Oil Painting Painting Still Life

Happy Boy Farms Tomatoes (Oil painting and process)

Happy Boy Farms Tomatoes, Oil on Gessobord panel, 12×12″
Happy Boy Farms Tomatoes, Oil on Gessobord panel, 12x12"
Happy Boy Farms Tomatoes, Oil on Gessobord panel, 12×12″

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.

Preliminary thumbnails and watercolor sketch
Preliminary thumbnails and watercolor sketch

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.

Art theory Oil Painting Painting

Ripening: Tomatoes and Me (The Spirit of Watercolor vs. Obedient Oils)

November Tomatoes in Raku Bowl; oil painting on board, 9x12"
November Tomatoes in Raku Bowl; oil painting on board, 9x12" (click to enlarge)

UPDATE 12-11-10: I revised this painting again and it’s posted here.

At the end of the season we harvest the crops (or in my case, tomatoes). The last green stragglers are picked from their shriveling vines and set near a window to ripen. And that leads me to think about my own ripening as an artist; reflecting on which artistic pursuits have borne fruit, and which are still hard and green despite my best efforts.

After working in a realistic style in watercolor for years I began to explore other media, eventually focusing on oil painting, determined to gain comfort and competence with it. The path felt wide and long because I’m attracted to so many painting styles, from classical realism to impressionism and even expressionistic figurative work.

But as I get closer to competence with oils (while still far from mastery) I’m beginning to narrow the path and here’s why….

Oils vs. Watercolor

I found that trying to paint in oils in the same detailed, realistic style I enjoy so much in watercolor felt like work, not fun. But why, I wondered.

Gardening Painting Plants Sketchbook Pages Still Life

More Last Tomatoes

The Last Tomatoes in a Bowl

Watercolor on Arches 140 lb hot press paper drawn first in blue Micron Pigma pen, 5.5″ 7.5″

Yesterday I cleaned up my four tomato plants, removing all the dead leaves and icky, gooshy tomatoes (without screaming once — squooshy, slimey things scare me) and was delighted to discover an abundance of still quite lovely tomatoes, ripe and ready to be picked. I was sure when I painted the last bunch of tomatoes that they were truly the last, but we’ve had some wonderful summer weather all over again and the tomatoes just keep on doing their thing.

I piled them in this old stoneware bowl and stuck them in the fridge. I’ve been working on an oil painting family portrait (more about that tomorrow) and have been neglecting my blog. So I decided to stop working on the oil painting, and loosen up with the tomatoes and some watercolor in my sketchbook.

Now back to the portrait. If I don’t finish it tomorrow I’ll post the work in progress. The painting was inspired by looking through some baby pictures of my son with his father and grandfather that we wanted to bring on a visit to my father-in-law. He’s been very ill and on Thursday night he thoroughly enjoyed seeing the pictures (and us). I was hoping to finish the painting before he died and to share it with him but sadly/blessedly he passed away this morning. If the painting turns out well enough, I’ll bring it to his memorial. In the meantime it’s been a blessing for me to lovingly paint his smiling face, knowing it would not be visible much longer.