#53: Still Life with Onions

#53: Still Life with Onions (Oil on Canvas Panel, 34 x 23 cm)
#53: Still Life with Onions (Oil on Canvas Panel, 34 x 23 cm)

This is the completed version of my earlier painting #53. This is one of the few paintings that I finished without feeling the start was better than the finished painting.

In the light areas on the onions, I tried to limit myself to only 10 brush strokes, each one hand picked and placed without any editing after it went down. This meant I had to really focus on mixing the right colour first time.

The background was also somewhat of a breakthrough to me – normally I put down a really boring one tone background – the colour of which I sort of pick randomly. With this painting I used the colours I already had on my palette and just tried to compliment the focal point. It is not perfect, I know, but I am happy with it for now.

About backgrounds, Robert Henri said:

A weak background is a deadly thing…  Many a background has been spoiled simply because the artist has tried to cover it with an insufficient amount of paint; because it was a trouble to paint it all over, because his brush strokes were too much in evidence, because he thought too little of it and did not realize the function it had to perform.

The commonest fault is that he determines its color, its value, and its content by looking at it and does not realize its marvelous power of change, and that it is wholly a matter of relation.

Henri, Robert. The Art Spirit (pp. 41-42). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

I was thinking of a poem about backgrounds – the background of the days of our life perhaps, the background of decisions we make, fears we have. I could not come up with any poem, but I was reminded of meditation teachings that point to the background awareness – always present – which form the unnoticed background holding and giving life to each act, each thought, each deed.

Hongzhi said:

The practice of true reality is simply to sit serenely in silent introspection. When you have fathomed this you cannot be turned around by external causes and conditions. This empty, wide open mind is subtly and correctly illuminating. Spacious and content, without confusion from inner thoughts of grasping, effectively overcome habitual behavior and realize the self that is not possessed by emotions.

Leighton, Taigen Dan; Wu, Yi. Cultivating the Empty Field: The Silent Illumination of Zen Master Hongzhi.

Normally we do not notice this background of awareness, our minds are simply too busy dealing with past and future. In one of his four quartets (Dry Salvages), TS Eliot wrote:
…Man’s curiosity searches past and future
And clings to that dimension. But to apprehend
The point of intersection of the timeless
With time, is an occupation for the saint –
No occupation either, but something given
And taken, in a lifetime’s death in love,
Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender.


I hope you have a great weekend. A sincere thanks to all who have commented on my recent posts, and for those who encourage me with likes and who follow my blog.

16 thoughts on “#53: Still Life with Onions

  1. Your posts are like a morning contemplation. There is so much here.
    I love your use of color in your painting. I’ve learned recently from an artist friend of mine how important the background is to a painting. The background can change the entire sense of a painting with no changes in the foreground. I love that you’ve made this parallel to life and the quotes you’ve chosen.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much Nadia, it keeps me going to know that my posts are not just trees falling in a forest without anyone to hear. I always look forward to your posts also, your photos and poems are quite special.


  2. Love the cohesiveness of this painting. You demonstrate what can be done with a limited color palette and how that can actually improve a painting. I also appreciate your thought-provoking quotations. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. lots of things to think about with these quotes — the painting has a strong center in those onions and their rich shadows — I’m glad that you are enjoying this feeling of breakthrough — that’s a wonderful sense to have gotten

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Aletha, yes, it did feel like a breakthrough. But now to break through the fear that it was just a luck-shot! The end of my comfort zone is always near when I am painting. But as they say, that is where life starts – at the end of one’s comfort zone!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You need to hang that one in your house. You did an excellent job on it with the colors. It is simple and very modest but there is so much to look at. I like your still life style Fruitfuldark. This one would look nice with the shelf picture you did I bet, I would like to see them photographed side by side just to see.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks DawnMarie, yes I would like to hang this one in the house but there are no spots left! But I think I may just keep this one since it signifies a small breakthrough for me. I always appreciate your comments.


  5. this is a lovely painting.
    Robert Henri’s words on backgrounds are so relevant, so critical…. I usually find my eye goes there first, yes, they can make or break a painting. Your Background, is Wonderfully created. thus, a most Beautiful whole. 🙂 cheers, Debi

    Liked by 1 person

      1. you’re welcome… I always enjoy the visit! I love seeing how you’ve used those lovely gorgeous soft edges.
        And, the fact, you include such wonderful thought provoking verse and quotes!!


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s