Taking it slow

I’m sure everyone has a “worst day at work EVER” story, but I think mine can rival the best of them. I won’t get into the technical details, but due to a perfect storm of miscommunications I ended up DELETING the high-traffic website of a prominent organization. Luckily, there were server backups, and it was only eight hours of information that was permanently lost and not years, but the client was NOT HAPPY and is billing us for time they spent checking everything over; moreover, they’ll have their eyes closely on me for the remainder of the project. Ugh, the shame.

So it’s been a bit of a refuge for me to sit down and think about nothing but whether the shadow on my orange is convincing in this latest still life:

As I talked about a bit in my last post, I’m still trying to find my style… and clearly I’m looking everywhere! While I admire the Old Masters — and LOVE their color palette — I respond most viscerally to work that looks more, well, visceral — loose, raw, and emotional, even if the subject is only sliced oranges.

Unfortunately, when I try to paint alla prima in a loose, bold style, I end up with a sticky mess — it doesn’t look free and raw, it looks unfinished and incompetent. Meanwhile, the more careful work we’ve been completing in class — where we labor over each painting for weeks — ends up looking better to me. Heart-singingly better? No. But slightly less amateur.

So after setting up this still life, I painted only until I began to feel tired — no longer. Then, the next day, I fixed a bit of what I’d done and painted a bit further. And etc., and etc. And although the work looks a bit…labored… I felt loose and free because I wasn’t under the gun to stick with the dang Daily Painting credo. Now I just need to find a way to make my painting more expressive and less “tight” while actually taking it slow.

I’m also still trying to figure out what to do about light. Every morning — if I don’t close myself into my new curtained cave — there’s a moment when the sun first crests over my third-storey sills and for just five minutes or so makes the most perfect pool on my still life. When that happened, my days-old orange slices would suddenly look fresh and juicy, there would be gorgeous swaths of bright fresh sunlight mottling the sheet, and I’d rush to get my camera, only to find that it sucked the life right out of what I was seeing. I’d attempted to produce the same effect artificially — using several carefully positioned daylight bulbs — but everything I’ve tried has fallen far short. I guess I’ll just need to someday learn to paint in hyperdrive (or look over the shoulder of Thomas Kinkade). But for now, I’m taking it slow!

Things I did well:
I like the pinkish shadows that the orange was creating. I also like the two sliced oranges. They look a bit dried out, but in truth they were mummified by the time I finished.

Things I could do better:
The composition is still a bit staid. This is the part I thought would come naturally to me!
It looks as if the butterfly should be creating a harder shadow. I believe that’s a fault of the composition — the butterfly was actually pinned too far above .
The texture on the orange isn’t convincing — it looks like the side of my nose. I’m still not sure how a convincing orange texture is attained!