Oil Painting Painting Still Life

Stumped by Stumpy Carrots

Stumpy Carrot Study 2, oil on panel, 8x8"
Stumpy Carrot Study #2 with Apple, oil on Gessobord panel, 8×8″

A fresh bunch of colorful, stumpy, little carrots with greens still attached: a great still life subject, I thought. But after two days of painting carrots I had my doubts. I was happier with the one above, my second attempt.

Stumpy Carrot study #1, oil on Gessobord panel, 8x8"
Stumpy Carrot Study #1 with Olive Oil Jug, oil on Gessobord panel, 8×8″

After the first try (Study #1) above, I wasn’t so sure. I tried and tried with the first one but it just wasn’t happening. In a rare moment of painting sanity, I decided to abandon the first one and try another composition (Study #2 at top).

I questioned whether to even post the first study since I’m not happy with the carrots. What do you think? Is it interesting or helpful to show the ones I don’t like? Or should I only post my best work that I’m proud of?

I don’t know if it was their hours under the lights or my hours struggling with them, but by the time I finished the carrots were looking an awful lot less appealing to me. I ate them anyway. Sliced and steamed with a little butter. They tasted better than they painted.

7 replies on “Stumped by Stumpy Carrots”

Hmm. I rather like the first carrots! 🙂 Unless I was unduly influenced by your comments, the second ones do look rather tired and a little “deflated.” The first ones look fresher and inviting to me.
Yesss yess post your “mistatkes” too. It is helpful to learn what you are observing in your own work and what you are striving to change and/or improve.



Thanks for the feedback. Learning from my mistakes is really important for me but sometimes it takes a long time to figure out just what the mistake was that made me dislike the painting. I agree with your “deflated” note. One of the problems I see in both these paintings is that despite my interest in drawing and being specific, sometime with oil paintings I slip into approximation instead, hence the “deflated” (or inaccurately drawn) carrots.



The second carrots seem to have better color…better values, maybe? Please do keep posting you ‘mistakes.’ It’s helpful for me to see what you see, and hardly anyone else offers this learning opportunity!


Thanks Carol. Despite it making me cringe to do so, I will continue to post my problem paintings and see if with others’ help I find what it is I don’t like and maybe even avoid repeating those mistakes! Jana


Jana, I post my mistakes or the ugliness of works in progress on my blog. I too have wondered if this helps my readers in any way. Certainly keeps me from getting a fat head over nothing!

I find it helpful in your blog because it causes me to study both paintings to figure out what makes one better.

In your first one, all that foliage is daunting. I would hate painting that! The carrots look a little lumpy, rather than stumpy, and they aren’t as bright. Maybe the lesser appeal of #1 is because all the shapes are the same size? But, that olive jug is so cute!

In #2 the angle of the carrots leads the eye in to the painting.


Thanks Jana, Your comments are helpful and I appreciate the critical eye. One problem I see from a whole series of problem paintings I did over the past month and will be posting is that despite my interest in seeing the specifics of light, shape, color and rendering them with loose accuracy (not photorealist but not impressionist either), when I painted the carrots, I lost the specificity and painted “carrots” and “greens” rather than really capturing the specific colors and shapes.

The good thing is that looking over a whole group of paintings and seeing what I don’t like and what I do like about them has led to clarifying for me how I most enjoy painting and want to paint which is as I described above, re specifics rendered with loose accuracy.

Thanks again for your observations. I appreciate your in progress work on your blog too (don’t have the nerve to post mine) and welcome your critiques anytime. Jana


I love that you post the process. I find that I often don’t like my first attempt on a subject. Something about the process of painting it two or three or .. I could go on, helps me reach the place I wanted to go in the first place. I like the second one better because the colors are very rich. Thanks for posting them all!


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