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:
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:
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.