A growing still life
a growing still life
In this demonstration Sue Deighton uses a limited palette to capture these colourful tomatoes
We grow fruit and vegetables in the garden and a chance subject one day was a bowl of Marmande tomatoes my husband placed on the kitchen window sill. They were almost green with a pale orange flush and had a fabulous lumpy shape. I could not wait to get the brushes out but sadly had no time that day.
I took a photograph to work from as reference for when I would have time to paint it. Taking this photograph was a crucial step - I started to look for GROWING life subjects in the greenhouse and on the patio. I now have a collection of still life photo references to work from at any time and what a joy they are to paint from in the middle of winter.
When painting still life, make sure the background is not just an afterthought. It should be thought about from the beginning as it is an important part of the painting and can make an amazing difference, in some cases being more exciting than the subject.
For this exercise I have chosen to paint a section from a photograph of a tomato plant growing in the greenhouse (right). The cheerful colours of the red tomatoes and the green leaves are a strong pair of complementary colours, but what about the background? It is mainly lighter than the subject with a darker area near the bottom of the photograph; the colours appear to range from pale blue to light golden yellow, almost another pair of complementaries which would be blue and orange. Having planned the colour I needed to decide how to paint it… I have an abstract loose way of painting but my inclination would have to be curbed to make the tomatoes realistic - then I can let myself go on the background. My first job was to do a drawing and a tonal working plan before starting on the painting.
Initially I drew the tomatoes on cartridge paper and when I was happy I inked it in strongly enough to be photocopied or scanned (below left). This will save time in the future if I want to paint more than one version of this subject and I can also enlarge or reduce it to suit my requirements. This time I have enlarged it by 50% onto copy paper and also made an actual size copy where I can work out the tones. The finished painting is 8”x8”
The tonal sketch (below right) has four levels of tone: dark, light and two in between (see the key). If you are not in the habit of doing a tonal sketch I can highly recommend it and you will soon train your brain to see colour and its tonal value at the same time. It is good practice to do a tonal sketch however rough, even on the back of an envelope.
Tone is more important than colour. Imagine you are having a solo exhibition and can only afford a black and white catalogue, if the tonal values of the colours are not evident the photographs of the paintings will be hard to read and look non-descript.
TIP: Try to keep the dark tones to 30% or less or the painting will be sombre and hard to live with. In my painting of tomatoes 55% will be mid tones and of these 10% will be dark, the remaining 45% will be light and mainly in the background.
|Atelier Interactive Acrylics From the 7 Tubed Box Set:||Brushes:
I used Tracedown paper to transfer the image to the acrylic paper. Placing the Tracedown paper on the acrylic paper carbon face down, I fixed the enlarged copy on top of this with sticky tape at each corner (image facing upwards). Using a blue biro it is easy to trace over the drawing - don’t worry, this isn’t cheating - it is a short cut and is used by professional artists, saving time and guaranteeing accuracy in drawing - remember I did the master drawing freehand.
With the image transferred to my support, I painted over the drawn line using red and blue using an old size 3 round watercolour brush. Using Napthol Red first I painted the tomatoes and painted around the highlights, then the foliage using Cobalt Blue Hue and lastly painted the stick and string by mixing the blue and red together.
I painted in the background using my SAA all rounder brush and a mix of yellow with a touch of red and Burnt Umber making sure I left out the highlights on the tomatoes. Notice how the blue drawing changes to green when over painted with the ochre colour. I used a hair dryer to help this stage dry thoroughly.
TIP: Have a jar of warm water with a squeeze of washing up liquid at your work station to clean the brushes immediately after use.
I painted the tomatoes using an old size 5 watercolour brush, the point was a bit blunted making fat curvy strokes when I used thick neat red paint. I allowed the red tomatoes to dry before adding the lighter orange sides (mixed by adding yellow to the red). I painted in the foliage, adding green to my palette, and varied the shades by adding blue for blue greens or yellow for yellow greens.
Painting the background is the fun bit. First I painted in the dark areas near the bottom of the painting using mixes of Burnt Umber mixed with blue or with orange. The remaining area is either pale blue (white with blue added) or pale cream yellow (white with orangey yellow added). Let the ochre under-colour peep through adding warmth to the painting. Remember that the tone of the background is light but not as light as white. See how the brush strokes in the background create movement. REMEMBER to leave unpainted the white highlights on the tomatoes at all times. They are the cherry on the bun in this painting.
When dry the light tones in the background may have sunk, that means some of the whiteness has been overcome by the coloured pigments. This can easily be rectified by touching up with lighter mixes of the cream and pale blue.
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