I started this painting by doing a quick drawing of the outlines of the lemons and box. I drew the box with a 2h pencil. I used a ruler to measure 3 inches in in from the edges so I would be sure to have the same size box all around the painting. I then used the ruler to draw straight lines and find the vanishing point of the places the box joins at the edges.
After drawing the box I found the placement of the lemons by looking at my setup and comparing the size and shapes of the lemons. I checked the horizontal lines to compare the top or bottom of different lemons with other lemons, tying all the relationships of the lemons together.
As I say in the classes I teach “It’s like a puzzle. The more parts we get in the right place, the easier it is to put the other parts in their right places.”
I used a stick of charcoal to draw in the big shapes of the lemons. I deliberately left the drawing of the lemons a little loose and unfinished so that I could make changes as I started to paint. I like to work on a drawing that is not too tight so I can feel excitement as I start to paint and not feel like I’m just filling in the drawing.
Start of the first coat: Here I’m using a limited palette of earth colors. By using a limited palette I can focus on getting the big flow of light and value and not worry too much about color.
I use mineral spirits to thin the paint a little in the first coat. I started by blocking in the lemons. At this stage it can be hard to judge the value of the paint compared to the white of the linen. As I go over the all of the linen with paint, it becomes easier to see the values. Reminds me of those optical illusions where the value of a square is only relevant as compared to the value of the squares around them. http://web.mit.edu/persci/people/adelson/checkershadow_illusion.html
Here is how the painting looks when I’m finished with the first coat of paint. I try to keep this coat loose and exciting so that I feel like coming back and painting more! If you squint your eyes down the value relationships are starting to work.
Start of second coat: Here I start using a full palette of colors. I go over the whole painting bringing the color closer to what I’m seeing. I deliberately do not try to finish or model anything in the second coat. I find if I do finish things too much in the second coat it makes it harder to want to come back and paint over the finished parts. I like the look of having a least 3 coats of paint. So the second coat is just to bring the color closer to the real thing I’m painting and build the paint up. I paint very thinly so it helps to have at least 3 layers of paint. I use linseed oil as my medium for the second coat. I started working from the left to right and from dark to light. Slowly going over the linen.
Start of the third coat: I used a full palette of colors again. This time I used a medium of linseed oil and stand oil mixed on my pallet. It’s an oil rich medium but the Artfix linen I use is very thirsty so it works well. The stand oil adds a buttery quality to the paint and helps level the brush strokes. I start by working from dark to light so I start on the lemon in the back left. I paint over it trying to finish it as I go. Then, I move down to the left bottom lemon and, starting from the shadow side blocking in the big light and dark. Much like in the second coat but this time I start to model and finish the lemon by painting all the little changes as the light flows across it’s form. I do this by painting both the shadow and light side of the lemon with their local color and then working in to the wet paint to adjust and model things.
Working my way along the lemons.
Finished painting “Lemons in Box” Oil on Linen 11″x 16″
Painting with frame.
Detail of painting.