For as much time as I spent working on this little painting, it should, by all rights, be a masterpiece. It’s not. It’s just a simple painting of an orange that wasn’t really planned too well.
I did paint this from life. The orange was sitting on the counter and when our grandson, Madox, visited on Saturday, he used it for a still life painting. So, on Sunday, grandma decided to try it as well.
I used a little 4 x 6 canvas panel and tried to make the orange close to its actual size. I was looking down at it, not directly at it, however, and it was only later that I realized why this was a problem. Our countertop is white, not blue, but, of course, I wanted to be artistic — and clever — so I chose a complementary blue for the background. Because of the angle at which I was looking, I ended up with an orange that seems to be floating in some undefined space. Even the slight suggestion of shadow I added doesn’t really help.
Now, a still life doesn’t always need to be painted at eye level. In fact, it’s excellent practice to set up a still life arrangement and paint it from several different positions — looking down at the arrangement, viewing and painting it from eye level, or placing it above eye level and looking up toward it.
What you’re looking for is a viewpoint that allows you to consider volume, mass, depth, light, and space. Needless to say, I wasn’t thinking of any of those things when I made my simple little painting. Well, not entirely true. I did think of the light although I didn’t do a very good job of showing it.
In painting this orange, mostly I thought of the various colors. While it’s mainly orange, there are other colors there, too. I used various yellows and reds, as well as titanium white and a bit of olive green.
One thing I quickly realized — and I’m seeing this as well in the portraits I’ve been doing — is that even when I place darker shades of a color in the proper places or add highlights to an object, I end up blending them away so that they’re hardly distinguishable.
Still life painting is definitely a challenge for me. Although it’s not my favorite genre when it comes to my art, it’s one that can help me improve my painting techniques. I want to learn to create different effects, I want to learn to paint delicate, thin lines. I want to learn to make smooth transitions and softer brushstrokes.
A lot of it, of course, relates back to that very important art — the art of seeing. I’m still working on that, and I hope, in time, that all of my art will improve as a result.