Two Pods: Painting from Life

by Lisa Larrabee

I was given some advice from an amazing still life painter, Scott Fraser.  He told me that I needed to paint from life.  It was the most obvious, yet necessary advice.  After seeing his paintings in person, I already knew that was exactly what I needed to do.  The richness in his work comes from observing what is in front of him without the limitations of the camera.  This is something I have known, yet I have found too many reasons not to follow this advice (limited time, limited space, expediency...).  I came home and saw my work with fresh eyes.  Eyes that saw the limitations of working from photography alone.  So, here is my goal.  I will be giving myself assignments.  I know where I want my work to go and I have a good idea of what it takes to get there -time and hard work.  Drawing and painting what I see without shortcuts.  The bottom line is that there is no such thing as a short cut when it comes to developing as an artist.

In the early stages, I experimented with a different way for me to block in the shapes.  I started on white, brushed on a thinned layer of transparent earth red and began wiping out highlights and pushing darks.  It was important to me that the shapes were accurate.  I used a view-finder to help keep the shape relationships correct.

After the under-painting was dry, I began  adding color.  I tried to keep translucent colors in my darks and build opacity in the lights.  At this stage, I hated the painting and wondered why I decided to do a still life!

I had two choices: finish the painting, or give up because I would need to move the still life and viewfinder before I could paint something new.  Since I was unwilling to give up so easily, I forced myself to sit back down the next night, and I had a wonderful time.  I experimented with different ways to apply paint with different brushes.  I tried to keep edges varied and be very conscious of light and shadow temperature.  Because I had no specific expectations, I was able to play and, most importantly, learn!

~ Lisa