Still life oil painter Kyle Surges recreates moments from the past in his breathtaking, incredibly realistic work. We first saw Surges work thanks to our Annual Art Competition. Below he tells us what inspired his award-winning World War II Rations and shares some insight into his creative process. Enjoy!
The Life of a Still Life Oil Painting
My inspiration for WWII Rations (above) began when I stumbled upon a website that made replica military food rations for war re-enactors. These rations are some of the items that servicemen would have received during WWII. This particular option is considered a “Smoker’s Dinner Unit” because of the addition of the small 4-pack of cigarettes.
The off labeled “Pork Luncheon Meat” produced by Hormel Foods is indeed re-labeled Spam. With a diet of mostly salty meat and sugar, it’s by far not the most nutritious meal. However, with all ridicule aside, these are some of the foods that helped win WWII.
From my first conception of a project to the initial layout to the final detail can sometimes take months to complete. Throughout this process, there is plenty of time between constructing a panel and laying down the first brushstroke for me to decide how to follow through with the painting.
All of my work is painted on cradled 1/40-inch hardboard, and I like to seal the surface with GAC100 to prevent support-induced discoloration. Then I follow up with 8-12 layers of acrylic gesso. After letting it dry for a few weeks, I sand away all textures from the brush or roller and level the surface with an electric sander up to 150 grit. I find painting small detail is much easier on a smooth surface.
A Plethora of Paints
I have about 16 tubes of colors I use regularly, but I will add others if I’m struggling to match a color or if I need it transparent or opaque. Lately, my favored brand of oil paint has been Rembrandt because they’re soft and smooth straight from the tube.
I use a variety of flat sable brushes, but my workhorse is the Princeton 3050 series 20/0 rounds. They are the smallest brushes I’m aware of and tremendous for detail work. Then to view all the detail in the still life I have set up, I use a pair of close focusing, birding binoculars. They work so great, you can even see dust that has settled on top of the object you are viewing! In addition to all that, I also have a photo reference handy so I can see how the camera renders the still life.
Currently, I work out of my home studio in Lockport, IL. It is 35 miles southwest of Chicago, where I’m represented at Thomas McCormick Gallery. I met Tom, the owner, in 2013 when he was a juror in a local art competition that I participated in. My submission was a small painting of a Hershey’s miniature chocolate nestled in its paper wrapper.
Fortunately for me, Tom liked the piece and I was awarded 2nd place. He also purchased the painting and offered me a solo show at his gallery. I have been there ever since then and had my 2nd solo show in March 2017. It’s exciting to see my work being accepted into shows and the homes of collectors.
The Importance of Being Seen
I’ve acknowledged the importance of submitting to, and showing in, group exhibitions and competitions. I apply to a lot of shows and have participated in many, but have also been rejected numerous times as well — part of being an artist I suppose. However, my habit of applying to exhibits has brought me to Artists Magazine‘s Annual Art Competition. I’m grateful to be a finalist this year with my still life oil painting. And hopefully, I can be a part of it again next year.
Are you a still life oil painter? Comment below and tell us what inspires your compositions!