Studies in Red and Green

When I used to teach basic painting I always stuck to a very simple still life set up using a very limited palette. Beginning students especially benefit by keeping the studies simple. I have decided to give myself the same kind of problem. Only using a few items against a dark background with the light coming from the left and using a shallow space at almost eye level. I will continue with using mostly a red/green palette. It is amazing how many color combinations you can come up with using a simple palette. I have chosen still life objects that have the red/green combination.

The actual colors are more than just red and green of course but all the mixtures will be based on these two color combinations: cadmium red, alizarin crimson, terra green, viridian, yellow ochre, vandyke brown, cadmium yellow and titanium white.

The first set up is using three pieces of watermelon on a wooden cutting board.

The second set up is using three strawberries on a simple white cloth with the light coming from the left. I allowed myself no more than three hours. These types of “painting calisthenics” is a really good way to keep up your painting chops.

Roses and Virginia bluebells oil on linen board *8×10)

Painting the roses and bluebells were a challenge because the blooms fade fast. I have great respect for the Dutch still life painters. The painting on the left is by Jan Davidsz de Heem c. 1660 It is meticulously conceived over many weeks. It is a beauty to behold and can be seen at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. The painting on the right is by Edouard Manet 1882; Paris, France . As you can see Manet’s approach is much looser and probably painted “alla prima” in one or two settings. My flower studies are more like Manet keeping the brushmarks visible and loose which is very different from the meticulous 17th c. Dutch still life painters.

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