Today I started working on recreating the lemon painting (see post below) with a real still-life.
I bought and cut up some lemons, then went about the tricky task of setting them up with the lighting and viewing angle and background done as closely to the original painting as possible. I had some help, fortunately.
Here’s my first painting copied from an original by Helen van Wyk:
Here’s what the real lemon setup looked like.
When you’re starting an oil painting, it can be helpful to frame your subject so that you know how you want your composition to fit on canvas. We use a piece of cardstock with a rectangle cut out of it that has the same proportions as the canvas. You hold the rectangle up to your eye and move the “frame” around until you like the composition. It’s like using a camera’s viewfinder.
This was the composition as I saw it:
That got it pretty close to the original.
Now I had to transfer what I was seeing onto a canvas. The first step is to mark the approximate proportions in charcoal.
Once I had an idea of the boundaries of the painting, I did a rapid sketch in charcoal. I ended up doing this one left-handed because the setup was to my right, and it was a pain to keep looking at the lemons and then leaning over to draw them. Going left-handed freed me up in more than one way.
Now I had to spray the charcoal with hairspray (AquaNet, to be precise) so as to fix it to the canvas. Once it dried, I did a wash of raw umber oil paint and paint thinner to bring the canvas closer to the tone of the finished painting.
At that point, it was time to do a three-tone underpainting.
Now I could mix up color. This took a while. I mixed 10 tones of purple that I could use to dull down the yellow, plus had some extra red and blue out to mix with the yellow to create a yellow-orange and a yellow-green. Using 10 tones of each of these three hues (yellow, yellow-orange, yellow-green) gave me 30 colors to work with.
I started to block in the lemons with color.
Next it was time to finish up the first draft of the painting, which is three tones of color.
Getting this far is called “one cycle” of color. I cycled through the drawing, then through the underpainting, and then through the first round of color. Each cycle will continue to refine the painting until it reaches a finished point.
I’m curious to see how the finished painting I come up with from real lemons will differ from the one I copied from a lemon painting.