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Full Circle: Painting my Pottery Pitcher

Temoku Pitcher & Fruit, Oil on canvas, 16x20"
Temoku Pitcher & Fruit, Oil on canvas, 16x20"

The pitcher in this painting is one of the few remaining pieces from my years as a potter, though not a favorite.  I’d assumed I’d always be a potter and could always make more so didn’t worry when I sold nearly everything pre-Christmas one year. Then life changed.

I got married, had a baby (who I intended to just strap in a papoose on my back and continuing working at the wheel, up to my elbows in wet mud–Ha!) and we moved to a row house in San Francisco where I could no longer have a kiln. So that was the end of pottery, but the beginning of drawing and painting.

Below you can see the steps I took in making this painting. Although I was working live from my own still life set up, I was also following along with an excellent painting video by Don Sahli. I tried to set up a still life similar to the one he paints in the video but ate  the second orange so substituted a lemon.

[You can see a demo of the Sahli video here.]*

I’d already watched the video and had many “Aha!” moments with it and wanted to practice what I’d learned from it. This weekend I stayed in the studio instead of going out to paint plein air. I played a chapter of the video,  doing that step on my canvas then played the next section. It took Don an hour to do the entire painting but it took me the whole weekend.

Don Sahli is a wonderful teacher and painter who was the last apprentice of Russian painter Sergei Bongart. He breaks painting down to these 4 stages and I photographed those stages (above) as I went along:

  1. Drawing;
  2. Abstract stage (where you do 80% of the work, starting with the darkest dark and then continually ask yourself what color, value, temperature and you paint in one color shape after another);
  3. Modeling (where you finish giving the objects a 3-dimensional appearance, delineating the planes using value, and color temperature.
  4. Final details (adding highlights, caligraphic strokes, dark accents).

After watching the video and doing this exercise, I finally understand so many concepts that I’d read about, been taught, but had still been struggling with, especially the one illustrated below that starts the 3-dimensional appearance of the objects by finding and focusing on the dark/light,  warm/cool color shapes.

*P.S. I have no financial or other interest in Don Sahli’s videos. Just wanted to share a good resource.