Strauss Family Creamery is a Marin County dairy that produces organic dairy products served in old-fashioned glass bottles from happy cows that graze on sweet grass in the hills by the sea. I enjoy their bottles as much as their cream in my coffee.
I started this painting with a goal to complete it from life in one 3-hour session, as so many plein air artists and daily painters do. I had somehow come to believe that I “should” be painting that way too. But while I met my time goal, I didn’t like the results (see original version below). And that’s when I finally accepted that it’s better to take as much time as a painting needs, and relax and enjoy the process rather than try to rush to keep up with someone else’s “rules.”
If you’re interested in seeing how I got here from there, click “keep reading” and stick around. Fortunately my roses held up long enough to complete the painting so I was able to work from life, but here is a photo I took of the original setup, with colored cloths chosen without enough thought about a color scheme for the painting:
Before I started the painting I did a quick same-size (8×8″) sketch and value study (below) with pencil and grey markers. I’ve found this is a critical step for me–it helps me find problems with composition. I corrected my original boring composition that had both the subject and the line between table and wall perfectly centered.
But somehow once I started painting that sneaky horizon line in the middle of the canvas came back! Here is what I had at the end of that first session: weird complementary colors for the background (orange and blue) that called more attention to the background than the subject, a canvas divided straight across the middle, and a big blank area on the left.
The next morning my friend the art critic/plumber looked at it and said, “Well you know I love when you paint glass, but this one does nothing for me. I don’t like the colors and the leaves look unfinished.” I completely agreed with him. For starters I knew the background colors needed to be neutralized and darkened.
So I photographed the painting and started playing with it in Photoshop, using “Replace Color” to try different colors and values for the background:
(above) I toned down the table top and tried a darker blue background but it felt depressing. Then I looked at some Adobe Kuler color schemes on their website, trying to sort out what would make the colors more pleasing, and liking this one and this one.
In Photoshop (above) I moved the horizon higher, changed the leaves and added some imaginary petals to fill in the blank area on the left. Satisfied with a chocolate-brown and neutralized teal background, I mixed the new colors, scraped off the paint I was replacing, repainted the leaves so they were not covering the bottle, and painted a petal on the table that had dropped from the roses that were still hanging in there, though the leaves had shriveled up.
On Day 3 I fixed a few more things and added a few more strokes to the flowers and declared it done, quite pleased to have taken off that stupid pressure to be a painter who isn’t me.