My friend Barbara said this painting made her want to lick the tomatoes right off the panel. That was her positive feedback when I got stuck and asked for advice at an earlier stage of this painting. The constructive criticism was harder to hear but helped me get to the final painting above. The earlier stages of the painting and her advice are below.
When I set up the still life I hung a light yellow-green cloth as a backdrop and piled the tomatoes into a thrift shop silver basket. I thought I’d use the folds in the cloth to divide up the green background.
Have you heard the saying “Kill your darlings,” that editors commonly tell writers? It means that the clever passage the author is so proud of doesn’t move the story forward and needs to be cut. It applies to painting equally well. Barbara’s advice was to delete the nicely painted knife and the beginnings of a bottle that were in the version I showed her (above right). And we both agreed that no matter how I changed the shape or color of the greenish background, it continued to distract from the tomatoes so I got rid of it too.
I also reshaped and toned down the handle since it was a) drawn wrong and b) trying to upstage the tomatoes. Although I painted the tomatoes from life, I took photos of the setup before I got started in case the tomatoes went bad before I finished. I painted them first and they held up quite well, although they quickly ripened from yellow to orange (and were delicious in salads and soup afterwards).
I am happy with the way this painting turned out and I’m glad I kept fighting. I especially like the tomatoes and the slightly strange stems that I painted once and left alone with just the first strokes instead of fussing with them. The tomatoes too were mostly painted once and left alone. They just worked. I love it when that happens!