Still life...trying again

The last time I attempted a floral still life painting, it all went south. But, since I have been wanting to build a more regular practice of painting and drawing from life, and since it is nothing but brown and gray outside right now in Virginia (not to mention that I don't tolerate the cold too well) I decided not to let a little past  failure hold me back. And as they say, it's in the failures where we have great opportunity to learn and grow. It sounds a bit cliché but it's also actually true, especially if you don't let the failures wig you out. I have to admit, at first I did duke it out with the old psyche a bit, but upon reflection I realized that I really did learn a few lessons from my last effort. For one thing I learned that I didn't really set myself up for success to begin with. I basically walked in, put some flowers in a vase, set them on a table and went to it. How hard could it be? Wellll....

The first problem was that there is actually quite a lot that goes into setting up a nice still life. I figured since it had been a very long time I would keep it simple by focusing on just the flowers and a vase, and no other extraneous objects. Only extraneous objects were all around my prior "setup" (if you could call it that.) The utility sink was in the background, as well as pictures hanging on a wall, art supply bins nearby, etc.  It's not impossible to paint that stuff out, but it is pretty distracting.

Secondly, in my previous attempt, the lighting was completely flat and non directional. That's great for studio lighting in general, but it makes it harder to create form and good color without that definitive light and shadow. I felt like it was kind of akin to painting outside on a gray day.

So the first order of business was to remedy these issues, and create an environment where I would be "set up" for success.  Once I found a solution to my setup issues (which I will share in my next post) I felt like I had more control.

Here's how it went down, in various stages:

Initial design in a wash of cobalt blue, burnt sienna, and chromatic black:

Still life floral painting demo by Jennifer E Young
Still life floral painting demo by Jennifer E Young

Blocking in; shadows first, then midtones:

Still life floral painting demo by Jennifer E Young
Still life floral painting demo by Jennifer E Young

Fleshing it out:

Still life floral painting demo by Jennifer E Young
Still life floral painting demo by Jennifer E Young
Still life floral painting demo by Jennifer E Young
Still life floral painting demo by Jennifer E Young

And the final:

  "Tulips and Mandarins" Oil on Linen, 14x11" ©J ennifer E Young

"Tulips and Mandarins" Oil on Linen, 14x11" ©Jennifer E Young