Category Archives: Still Life

Rubber Ducky in Gouache and iPad

While in Maine, Ceci and I stayed in an aging (i.e., inexpensive) resort hotel which had a beautiful waterfront view.  Another delight (for me, anyway — Ceci thought I was a bit nuts) was a cute little rubber ducky.  I couldn’t resist positioning him here, there, and everywhere around the room for a series of silly photos.  Later at home, I  memorialized him again by painting him in gouache and on the iPad.  Here are the paintings, followed by some photos:

I'm nuts!

I’m nuts!

love that fish pose!

love that fish pose!

Selected poses.

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Paint the Kitchen Table. Paint the Kitchen Sky.

Yesterday I read an interesting post by Daniel Gerhartz about the hubris of ‘needing’ to paint a grandiose image, while neglecting the “profound, staggering elegance of the subject right before my eyes”.

outside my window on a drowsy spring day.  original iPad painting.

matching trees and white clouds outside my window on a drowsy spring morning. original iPad painting.

He’s talking my walk.  I love looking at everything in my path.   Right before seeing Dan’s post I had been mentally composing an image based on the condiment bottles before me on the kitchen table.

The sunlight was falling ‘just so’ on the tops of their caps, making stair-steps of light down through the bottles shaded by the window will.  It would make the perfect line drawing or a juicy value painting.

salt and pepper, mirrored.  original iPad painting.

salt and pepper shakers, meeting their match in the napkin holder. original iPad painting.

And looking up and out the window I noticed that distant treetops were the same yellow-brown-green as my neighbor’s weeping cherry, now that its flowers had fallen.  And gorgeous clouds were slowly sweeping across a strong blue sky.

In honor of Dan and the daily, I decided to grab my iPad and make a few sketches of the loveliness at my fingertips.  I also took some pix of the stair stepping bottle tops — they deserve a painting on canvas!

stairs on my table

stairs on my table.

Drawing the Line

With some of my 7Palettes friends, I’m studying plein air painting with Carol Rubin this Spring.  Last week, it was too chilly to paint outdoors, so we made line drawings of a complex still life Carol had assembled.  Here’s a ‘line drawing’ made of oil paints.  Our warmup exercises follow.

Hat, Vases & Vegetation

hat, vases & vegetation. oil on canvas.

Two 30 second drawings.

IMG_0731 - Version 2

bottle, pot & dried hydrangea. charcoal pencil on vellum.

Thirty second hat and more.  charcoal on vellum.

hat and more. charcoal pencil on vellum.

A minute-long ‘continuous line’ drawing — made without taking the pencil off of the paper.

IMG_0729 - Version 2

hat, pots & plants. charcoal pencil on vellum.

A ‘blind contour’ — made while keeping eyes on the object.  NO looking at the paper!  (Well, maybe we got to take three short peeks. . . .)

no looking at the vegetation???  charcoal on vellum.

no looking at the scribblings??  only the objects???  charcoal on vellum.

And finally, as depicted above, we made complex line drawings in black paint and then brushed thick white paint over selected areas to ‘erase’ lines as needed to make the ‘drawing’ more accurate or more interesting.  A fun day.  I did more at home using my own props.  Will post those next time.

Catching Up!! Studies a Plenty to Share

Here’s another study (unfinished) that I did during that wonderful Maggie Siner workshop awhile back.  Maggie wanted us to be very definite in matching colors and then put a big juicy stroke in the MIDDLE of the shape we were working on.

Dino, Pot & White Cat.  Unfinished.  Oil on Linen.

Terracotta Pot, White Cat & Dino on Pig-shaped Cutting Board. Unfinished. Oil on Linen.

Never put your first paint stroke next to an edge, she says, or you’ll be tempted to paint the object rather than the shape.  Maggie gave us a wonderful motto to paint by:  Great shapes, not great objects, make a good painting!


The Second Exercise of the Siner Workshop: a Three Value Study

This exercise, much different from that showcased last time, reviewed key principles for a successful painting:  make an interesting pattern of darks and lights — and join similar values wherever feasible.  This painting may be a bit hard to suss out because many shapes were ‘lost’ in simplifying the scene into only three values.  Notice how the highlight atop the left ‘spoon’ melts into the light background.  And how the highlight on the short central spoon creates a strange form when linked by the mid-tone to the tall spoon handle immediately behind.

Spoons in a Pitcher + Mango + Spatula & Candle Holder.  Oil.

Spoons in a Pitcher + Mango + Spatula & Candle Holder. Oil.

The task here was to decide which of the many values in the still life set-up should be grouped into the limited value choices.  Paint obvious ‘lightest lights’ with white and ‘darkest darks’ with raw umber.  Then ask the trickier questions:  where do all of those other values in the set-up belong — in the mid-tone gray or in one of the other options?  Which grouping makes the stronger composition?   Decide on your answers and paint the shapes accordingly, in smooth, flat value tones.  No cake frosting this time!



Put on Your Dancing Shoes! Or Rather – Go Barefoot, Like the Girls ‘in’ My Painting.

Here’s something colorful and fun — a painting I did awhile back, based on a photo I took at a meaningful and festive bat mitzvah last year.  Remembering that happy occasion and the many dancing feet celebrating that evening puts a big smile on my face.

Our feet are happy now!  Oil on canvas.

Our feet are happy now! Oil on canvas.

A perfect antidote to the winter blahs that crept in along with the rain, sleet and snow we’ve had yesterday and today, right?