"Heavenly Happiness" - Oil - 24" x 24"
"'Heavenly Happiness' is a reference to the perfect happiness and inner peace promised to be enjoyed by the soul in heaven. Portions of this painting approached that state for me, since the process is as much spiritual as it is the use of practical skill. Many, many of the artists I've encountered over the years have confirmed this experience and conviction." -- SFG
NOTE TO ARTISTS:
I'm set up and ready to go. I have the still life set near the window of my studio for indirect, cool light. My canvas is lit by the overhead lights behind me (and not in shadow...something I'm always reminding my students to check).
I've laid out a full palette.For many years I had to chip dried paint off my palette where it had dried in piles because I procrastinated and didn't clean it after painting. Now, I put a layer of plastic wrap under the colors and use the other half of the wrap I've allowed to dangle over the edge to cover the paint between painting sessions. The paint stays workable for two or three days if my studio is cool.
To draw in the subject, I first marked the top of the flowers and the bottom of the pitcher since they overlapped and formed the main vertical unit of the piece. I paid attention to the spacing between objects and the division of the entire space. I made sure the edges of the window did not hit the middle of the left side or the middle of the top.
Apologies for the inconsistency in color. On a tripod, the top of the camera was above my eye level and a dial had been turned inadvertently. Wish I was an expert with a photo-editing program.
As you will see, I did not try to reproduce the colors. My purpose was to paint the RELATIONSHIPS between the colors. This must ALWAYS be done. Without doing so, it just won't work. The colors will not ring true and, more than likely, will be muddy and cold.
At this stage, I decided to paint the vase holding the flowers black so it makes a vertical dark mass with the dark parts of the arrangement. My wash for the drape is warm (remember, cool light yields warm shadows). I've used thin washes, slightly exaggerating the variety of colors I see in the pitcher and the bottles. Also, I've described the differences in temperature of the small flowers.
Look at that! An apple has magically appeared to the right of the blue bottle. It was needed for compositional purposes and nicely repeats the shape of the lower part of the pitcher. I've painted hundreds of apples over 35 years, so I should be able to fake it now and then. ;)
I've also used a very warm and clearly darkened background to contrast with the cool lights on the table top and in the bottles and flowers. As I review these photos, I like this composition with a light area on the right and could have preserved it, but I didn't notice its advantages at the time. It's not a mistake, just another alternative and you work with what you have in all stages of painting. The end product is the result of alternatives chosen along the way.
At this stage, I'm becoming more specific about the various purples of the smaller flowers and have thrown similar hues into the background. I've worked on the apple and the blue vase that has a good deal of light coming through it. Through the window, though the light coming in is cool, the sunlit grass and foliage is quite yellow-orange. I'm beginning to put in the stems of the tiny red blooms with care since their linear quality contributes important directional elements.
Next came more specific notes of color for the green glass and the blue pitcher. When painting glass, I start with the overall color, especially that coming from the farthest side. If you look at the pitcher carefully, you'll see how I've used subtlely different colors to show plane changes that give volume to an object.
You'll notice that I started putting in the stripes of the fabric. Admittedly, I'm a little tentative about it and it shows. I don't want the stripes to take over the painting and I still want a loose effect that flows. I've noticed that faded fabrics have softer colors and are easier to "fit" into a painting. This one is very bright, so I'm not getting the effect I want.
I called it quits for the day. I'm painting more slowly than usual for some reason.
I've worked on the flowers more. Successfully, except for the rose, I think. Still dithering about the fabric, though. As I place each stroke, I look to see how it effects the rest of the painting. At least the apple looks good. The highlights on the pitcher were done sooner than I usually do them, but I didn't want the daylight to change before I did them. They were a lot of fun.
This is my stopping point for now. The flowers are right, especially after I repainted the rose. It was one of the most important elements and, as it was, repeated the circle of the apple too much. Now, it sings.
To judge the other parts, I will keep the painting out in the studio where I will see it as I pass each day. The way the mind works, just a glance will eventually reveal what should be changed. Always, it's best to let your eye cool off in order to see the work with a fresh eye.