Painting #47 Still Life

#43: Minimalist Still Life (Oil on Canvas, 33 x 30 cm)
#43: Minimalist Still Life (Oil on Canvas, 33 x 30 cm)

This painting is based on the composition of an earlier still life shown in this post. I was not planning to simply make an oil version, my plan was to do something much more abstract, so my only reference was the thumbnail sketch.

In the end it turned out quite similar to the watercolour, except I do not have the skill yet in oil to achieve the rich background patina of the watercolour. The result is a painting that is – in my mind – a bit too flat and without interest, although I do like the overall colour scheme.

The vertical beam is just the underpainting wiped down and it really steps forward quite nicely. I think I will keep on plugging away at this theme. I really like this composition, and with a bit more skill I may one day reach my ideal version of this image!

I still have a lot of work to do, especially when it comes to mixing greys in oil. I spent most of today doing colour mixing exercises on paper canvas and to my surprised I really enjoyed doing this.

I keep dreaming of that room somewhere – objects frozen in time as the light changes, perhaps some December afternoon in 1972.

December Evening, ’72

Here I come the invisible man, perhaps in the employ
of some huge Memory that wants to live at this moment.
And I drive by
the white church that’s locked up.A saint made of wood is
smiling helplessly, as if someone had taken his glasses.
He’s alone. Everything else is now, now, now. Gravity
pulling us toward work in the dark and the bed at night. The

Tomas Transtromer, trans. Robert Bly in The Half-Finished Heaven.

Sincere thanks to all who have supported my blog with likes and comments. A special thanks to all of you following my blog.

15 thoughts on “Painting #47 Still Life

    1. Many thanks Aletha, I really appreciate the compliment and I am so glad I found some community with others that share the same joys and challenges.
      In the case of this painting, there is a specific technical challenge I am facing – with watercolour, you can lay one wash over another and achieve a much richer colour than just mixing the paint and applying in one wash. It creates a vibrancy in still life backgrounds. I am struggling to achieve that richness in oils. If you look at some of the still lifes of CM Dudash (, you will see in the backgrounds what I am after.
      Since I am 100% self taught, I need to experiment to get that level of skill. In this case, I know I have to use the ‘scumbling’ technique, but I am terrified to try it, and just not sure how to go at it. But each painting is a lesson and takes me closer to mastery, I hope!
      Thanks for your comments and encouragement, I really appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What if you did an abstract painting whose sole purpose was to experiment with various techniques? What is a color that you especially like, that you’d want to experiment with? So let’s say you take a blue as you might use in the sky of your landscape and to the blue from the tube you add maybe 25% white, just enough to lighten it a little. You paint an area with the lightened blue just as a tone, not doing anything to it but just putting it there. Then you take the same blue and add a tiny bit of some other color — maybe a small amount of green just enough to change the color subtly — so the mixture is blue (let’s say ultramar) with 25% white and a little bit of thalo green) and now the blue is slightly greener. So you put some of that blue in places, just placing it so it doesn’t mix. Then you take another bit of ultramarine and you mix it with white but less white than before so that it’s a tiny bit darker. And you put that in some places, leaving a lot of the lighter paint showing — also leaving undisturbed the passages with the slightly greener blue, so that would make three colors that are very close together.

        Then you can mix the ultramar, white, and maybe some alizarin (or violet) to make a slightly more purplish blue. And again you make the difference just subtle. And you place that slightly reddish blue in random arrangement with the three other varieties.

        And so on, you make a surface that is slight variations on just one color. If you put the patches of color closer together they will seem to mix optically at a distance. If they are larger areas they retain their identity as different shades, but they’ll still be close in character to the foundation color.

        Alternately, you can start with a white canvas and doing the same kind of thing above mix very subtle, slight variations on, say, a blue. And just put the mixtures beside each other in little squares (or other patterns) with no two overlapping. And you can see what effects the colors produce by being adjacent to each other. You can systematically mix the blue with a bunch of other colors, always leaving the blue ascendant just to have that unity, but adding anything — so to ultramar & 25% white, you add cad yell pale; another square you’ve added a little yellow ochre; another you add cad orange; another you add burnt sienna; another you add chrome green; etc.

        I don’t know what colors are in your specific palette. But the idea is that you take one color that you want to vary such as ultramarine, and you add a little bit of anything else that you have to it. Just enough addition to alter it visibly (i.e. make it warmer, cooler, lighter, or darker) but not enough that it stops being blue.

        You place these colors adjacent to each other and see what effects they create. How does the placement of two colors affect the mood? Which mixtures do you like? Which mixtures do you hate?! And so on.

        You can do this using any color, mixing anything with anything, just exercising a little control so that afterwards you can remember how you got the combinations that you like.

        Something that starts out being a color exercise could turn into a really interesting abstract picture ….

        If you tell yourself that it’s just a color experiment — something mechanical — then where is there anything to feel apprehensive about? It’s “just science.” And maybe you trick yourself into making color experiments and at the same time doing some abstract painting ….

        If the main color areas were in quadrants, wouldn’t that be a little bit like the painting above ….?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Many thanks for your excellent and generous comment, Aletha! I was actually doing almost the same thing this weekend, although not in exactly the way you suggested.
        I have always felt very bored by exercises, but this weekend I just did a lot of colour matching exercises and also colour charts on some Canvas Paper I had. I found it extremely useful and informative.
        I have two blank canvas panels that I prepared over the weekend, and I am thinking instead of putting my normal Raw Sienna imprimatura on them, I may do your suggestion. It may turn into a nice abstract painting, but I think with my temperament it is better to just see it as an exercise, else I cramp up. I can then use the canvas as an underpainting!
        Many thanks again.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Got to fool your brain — “What? THIS? Oh, don’t pay any attention to THIS, this is just a bit of practice. So take a nice little nap, my brain. Nothing to see here ….”

        Then you can do whatever you want.

        Just get that inner critic busy with something else.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Suzanne, no it was not intentional, but I am sort of appreciative to those sort of symbols appearing while I paint. Gifts, in a way…
      In the watercolor version of this painting, I had anlot of triangles – in the shadows, the movement of light from cool to warm, etc. With this oil version, my idea was to focus on horizontal patterns, and create a sort of smudged, abstract look like you see in the work of Gerhard Richter. In the end, I did not have the guts to smudge over a fairly ok looking painting!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This painting is provocative, that sharp shadow and the cup on the shelf creates a tension…..feels like a dramatic play is just about to start. I hope that you are aware that your art conveys a story and a half, I wonder if your painting is symbolist? I love symbolism. I have found that re-doing a scene or motif over and over again is more than trying to convey how or what you see, it is a “working out of some kind” that is deep set. I am looking forward to your journey with this motif, perhaps what does it have to say to you rather than what do you want to say? ha!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Margaret for your kind words. I never have a specific message or symbol in mind when I plan or paint a picture, but it often rises out of the work as it progresses.I always have a mood or emotion in mind though, and for me the degree that I can create this mood through my painting determines success or failure.
      I think you mentioned painting ’empty of self’ and this is when I think something beautiful happens in art, which conveys a symbol or emotion beyond what we imagine. Indeed, doing a motif again in a different way is a working out of something. Like Rilke says, ‘when we win, it is with small things, and the winning itself makes us small’, so there is always something deeper, unbeatable pulling me forward in trying to paint, closer to some ideal I cannot put my finger on. A worthy cause, isn’t it?

      Liked by 2 people

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