Pumpkin Close-Up still life watercolor

Occasionally, a bit of artistic magic happens and the art piece just flows out onto the paper or canvas. That happened yesterday, and the result is a return to my watercolor paints, and what can best be classified as a still life, as it is a pumpkin in the sunlight.

I must confess to a fondness for drawing and painting squash. That will probably be obvious as time goes on, but I think the skin on squash is visually interesting. It gets even more interesting when you slice it open and reveal the flesh, pulp, and seeds, like in my charcoal drawing of a quartered squash with a wedge. Since I felt inspired to play with color yesterday, the focus visually was more on the orange of the pumpkin skin and how the sunlight and shadows modified the color.

Believe it or not, I started this painting with blue – indanthrene blue, to be exact. I only left the one corner of that blue uncovered, but it is lurking in the bottom-most layer of the shadows. I only used two oranges: a bright, cheerful yellow-orange, and a strong, vibrant red-orange. I actually used more colors on the stem than the pumpkin flesh, but part of that was trying to tweak the tan.

Now, for the reveal:

Pumpkin Close-Up, 14 by 10 inch watercolor painting on paper, available $140 USD (shipping extra)

I couldn’t think of a more-original title than “Pumpkin Close-Up,” but perhaps I used all the creativity getting the shades of the skin just right to look like October sunlight is hitting this symbol of autumn. I suppose whoever buys the original can rename it. At 14 by 10 inches, this is actually my largest watercolor painting to date, though I would like to go a bit larger once I can put together a cat-free zone. I still have not forgotten finding a cat’s-paw print on one of my early watercolor exercises.

For those who would like this painting but in a different size, prints are at my Pixels store … along with jigsaw puzzles. I think this would be a fun puzzle to put together (in a cat-free zone, of course). My RedBubble store also has a puzzle option, along with apparel and other accessories. Finally, if you are the person who wants to put the original on your wall, you can purchase it through Daily PaintWorks and PayPal. Oh, the original does NOT have the domain name on it – that is something I add to the scan because I know image “borrowing” is almost as old as the internet itself.

Summer Jalapeno

I am finally getting to the final image from the black and white challenge, which ended up being a photograph I took in early July of my husband’s jalapeno plant, cropped, straightened, and with the color taken out. I had a busy day out of the house that day, running errands up in Palatka, and was tired both physically and mentally once I got home. I really was not happy with the result, and immediately planned to redo it and replace the image with something better, something more “me” than a cluttered and busy photo.

greyscale version of my reference photo

That something else ended up being the very next challenge, which I started with the Calla Lily painting in acrylic. Since the theme for the next challenge was “anything goes,” I figured to do up three images from the black and white challenge in color, using acrylic paint since I could use the practice with that medium.

Some days, the paint just flows perfectly, and the painting comes together “like magic,” as the saying goes. Then, there are days when I feel as though I am fighting every step of the way … and the first day of this painting was definitely a struggle. I blocked out the position of everything easily enough, but my first stab at the background color turned out too purple, so I mixed up some more paint and tried again, with this time being too light a blue. Then, when that dried, I noticed I did cover the too-violet paint well enough in some spots, so I went over it a third time, using the paint straight from the bottle. Then, I turned my attention to the green leaves and stems.

At the time, I only had two shades of green at hand, and neither one was dark enough to be a good jalapeno green. I tried mixing, but at this point it was time to put the critters up for the night and I was frustrated enough I needed to suppress the urge to throw the canvas across the room. That’s usually a clear sign to stop working on it, and try again the next day. So, this painting knocked me out of the short, three-day “anything goes” art challenge, which requires one completed work each day of the challenge. Dropping out of a challenge is only a minor disappointment for me, and one I actually prefer to posting up something I don’t like.

After officially dropping out, hubby was home and asked me what part of the painting had me so frustrated. When I got to the part about not having a good green, he started digging around his bunch of paint (he has used this brand for several years now) and started pulling out half a dozen shades of green for me to choose from. Then he remembered some blending medium that slows drying time that he tried but doesn’t use often, and also a wet palette setup to keep the paint you mix up on the palette from drying while you work.

With the expanded selection of greens available the next day, this painting came together so much easier! This one I actually like, and it is currently on display at El Amigo Mexican Restaurant – because that really is a perfect place to display a painting of a jalapeno plant that has a couple white blossoms, one dark green fruit, and two ripe red peppers (when jalapenos turn red, they are called chipotles). This particular painting may not be perfect (and to be honest, it isn’t because I can spot mistakes) but I like it much better than the photograph.

Summer Jalapeno, 11 by 14 acrylic painting on stretched canvas, original available $175 USD

I’ll likely do a similar painting, or maybe recrop the photo for a more close-up view of it, and hopefully it will have fewer mistakes and be less frustrating. For those who may want a print either larger or smaller than the original 11 by 14, check out my Pixels store. If you want this printed on apparel or swag, look here on RedBubble. For the original, you can email me (“artist” at this domain) or message me on Facebook – or call the number on my business card at the restaurant.

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.

Christmas Candle still life

I did another Christmas card artwork sooner rather than later, and yes this is related to another art challenge. The theme was not announced until the evening prior, and the prompt was, “after dark.” I have actually intended to do this piece for a while now, and just hadn’t sat down and done more than just a rough sketch. This turned out to be the perfect excuse to just do it.

Christmas Candle, white on black first stage 12 x 9 inch –

I stopped long enough to scan the image in white-on-black, just in case I was still not satisfied with the coloring-in by bedtime. Surprisingly, several of my fellow artists and challenge participants like this better than the final color version. Comments received so far include “surprising,” “minimalist,” and just plain “cool.” I do not have an original for this version for obvious reasons, but I could probably make one if requested. I only have this version up at my Pixels site for prints and even cards.

I have to confess, I expected the coloring-in phase to be more of a battle than it was. I often say, “Sometimes you’re the windshield; sometimes you’re the bug,” and yesterday went smooth enough to qualify as being the windshield. The black paper has a laid texture to it, and is made for charcoal and soft pastel, so it didn’t take the colored pencil as fully as smooth paper would, but I like the effect and will be using it again.

Christmas Candle, colored pencil on black paper, 12 x 9 inches, $100 USD

I do love how the pinecones turned out! Y’all will likely never see my first attempt at drawing a pinecone, which is probably for the best. The colors pop against the black background so nicely. Finally, the contrast between the still life objects in focus and the colored lights being completely out-of-focus in the background came out just as I had hoped. Prints and cards are at the Pixels store, while apparel and accessories are at RedBubble.

So, time to ask your input: which version do you like better, and why? Should I do up a new white-on-black version? I suppose I ought to joke, “Asking for a friend.”