focusing on smaller paintings recently, I decided to break the scene into two separate images, with the goal of returning to do a more complex arrangement after a bit of practice.
At the beginning of the semester, Gage issued me a new Blick Studio Medium-Duty H-Frame Easel. I liked the easel initially, but over time I found it wasn’t suited for small studies because the top canvas holder couldn’t be positioned low enough to hold a small canvas below standing eye level.
Back in September, I had considered making a magnetic backing board that would allow greater flexibility when positioning smaller canvases, but I didn’t take action until recently when I wanted to increase my output by working on a number of smaller pieces at once.
Over the weekend, I borrowed a page from from Ulan Moore’s playbook and built a steel-faced backing board and three pairs of magnetic canvas holders. Here’s the story:
Tonight I finished my second citrus painting. I’m finding that doing a bunch of small, quick paintings is more satisfying than a single long painting. My plan moving forward is to do a few more citrus paintings to get the hang of it and then proceed through small paintings of vegetables, paper bags, jars, etc. until I have a pretty solid repertory that I can use in more ambitious paintings.
Worked on my second citrus painting this evening. I seem to be getting the hang of painting front light on citrus. This painting went much faster than the previous one and I was actually able to get some texture onto the skin of the lemon. I’m hoping to finish up in one more session – all that remains is the table top and the reflection of the lemon.
Then I have a really nice Bosc pear and some more citrus beckoning . . .