Lemon And Leaf

Posted on December 06, 2011

This is a small oil study on panel (8 x 10″). The sequence below shows the stages of development. It is a little different from my other still lifes, because of the treatment of light: more colorful;  less detailed.

This was intended at first to be a step-by-step demonstration for publication next summer in The Artist’s Magazine. Once finished, I thought it would be best to do another, more substantial painting for that article. But I had faithfully documented the making of this one, so here it is.

The lemon and leaf sit upon an old enameled table from my parents’ house. It has been around as long as I can remember, and is probably older than me. I liked the reflective surface, the tray-like depression at the rim, and the red stripe painted around its edge. When I was helping my parents move to Danville in 2008, they no longer wanted the table, so it went to my studio. This painting is the first one to include it, but I have since done more. That shiny enamel surface catches the daylight coming in from the top right, back-lighting the objects. They are also illuminated from the upper left and above, by a warm spotlight, which casts a much weaker shadow than the daylight. The cool glare from the window reflects off the table, running down the right edge of the image, destroying the plane of the table and making the tip of the leaf stand out more boldly.

I haven’t used two light sources before, and so this was an entertaining experiment. All my still life paintings before this have been done only with single-directional natural light, which is soft and cool (as opposed to spotlights, which are sharp and warm). The contrast between warm and cool lights really opens up the possibilities for color invention. But it did so at the expense of descriptive detail. Light and detail are natural enemies (at least, in painting!). Maybe I will return to this approach later, without the strong back-lighting. In my more recent paintings there has been, once again, only a single light source: the window.

Lemon and Leaf, In Progress: 1

Stage 1: Drawing in Green Umber

Lemon and Leaf, In Progress: 2

Stage 2: The first pass. Color is added, but kept subdued.

Lemon and Leaf, In Progress: 3

Stage 3: The Second Pass: Color is intensified and more varied.

Lemon and Leaf, In Progress: 4

Stage 4: More color intensity.

Lemon and Leaf, In Progress: 5

Stage 5: Nearly finished.

Lemon and Leaf, The Finished Painting

The Finished Painting

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