Exercise: Still life with natural objects

I bought a beautiful purple cabbage and thought I might use this. I chopped it in half as the middle layers are interesting, but after trying this with water colour I concluded that it would be more about the pattern of the layers, rather than the tonal variation which seems to be what this exercise is about. And it would take me hours to accurately reproduce this effect.image1-17

So I found half a red pepper in the fridge and a few mushroom and thought these would work well. I bought some dark green crepe paper to use as a good contrasting background. (Note to self: Crepe paper is cheap as a background but the vegetables seems to absorb the dye after a while!)

I am working with water colour to work out the best lighting and positioning of the vegetables.image2-15image1-19image2-16image1-18

I decided I wanted the seeds visible and the inside flesh of the pepper, which is textured and has an orange hue. In the end I chose the pepper on its side and used a small reel to elevate it behind so the seeds were more visible. I will use A3 acrylic paper landscape.image2-14I laid down a green wash (light green) as a ground, then when dry I used a white wash to mark in the shapes. I then blocked in the pepper with white, so the green didn’t neutralise  the red (I used Cadmium red and mixed in yellow orange). The shadows are going to be an important part of this still life.I have now painted the colours of the pepper but am struggling with the seeds. I have been painting for hours and need to stop now and look at it again tomorrow.

Tomorrow came and went and I didn’t get a chance to work on it again. But today I was up early and made a good start. The mushroom has darkened slightly and the pepper is beginning to shrivel somewhat, however I had pretty much completed the pepper and just needed to get to grips with the seeds, which were tricky. I think marked in the darker areas on the mushrooms and laid down the shadow areas. I mixed in black and fluro to darken the green. Some shadows are really dark, some are much lighter.pepper-piece-and-mushrooms

A pepper piece and mushrooms

Natural objects, like fruit, vegetables and flowers, have to be painted quickly as they are not the same 2 days in a row. So this presents challenges in itself.  By the time I had completed all the prep water colour sketches I was already quite tired.  I think this study of a pepper piece and mushrooms is very different from the still life I did of the sunflowers, which is much more of a pleasing picture overall. But I like the rawness of this pepper.   I have really enjoyed the concentration needed to do these still lifes, and the intention of really looking to see the tones and the light areas and also the challenge of looking for complementary colours to make the colours really stand out, as I think the red does here against the green, and also in the sunflowers the yellow flowers pop out at you in front of the dark blue background. I think the shadows here could be better. I have been adding black (and a little fluro) to darken the areas. I kept looking but could not see the shadows as anything other than a darker green. Also maybe it would have been simpler to have set up just ONE light source, but this is not so easy in our house.

I am learning to have patience and do lots of prep sketches before starting 🙂

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Author: Wendy Kate

Happily sharing my life with a tall bearded man from Dorset and a crazy wild animal masquerading as a tabby cat.

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