On the Easel 1: Garlic and Chives

The working title for this is Garlic and Chives, and it is an acrylic still life on a black 10 by 8 inch stretched canvas. I am working from a reference photo, and I have been stuck at this stage for about a week. Something seems a bit off, and I am still not quite sure what. Part of the challenge for this is the reference photo has two light sources out-of-frame, which throws odd but interesting shadows.

Garlic and Chives, 10 x 8 acrylic on stretched canvas – in progress

I am feeling a bit frustrated with the very narrow range of reference photos for garlic as a still life subject. Most of what I have found is lighted for photography (duh) which is actually not so good for painting. In painting, especially a still life, you want dramatic lighting with definite contrast between the lit highlights and the shadows – in art jargon, a high contrast in values. The test I use is to take all the color out of a potential reference photo and see how it looks in greyscale (also commonly called black and white).

What seems to be the obvious solution to the lack of good reference photos – set up my own still life arrangement and paint it from life – is not so simple when you start to play around with trying to light it. Most artists who do this on a regular basis have a box and specific lamps to get the desired effect … oh, and usually a cat-free studio. That is my dream: a cat-free studio, with windows that are high up on the walls, with the right lamps to cast the right shadows. Until I attract a wealthy patron, or get a winning scratch-off lottery ticket, it is still in the realm of dreams. But hey, everyone needs to have a dream for what the end goal is.