When painting a still life, my goal is to create an atmospheric piece that?s timeless in its appeal. I want to draw the viewer into my work with a bit of mysterious light or shadow, and possibly with some intriguing tapestry, vintage cloth or an antique object that invites closer investigation. I also love to create interesting color harmonies and strong contrast between background and foreground.
I often begin a still life with a preliminary drawing on gray-toned paper, and here I concentrate on getting the right values and the best composition. I use extra-hard vine charcoal sharpened to a fine point and white charcoal pencil for the highlights, and the shade of the paper creates a middle tone, which quickens the drawing process. I begin with the outside contour of the arrangement followed by an outline of the shadow shapes, and then I solidly fill in the shadows and add the halftones and highlights.
My palette of colors is an impressionist one: red, orange, warm and cool yellow, warm and cool blue, purple, and white. (I also use this pure, uncomplicated range of colors for my plein air landscapes.) In the past, I?ve worked with a 10-color palette plus black and white, but I find working with fewer pigments easier. The preparation for painting every morning is less time-consuming, and I?m less likely to mix too many paints trying to reach a desired color. I usually put out fresh paint on my palette every day or every other day.
When a work is nearing completion, I take it into the sunlight outside my studio. There I can see whether all my transitions are pleasing, and usually I discover areas that need to be refined that weren?t visible under the skylights.