Painted Pumpkin Painted, oil on panel, 8x10"

Painted Pumpkin Painted, oil on Gessobord panel, 8x10"

On Halloween I got inspired to paint a pumpkin but the only pumpkins left in the grocery store were huge warty-looking ones and two smaller ones with cartoon faces painted on them. I chose one of the painted pumpkins whose paint was peeling and asked if they’d sell it at ordinary pumpkin price, which they did.

I took it home, washed off the silly face, cut it open and set it on a black plate on my drawing table to make a preliminary sketch:

Halloween Pumpkin sketch, ink on paper

Halloween Pumpkin sketch, ink on paper

Then I set it up on the table by my easel inside a box made of black foam core with a strong light shining in from one side. I sketched the composition on my Gessobord panel, mixed some colors, and began painting with the intention to work quickly and directly.

But after three hours I gave up and scraped off the panel. I just couldn’t get a clean orange and everything looked chalky, horrible and dead. I emailed my friend Kathryn Law, a brilliant painter who gave me some excellent advice about mixing colors (including that orange was tough to mix from cadmium yellow and red with oils), along with inspiration and encouragement.

The next day, unwilling to accept defeat, I attempted the painting again, this time draping an olive-green cloth over the black foam core. Everything went so much more easily; what had felt like work the day before felt like fun. At Kathryn’s suggestion I used larger brushes and was more generous with the paint. I tried to put down a stroke and leave it. I kept in mind the way I enjoy sketching, and tried to keep that sense of adventure and freedom. I finished the painting and went to bed happy.

The next day I saw a few things I wanted to fix but had to go to work. I left my pumpkin still life set up for three days while I went to work. When I came back to the pumpkin today it was smelly, collapsing, gross and growing stuff:

Gross pumpkin photo

Gross pumpkin photo

Ewww! Tossed the pumpkin in the recycling bin and washed the plate. I guess the painting will have to be done as is, though I’m tempted to work on the plate a bit to try to make it look shiny.

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Category:
Drawing, Oil Painting, Painting, Photos, Sketchbook Pages, Still Life
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Join the conversation! 11 Comments

  1. Lovely photo and of course painting etc. Pumpkins have great shapes and seeds for drawing and I always like orange and black in a painting.
    Wendy

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  2. Great painting, gross pumpkin! Three days seems fast for the pumpkin demise! Good thing you got a good painting out of it while it lasted….

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    • Actually it was more like 5 days because there was the first painting I wiped off, then back to work, then another day to repaint, and another day to touch up. And it was unseasonably warm here. Jana

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  3. Ha! Wow, from still life to science project! What a lovely sketch, and a super nice pumpkin in that painting. Nice edges in the “innards” section. And the orange color looks like a success!

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  4. Jana, haven’t been on your blog for a long time but had to go now. You gave me a good portion of laughing again – you are so funny. I could imagine getting out with you somewhere for sketching and painting would be an adventure – LOL.
    My laptop broke down completely a couple of days ago but I got it repaired – thank heaven – and now I am working again and try to catch up.
    The little story with your pumpkin is really gross – I just imagine how it tried to run away…. would have been a great motif for a series in my mind about decaying objects… isn’t that morbid????
    Warm greetings from Petra

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    • Hi Petra, It’s good to hear from you. I’ve been so busy too and not doing much blog visiting so I was happy for the reminder to go visit yours. Your new textile work is gorgeous and I was so happy to see the pigeons doing and looking so well. Jana

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  5. I think you got the orange right in the end, but that end photo – Gross!
    Like the vibrancy of the initial sketch.

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    • Yeah, I know. And it smelled worse than it looked–I kept thinking I smelled something burning while I was working at the computer nearby and then realized it was the stupid pumpkin (not burning, just smelling). Jana

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  6. I like both the sketch and the painting. There is something just so satisfying about the looking of pumpkins, Did you roast the seeds? I hate cleaning pumpkins, but my husband does it, and afterward we have snacks.

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    • Hi Sherry, Nope, didn’t roast the seeds because by the time I’d finished painting they were covered with that grey fur in the last gross photo! I used to roast the seeds when my kids were little and we carved pumpkins, though truth be told it always grossed me out to put my hands in all that slimy stuff. Jana

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