A painting a day: #6, Antoinette

Now that the numbers are getting bigger, it’s a little harder to find good items to draw, but I’m determined to keep up the count — it adds an extra layer of challenge. For the sixth painting, I thought about using bay leaves, but I didn’t want to paint more green things right after doing the Brussels sprouts. Then I realized I could do garlic (bonus challenge: painting white things).

With all the other paintings, I’ve simply placed my subject on a blank spot of paper, since the white paper makes it easy to see the shadows cast by the objects. But this time the best spot for the garlic cloves was right on top of the sprout painting, which obscured the shadows. So I got a small white cutting board and put it on top of the sprout painting — and then realized that with the sprout painting covered, I couldn’t be sure that my garlic composition would look good next to it. So I arranged the cloves on the board, but took it away while I penciled in the outline of the painting, and then put it back on when it came time to draw.

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As you can probably guess, white things are not easy to paint. For one, they’re not really white, so you have to look and look and look at them to try to figure out what other colors they’re made of. On top of that, they’re not flat, so you also have to figure out what to use for the shadows and highlights and all that. And since I’d peeled one of the cloves, I had to decide how that white looked different from the white of the unpeeled cloves.* Did I succeed with my color choices? I’m not sure.

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After I’d finished painting the cloves, I had another dilemma. I left the Brussels sprouts without a colored background, so I had to color the background of the garlic (either that, or go back in and color the sprouts’ background). I actually think they both look nice without a colored background, but in the overall composition of the sheet of paper, they can’t both be that way.

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In retrospect, I’m still not sure whether I made the right choice in adding the background to the garlic instead of the sprouts. I love the color I chose, and I think it adds a lovely feel to the painting, but now that they’re not on a white background, the cloves don’t look even remotely white; they look brown.

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Ah well. It’s done.

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By the way, if I have any choice about the matter, I always paint to music. It gives my left brain something to chew on besides just my thoughts, and I enjoy the immersive experience of music + paint. While doing the garlic I listened to early classical music (pre-Bach), which always gives me a particular feeling that I cannot name. A few selections from my playlist:

  • Henry Purcell, “When I Am Laid in Earth,” from Dido and Aeneas. This is one of my very favorite arias ever. Every time I hear it, it just goes straight to my heart.
  • Jean-Baptiste Lully, “Fanfare pour le Carrousel Royal.” Full of pomp and triumph. I have to resist the urge to march dramatically around the room whenever I hear this one.
  • P. de Escobar, “Villancico: Virgen Bendita,” from the album Francisco Xavier by Hespèrion XXI. Hespèrion XXI plays the most fabulous early music, not only from Europe. I think I’ve got the name of this piece right — the album is organized around the life of one Francisco Xavier so this is supposed to be a piece from the time of his infancy. It’s so lively and exuberant.

I’m going to go back to my previous painting-a-day posts and add some notes about what I was listening to during those other paintings. If you want to read those, go here.

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*As I write this, though, I’m looking out the window at a parking lot full of white postal trucks, and unlike the garlic, they are really white. If I were to paint them I think I’d just be leaving a lot of white paper, and doing the shaded sides of the trucks in very pale grey. They are by far the whitest thing in the scene so I guess it wouldn’t be too hard.

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