A painting a day: #4, Carrots… at MIDNIGHT

In keeping with my unintentional numerical theme, for my fourth painting I chose four skinny carrots from a bunch I bought Thursday at the farmers’ market.* When I arranged them together I was delighted to find that they snuggled into each other as if they were made to fit.**

I wanted this painting to be long, like the carrots themselves, but this meant I had to draw them from above (as opposed to the others, which I did while looking at the items more or less head-on). Not a problem, artistically, though I did get more tired than usual, since this angle meant I couldn’t sit in a chair.

I’ve started all my paintings with a pencil sketch, since I’m not conversant enough with fruit and vegetable shapes to just tackle them in paint. You’ll notice I took dramatic liberties with the carrots’ colors — once I drew the outlines, I found the carrots’ forms so beautiful and fascinating that they just begged to be filled with vivid color.

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For both the carrots and their leaves, I did all the colors at once so that they would blend together, and I didn’t mix the colors beforehand either (i.e., create an orange by combining red and yellow) — I just let them come together naturally. So each of those really bright carrots is filled with a single application of red, yellow, and perhaps a hint of green or brown or yellow ochre. That was really fun, even though I didn’t get the pale carrot quite right.

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I’m enchanted with the shapes of these carrots and their foliage. The leaves haven’t been cut, by the way; the carrots were sold with their long full tops, but I twisted them off before storing in the fridge. I suspect the twisting-off created some interesting shapes with those carrot greens.

I really liked the painting at this point, but I didn’t want to leave the background blank again, as I did with the turnips. So I added a shadow…

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… and then some of the carrots’ ridges, since I decided their surface looked too naked without them…

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… and then I filled in the background. This was every bit as hellish as you might expect, since I had to be really careful around the fine carrot tops and points. Fellow artists and crafters will know the particular brand of hell that consists of getting yourself into a time-consuming, fiddly task and then having to finish it, all the while knowing that you brought this on yourself. My hands were actually shaking by the end.

I had intended to do the background a really deep indigo purple, but after doing the indigo alone, I’d had enough. And I liked the color. So I left it. And I’ve named the painting, Carrots… at MIDNIGHT. I know it’s silly. It makes me giggle.

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I like how it all turned out, but I do think I lost some clarity of form when I put in the background or even just the shadows. That second photo above, the one with just the plain carrots and the penciled outlines of their shadows, is so lovely, with the negative space peeking through between the carrots and their stems. The finished painting retains some of that, but not all.

With the completion of Carrots… at MIDNIGHT (teehee, told you it makes me giggle), I’ve now filled the whole left side of the paper:

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One, two, three, four!

I made a new playlist before I started this painting. I wanted an eclectic set of artists, but no lyrics in any of the languages I speak. A few selections:

  • Cornelius, “Bird Watching at Inner Forest.” Cornelius is a Japanese artist, but I found this CD in one of the apartments in Reykjavík. I don’t know how I would categorize this song. You’ll just have to listen to it.
  • Bonobo, “Kong.” Mellow, yet energetic.
  • Eyjólfur Þorleifsson, “Mósi.” This makes me want to get up and do a silly/saucy dance.

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*The vendor had a strange selection that day; I got one bunch of three enormous carrots, and a second bunch of many spindly little ones.

**Maybe they grew next to each other? Does that even work, with carrots? How close would they have to be planted for them to grow in similar shapes?

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