This week’s featured painting is “Glass Creamer and Lemon Slices” from 2022. It is done with oil on panel, and measures 5 x 5 inches.
This week I had dinner with a friend visiting from out of town.
Although not an artist himself, he is most interested in the behind-the-scenes story of making art, and asks intelligent – sometimes challenging – questions about what happens in the studio.
This time we got to talking about the process I follow to make these paintings, which involves preparatory sketches, detailed drawings on the panel, a black-and-white underpainting over the drawing, and the final layer of color on top of that.
After hearing me talk about it for a while, he said it all sounded rather mechanical and un-artistic to him.
I responded with something like “I suppose so – all of the art happens before I start painting”.
It was meant it to be witty, but I instantly realized there was something deeply true about it.
Even a small painting like this takes hours – sometimes many hours – to set up the composition.
If I remember correctly, this painting started with the lemon slices, and from there it was a long afternoon of trying different pitchers and vases, a range of napkin colors, and probably a dozen cloths to rest everything on, and then moving all of the elements around – almost like a dance -until they settled in the right place.
All the while I was searching for the beauty I knew must be inherent in this combination. When it finally spoke to me in just the right way, I knew I had found the painting I wanted to make.
All the things that a painting is – the design, the mood, the color, the light, the beauty, the balance, the expression – that all happens before – all of it.
For me, that is the real artistic activity – the act of painting itself is just a working out of everything that occurred prior to even touching a paintbrush.