Still Life with Spanish Onions

Returning to the studied still life painting process is surprisingly satisfying for me during this very odd and perplexing time when everyone is in quarantine due to the coronavirus. How odd that a tiny droplet can “infect more than 2.24 million people and kill at least 153,000 worldwide”, according to Johns Hopkins University. I feel like I am stuck in a sci-fi movie. My heart aches for the suffering and the unfortunate ones who have lost the battle with this terrible virus.

It is sometimes very hard to concentrate on a painting but somehow this little study gave me a period of contemplation and the act of focusing on inanimate objects that do not move or change much is refreshing from the ever changing landscape light. I highly recommend returning to the still life study. It is a good remedy for staying at home and “social distancing”.

“Spanish Onions” oil on linen board (8×10)

In the final painting I wanted to emphasize the dramatic light situation. The light was from a lamp with an incandescent bulb. I also utilized a secondary light which came from the window. I liked the violet/orange color combination very much and it helped to establish unity.

I have always enjoyed painting onions. If you get the hang of painting the translucent skin of the onion you can easily translate it into working on the figure. Skin tones are not opaque but very translucent. This magnificent Rubens, “The Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus” (88.1 × 82.8 in) is an example of translucency in the skin tones. It is said that Rubens often used a gray/green underpainting to offset the warm glazes on top. I was overwhelmed by the sheer size and lushness of this piece at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, Germany.

Leinwand (um 1618)
Peter Paul Rubens [1577 – 1640]
Objektmaß 224×210,5 cm
Inventar-Nr.: 321


  1. Love the onions.Warm, focused, calm. Thanks for progression. Will copy link and add to recap I send my online students after our zoom classes. Love Rubens info. So glad you are painting. Yes, agree…small studies. still life. Foundational. Need our foundations especially now.


  2. Thanks Elle glad you enjoyed the post. I have always loved painting onions. Thanks for sharing with your online students. I am happy you can keep your classes going. Stay safe


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