When setting up a still life there are many things to consider. Lighting is very important; my studio faces North West therefore I don’t get much direct sunlight coming into the studio. This is good as it means there’s less variation in the shadows. I have a table set up near the window and a variety of different drapery backdrops and cloths for the table. The white orchid was a present from a friend and came straight to the studio, as they are a favourite of mine to paint. I chose the blue background and to compliment the scene a red fan and a red apple. Red, white and blue, very French I know!
I always work from life and will to confess to being very lazy about doing preparatory sketches. I’m keen to get straight onto the painting and the application of colour. I do look through a paper viewfinder to find the right composition then I sketch with oil paint diluted with turpentine directly onto the canvas. Once I’ve roughly drawn in the composition I start blocking in large areas with opposite colours, again diluting the paint with turpentine as this dries faster than when mixed with linseed oil. I want to have covered as much of the white canvas as possible so that the white of the canvas doesn’t distract from what I’m painting.
Painting in opposite complimentary colours means that I add warmth to cool colours and cool down warm colours. Although I go on to paint over the under-painting because I’m painting in oils the primary colours tend to be translucent and therefore the under-painting will change the value of what goes on top giving warmth to my blue background. My sketch that starts out quite loose gets corrected as I go through the process so that at each stage I am refining the image. I initially paint wet on wet using linseed oil mixed with the paint. I then leave the painting to dry (usually two days) and then go back into the painting adding more detail and strengthening the shadows and applying some highlights.
The under-painting of the orchids was in blue. I then used yellows in the white to bring warmth into them. The white highlights are added right at the end once the paint is dry. Because I’ve used complimentary colours the blue against the red radiate off each other to give the painting a feeling of vibrancy and joy.
I hope you enjoy the painting and please feel free to leave any comments or ask any questions.