Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fish Teapot

"Fish Teapot" -- oil on canvas 36x36" -- Margie Guyot

This was certainly challenging to do!  I never work from photographs.  I just set up the still life on the table in the studio and set my easel by the table and "slug away on it".  I do use a little viewfinder while I'm drawing in the basic composition.  And I mark the crosshairs lightly in pencil on the canvas.  Looking through the viewfinder, I try to figure out what lies in the exact center.  My problem this time was that twice I'd picked the wrong center spot.  I wiped out the drawing several times before I got it right. 

What inspired me for this painting?  I'd have to say it was the "fishy" tablecloth.  I'd found it recently in an antiques store up in Petoskey.  I loved the fish theme and the colors. 

Another element that I just HAD to include was the goofy fish teapot (upper left corner).  That was a resale shop find in Charlevoix.  I've never really used the teapot, but I think it's so cute, I'll have to use it again in another painting.

Ah -- the shells: I love shells!  I've got a nice collection of conch shells, mostly all from garage sales.  Sadly, no conchs in Lake Michigan.  Or abalone shells.  Maybe with the Global Warming we might see them in a few more years?  Maybe I should move to Florida?  Hecky no -- I'm NEVER moving again! 

Once I pick the right tablecloth, I look around at my stash of oddities to find things that harmonize, color-wise.  Luckily, I had those blue glass cup and saucers.  I couldn't really tell you what color blue they are.  I used some off-brand of oil paint in turquoise.  I don't know what I'll do when I run out of that tube of paint!  I think we still life painters need to have every shade of blue and red there is.  Some colors can NOT be mixed. 

The swirly glass vase/bowl was another resale shop find.  When I spot these things in a store, it's all I can do not to start moaning and jumping up & down.  I just knew it would be a hoot to paint!  Oh and besides being a hoot -- it was difficult.  Somebody once told me, "Obviously this type of thing (a landscape at the time) comes easy to you."  Good Gawd -- no!  I told that person that I'd take a look at the subject and think holy crap -- this is going to be tough!!!!  And I just try to control my panic and plug away on figuring it out. 

Really that's the key: controlling your panic.  Stop.  Take your time to figure out the right shape.  The right color.  If it's not right, wipe it out and do it over.  One of my teachers, Clyde Aspevig, told us to take the time to figure out the right color, the right value.  And not to keep putting the wrong colors down, thinking we'd fix them in the end.  "Eventually you'll realize EVERYTHING is wrong and  you'll have a big mess on your hands."  Or words to that effect. 

Besides color, I love painting still lifes with distortions (in this case the ripply glass).  And wrinkled fabric.  It's necessary to use lots of patience to establish the "mountains and valleys" of the folds and wrinkles.  The most instructive thing (for me) was when I'd be out West for a painting workshop and I'd go visit the art galleries.  They'd often have wonderful paintings by master painters of the Old West.   Once in a while there would be a still life; often there would be portraits of Indians in their robes.  I'd get as close to the painting I could and look very carefully at how it was painted.  How did they make the fabric look convincingly folded/wrinkled?  I wanted to be able to do that! 

The Impressionist Wing in the Metropolitan Museum of Art also has some wonderful examples of painted fabric.  I think of John Singer Sargent's portraits of society ladies in their satin gowns.  I remember thinking when I die, I want to be buried under the floorboards in this room!

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