Building The Composition A painting organically grows from a small seed

I have several hundred chipped and broken stone slabs with a beautiful range of colors and textures stacked in a corner of my basement.

It’s a good story for another time.

But… my last painting used one of them, and after I was finished, I left it in my shadow box next to my easel, along with the sake cup I’d also used in the composition.

At about the same time, I brought one of my teapots out of storage, thinking I may wish to use it soon.

It’s delicate, and the shadow box is a fairly safe place for it, so I just set it on the stone slab.

And… I kept looking at it, thinking that there was  the seed of a painting in there somewhere… especially the idea of stone.


I also intended to include pieces of sushi – the focus of my current project.

So… those were the two things I knew about the painting – stone and sushi.

There were no other thoughts or ideas, but I knew the painting would grow from there.

I began by simply stacking a few pieces of stone in the shadow box.


I liked the inverted pyramid on the wooden block, so I decided to keep that.

It’s painfully difficult to see with these pictures, but the current background color is a light grey, and  I wanted to change it out with one that is a subtle blue.


I still had the sake cup from the previous painting nearby, so I placed it on the stone, along with a pair of chopsticks, just to see what would happen.

Again, it is difficult to see in these pictures, but there is a really nice color harmony between the muted orangish-reds of the stone and chopsticks and the blue background.


Just out of curiosity, I placed the pitcher from the sake set that the cup was a part of.

I liked the massing of forms on the left side, as well as the way the pitcher and cup had contrasting shapes but identical surfaces.


I felt the chopsticks should rest on the sake cup, to make room for the sushi and also to keep the grouping tight and compact.


And some experimentation with different angles…


Finally, adding the sushi – in this case 2 pieces of spicy tuna roll.


I liked this basic design very much.

But I also wanted to see what would happen with a little more saturated color, so substituted an Ikura roll, with orange caviar on top.


I actually felt the “click” at this point, but wanted to try one last thing I had been thinking about – inserting a packet of soy sauce into the composition.


I did like a few things about that – it turned the composition into a slightly more pyramidal form, which is always nice.

The strong green also added some good contrast to balance the saturated oranges.

But… it added too much.

There was something reserved and simple – almost austere – about the previous version, and I could see that was what the painting truly wanted to be.

So here, with slightly better color, is the final version of the composition.


I will share progress on the painting itself soon.