I recently painted a still life that I’m happy with. I worked from an exercise in the book Painting Sunlit Still Lifes in Watercolor by Liz Donovan, but I bought a pineapple to work from life. My lighting was reversed from her exercise, and I didn’t get to paint the fruit until its ripeness hit me walking into the kitchen. So its leaves were dried and the body more browns than greens, so it was a mix of painting from life and from steps in the book.
Here’s the painting in five steps.
Stage 1 is putting down light values in the leaves and the red dots on the body. Since the light comes from the bottom left, those leaves near there are yellow green and other leaves are cool and warm blues depending on if the sun is hitting them or not. This is something to practice more of, determine what temperature of color to use to make it realistic. The background is a mix of new gamboge yellow with a hint of quinacridone magenta.
Stage 2 is putting more medium values in. I coincidentally had more pigment on my brush in the background while doing the left bottom corner but I think it worked out just fine since that’s where the light source it so it would be warmer there.
In Stage 3 I continued developing the leaves and the body putting in the start of the shading involved to shape it. In Stage 4 that all continued as well as putting a light coat of cobalt blue over the warm yellow background. That is my favorite part of the painting and I had a very hard time showing in the photograph, so I will explain it. The left side really glows in real life and even the right cooler side has a depth that I can’t show in the photograph.
So, how does this relate to working from what I learned in the landscape workshop with Michael Riordan? Well, I think it’s about refining my practice now at my skill level. In his technique we did an underpainting of cobalt and cad orange to establish cools and warms and once dry, he did all wet in wet methodically working top to bottom, a practice he developed working plein air where you have to work quickly because the light it constantly changing.
While I like wet in wet, I want to spread out the fun. I want to have more fun with the underpainting and get other colors and blending in there, learn how to stop and let areas dry before layering more, but my personality won’t let me layer five or six layers to get just the right amount of glow or value. I guess I like controlled spontaneity, what an oxymoron! I like the spontaneity of wet in wet but need more structure to have control over the paint. While I’m learning how to get the value right the first time, I can also use the layering approach to getting the value I want. This painting helped me learn how to do that more, and leads me to thinking of other studies and exercises to practice. Today I’m going to try other colors on top of a dried layer of gradated yellows (cool and warm) and see what kind of glow and texture I will get.