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.

—–

*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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16 responses to “A painting a day: #4, Carrots… at MIDNIGHT

  1. Love the title and the background colour complements it very well, giving the image a different feel.

    One of the initial tasks undertaken during two weeks of helping out at a farm in Bretagne was to separate and replant (if necessary) baby carrots in the garden. The person who had planted the seeds had scattered them too close to one another, so we had to ‘relocate’ some of the baby carrots so that they have enough space to fully grow. I suppose this may answer your questions? Then again, I’m rather clueless about gardening!

    • Thanks very much, Angelina! Ooh, how interesting about the carrots. I do know that carrots are one of the crops that need to be “thinned” sometimes, so that at least some of them can grow to proper size. I didn’t know people relocated the thinned ones though. That’s nice. 🙂

      Also: I don’t suppose “a farm in Bretagne” was anything as romantic as it sounds? 😉

      • Given my inexperience, I ended up ‘murdering’ quite a few of those baby carrots. Not easy trying to nudge them out of the soil with fingers and forks!

        I was there with my sister – where we worked a few hours a day this remote farm in exchange for food and board. Not exactly romantic but absolutely fascinating to learn about the savoir faire of country life from the farmers who hosted us : )

  2. If you grow carrots too close together, they can actually twine together and be very difficult to separate. 🙂 It all depends on the farmer sowing the seeds. I think it takes some experience to be able to sow not too close together without sacrificing too many by sowing too far. 🙂

    And I really like how the orange carrots “pop” against the midnight background. Carrots… at midnight!!! I love it. Makes me laugh too. ❤

    • Oh how funny! I didn’t know that. I wonder if that’s how sometimes we get such odd-shaped carrots at the market. I can imagine it would be very difficult to try to sow them evenly.

      Glad I made you laugh 😀

  3. Okay, not being an artist I have to ask. How do you get that vibrant, single color of the carrots by using multiple colors? I mean, I see the multiple colors in the finished piece because there’s depth and change in tone so they look real. But how do you do that? Apply one color, then apply another layer? I’m picturing the last egg at Easter. Us kids always took the last egg and dipped it in every color, and it always came out this ugly grayish something-or-other. And was our favorite egg. But that didn’t happen so you must have done something other than layering. How do you know where to put each color? They blend into one. I can’t pick out each color you said you used. If I’d tried that it would have looked like a paint by number kit.

    • Glad you asked, Lisa! With some of the previous paintings I did the color in multiple layers, which can be good, but the danger with that is watercolor requires such delicacy, too many layers can muddy the colors — which is what happened with the first painting of the gourd. With the carrots, I tried to do it all in one layer, applying the colors somewhat wet so they would blend. This is a little tricky to do and it doesn’t always work, but I was struck with a burst of confidence and was sure it would work out this time (and it did). Using the Easter egg analogy it would be like if you dipped one end of the egg in red, and then the other end in yellow, and then kind of rotated the egg around quickly so the two dyes mixed together and made orange — and of course because the color mixing isn’t uniform in all the places, the orange isn’t the same orange everywhere. And in my case I didn’t tilt the paper, but used a brush to guide the colors to mix everywhere. It’s a tricky technique because you have to use just the right amount of water and the right amount of pigment, otherwise you can get weird hard edges or weak color or really uneven mixing. But when everything goes right, the colors bleed into each other so perfectly that the divisions between them are imperceptible. Here’s a much earlier painting where I tried the same technique and it didn’t come out as uniformly as in the carrots. And lest you think I am some kind of expert at it now, there’s a reason I haven’t yet tried this technique for skin tones in my self-portraits… ;b

  4. Awwww….I SO know what you mean by the fiddliness of the background and bringing it on to your own head! 😛 And the shaky hand feeling! So true. Yes, only fellow watercolourists can ever quite grasp that complicated mix of emotions. Painting the background always leaves me feeling a bit disappointed with the end result, since I love the pleasure clarity of form brings 🙂 I love painting vegetables….I’ve done onions and lemons and capsicums. Love the colours and shapes of your carrots!

    • Thanks for the fellow-watercolorist sympathy (and compliments), Munira!! 🙂 I too am finding it such a pleasure to paint produce. I thought it would be boring but the shapes are just so fascinating!

  5. Pingback: A painting a day: #15, Diced Carrots | satsumabug.com·

  6. Pingback: A whole lot of post about process | satsumabug.com·

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