Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Anatomy of a Still Life

Nearly three months ago, I wrote about a painting that I was starting in which I used three old friends as subjects. The still life is now finished and I would like to introduce it through the photos taken during the creative process.

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First, I set up the still life scene from which I would paint. A stack of old Hardy Boys books was used as part of the stage for my little friends. Those published in the 1950’s and 60’s had bright blue and red covers, but because I felt this would distract from the main subjects, I chose a set of older, solid tan-colored editions.

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Starting with a rough pencil sketch, I began to paint, first laying in the basic color scheme of the background and the bench that the characters sit on. Keeping the rule in mind about painting fat over lean (thinned paints used first, thicker paints last), I filled in the largest areas with color.

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Next, several small areas were started, identifying the main shapes and determining some core colors.

Oil paintings usually require multiple drying periods because of the time it takes for the paint to dry, enabling appropriate layers to be built up. I work from top to bottom, left to right, and background to foreground in my approach.

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I continued to build detail in the car, the book colors, the train, and to add a smile to the process, I painted Andy’s hair and face.

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More detail was put in the car and I added the book titles – some had to be repainted when I laid the back of my hand in the wet paint! Andy’s thinning hair and faded, worn button eyes were then completed.

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Andy had been sitting around in his shorts long enough. It was time for him to finish getting dressed, so I used the next session to paint the stripes on his leggings and the pattern in his shirt. Additional shadows and colors were added everywhere.

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The final steps required adding the smallest of details – the emergence of chipped paint, deeper shadows where needed, stitching, water stains, discoloring of fabric, and the appearance of loving play with each.

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I'm pleased with the final result. It's the first still life I've ever "commissioned" for myself.


"Toot Toot, Quack, Quack, Dolly" will hang, with pride, in our home. It was a fun piece to do and brought back many good memories of my childhood. My hope is that, someday, one of my children will want it hanging in his or her home.

8 comments:

John said...

I want it!

CousinK said...

Ohhhhhhhh.... and I especially like that you included the picture of you working on the painting .....thanks to your wife, I suppose. Beautifully done, Dennis. And I remember a little boy with curly hair clutching Toot Toot in his left arm holding it close to him as if daring anyone to take it from him.

Auntie Fluffy said...

Who are you kidding???? You will for sure have to have prints made of this one...either that or draw names!! Put me in that drawing! This is so special...it makes me smile!! You have talent beyond...beyond... (((hugs)))

Laura said...

It is a great painting- it looks so real!
I want it too! john, wanna take it outside? :)

Dana Leigh said...

I have one talented dude for an uncle! Looks great!

Bob Jackson said...

My brother Bill had similar items when he was young. Looks great!

Jamie said...

You are very talented! Very cool painting!

Tonia said...

I really like the fact that you did this one for yourself. It is really special, and really full of life.

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt. It doesn't happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

-- by Margery Williams, from The Velveteen Rabbit --