Here is an update and progress shots of my second Vanitas painting. I've made a couple of passes over the underpainting and I'm starting to model the form. Looking for a very sculptural feel, I want the illusion of space to govern this piece and to have all the objects sit and recede with a sense of dimension, which moves the viewer into the picture by means of light, form and depth. This is very important to the narrative of this Vanitas.
My still life set up is a shelving unit draped and boxed in with black fabric to block out any light. I light it from within and balance the same light on my canvas and palette. I often use my pochade box as a standing palette, and will normally use a hand held palette in unison to work out color mixtures.
On the palette I premix mix a string of colors for each object representing it's hue, value and chroma. If I see there is any color shift as it moves from light to dark along the string I will tap warm or cool into it from my color palette as needed. This way I am never tied to those premixes and as I see reflected light or a temperature shift I can quickly punch it up or tone it down without breaking the flow of the painting process. Because if am really way off on my judgement, I can make those finite adjustments as I return for my second or third pass. Each time I visit a passage, the subtle differences in color and value become easier to find.
This way I can just stay in the zone.
The Vanitas or memento mori imagery is a fascinating genre to explore and is full of interesting symbolism. My concept of the Vanitas or certainly the core idea behind them is to use it not just as a platform to speak about the struggle of life and death, but of art and life.
I will save more of that conversation for later and as I work through this piece I will share those thoughts. I do want to share this link to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the amazing series “The ArtistProject” in this episode’s artist Roland Flexner discusses the 16thcentury Vanitas painting by Jacques de Gheyn II.
Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim
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