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Goya Exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts

JimmyJimmy -
edited December 2014 in Painting
I went to the exhibit tonight hoping to get some inspiration as I've been wrestling with my first still life composition. I'm committed to three objects, a cup a bowl and a glass and I've drawn them on the canvas, but I can't decide on a background. I know I'm just learning how to mix values and match colors, but I'm stuck. I really loved Goya. He painted some beautiful still lifes that he kept in his studio all of his life. Here's one, some dead fish (the hues are more intense especially the orange, in person):

Here's another, two dead hares (the blood stain between the top hares hind legs is the color of fresh blood, not brown as in the photograph:

All of his still lifes have dark backgrounds. I'll go with that. There is also deep shadow. I'll go with that also. I won't however be painting dead animals, just pottery, glassware and a styrafoam coffee cup.

And yes, I went up to the Sargent rooms and looked closely at the Sargents. My mother who went with me really liked the Daughters of Edward Darley Boit - who doesn't? But I was taken by this Sargent, "No Nonsense". I'd never seen it before. I pointed out to my mother how the color of the bed sheets is dark brown and yet our brains tell us it's a linen white sheet (in shadow). I owe it to Mark's blog post on the white's of the eye in portrait painting for this awareness.

I like this paintng especially because it reminds me of my own studio which is cramped in a spare bedroom.


  • Hi Jimmy. I think you're smart putting only three objects in your first still life. Those paintings you showed by Goya are great inspiration. I like them too. Good luck with your painting.
  • Thanks @Ronna. The three objects, the glass, the bowl and the cup were sitting on the kitchen counter when I looked up from the table for something to draw with my just-made proportional dividers. I didn't choose the objects, they chose me. I didn't rearrange them, I just drew them in situ. That was two months ago when I was away. I brought the objects home with me knowing I'd be painting them. Now I've transferred the drawing to a stained canvas. I have to remind myself I'm learning to paint, and not making a statement. It feels foolish to paint a black background behind three mundane objects as if to suggest a world of mystery lies behind them. But that is probably what I'm going to do. I tried draping dish cloths over the white cardboard I had behind them previously but that just looked posed. I look forward to painting drapery one day but not this time. My canvas got damaged when my shadow box collapsed and that was before I transferred the drawing to it. I'm going with the damaged canvas to remind myself - this is an exercise.
  • Oh yes, the collapsing shadow box fiasco. I can relate.
    Do you have a black cloth or black foam board to put behind the setup? If you paint a black background that color will reflect into your objects and you need to see that in the painting.
  • JimmyJimmy -
    edited December 2014
    I rebuilt the shadow box today and lined it with black foam board. I used a microwave box for the set box and a vacuum cleaner box as a light chimney. It is a much sturdier construction than the Elmer's tri-fold display board I was using which couldn't support the weight of the light. The bulbs are 5000 K. I used a sheet of tracing paper as a diffuser. In the photo I have my white balance reference on top of the bowl. I bought the easel off of craigslist. There is a tear in the lower right quadrant of the canvas from when the first shadow box collapsed. Some day I'll make Mark's shadow box and palette table and easel out of wood...
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