Congratulations to oil painter Kelly Birkenruth, our February Artist of the Month! Birkenruth was a finalist in The Artist’s Magazine‘s Annual Art Competition! Her piece Limes and Laughs can be seen below. Read more about the artist and why the limes in the piece were a fun challenge for her.
Avon, Connecticut ~ kellybirkenruth.com
My paintings tend to take quite a bit of time, so I like to choose subjects that I can live with for a while. One day I saw a pile of newspapers and comics on top of my kitchen table, lit by the morning sun, and I loved how it evoked nostalgic feelings of my childhood.
I love to paint fruit, and I thought that adding comics to it might be interesting. When I put them together, the combination was just too irresistible. Setting the scene seemed to take almost as long as painting it. I had to create folds in the paper that were just right, the preferred comics visible, as well as a nice overall color balance that would accentuate the limes. When the set up was to my liking, I began the painting with a loose charcoal drawing on the panel. Because the painting is so detailed, using smooth panels is imperative. I’m currently enamored with inner glow panels, which are from a company in Pennsylvania. I make indication marks over the drawing with pale ochre, thinned with Gamsol, then I immediately begin direct painting. Since I put a bright light on the set up to give me dramatic lights and shadows, the fruit needed to be worked on first, for the heat from the light tends to dry them out, which changes the color and the texture after a while. I use a typical artists palette with a lot of earth tones. For the comics, I had to add colors that I don’t usually use, such as Phthalo Turquoise from Gamblin and Magenta from Old Holland. Otherwise I couldn’t quite get the color accuracy that I needed. For an artist whose aesthetic leans toward monochromatic, using all these colors was a challenging excursion out of my comfort zone.
Painting the comics was my favorite part and great fun; each little panel is its own separate world. I loved recreating those little narratives in this painting. I grew up reading the comics every Sunday morning and have fond memories of those times. This painting was my humble attempt at paying homage to the cartoonists of my past.
Everything we artists paint should be exciting and engaging, or at the very least evoke some emotion within us. I believe that those feeling and that energy are apparent in the finished work, which ultimately makes for a successful painting.