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Still Life In Colour

The Art Of Painting - Still Life In Colour - 2, a brief series of articles on the art of painting and drawing
 
 
From time to time place your canvas against the subject, walk back as far as possible from your work, and compare it with the group in the hand-glass. See that the comparative tone values of the parts are just, and that the whole mass of fruit, &c., is in tone and in colour relation to the background. You will find that in contrast with the brilliant fruit the colour of the background will be considerably modified, as will also be the shadow colours of the fruits themselves by their juxtaposition. Be content only with your work when the apples look eatable, their polished surface not overdone. In other words, see that the high lights are exactly their right tone, and not too light, and that all other lights and light masses are subordinate to what happens to be the highest light or light passages. Make sure that each piece of fruit keeps its place in relation to the rest, and that the whole looks like a mass of fruit, and not a coloured list of separate items.
This general aspect you must try to get at the outset, and preserve, in spite of the finish you may bestow on the parts. The part must always be subordinate to the whole.
If at the end of the day's work any portion is not satisfactory, scrape it away with the palette knife, evenly taking off the solid paint ; the rest may perhaps be sufficiently wet to enable you to continue the next morning.
If it is winter, put your canvas in a cold place, outside your studio or room, if possible exposed to the air. Thus treated, paint often remains sufficiently wet to enable you to continue the following day.
In almost all instances the first painting on a new canvas dries very slowly, but it will frequently work up—that is, leave the canvas when worked over, and not settle. You might in such instances lay blotting-paper over it to absorb the superfluous oil ; and if that does not answer—for it will largely depend on the texture of your canvas—take off the paint with your palette knife and clean it again with a rag. This being done, paint with greater solidity, with less oil ; a little mastic or amber varnish with the colour may help you to steady it. Many such technical difficulties will require special treatment, and experience alone will enable you to overcome them.
I ought perhaps to tell you that, except for the background and shadows, you might paint all the more solid light passages without a medium, if you wish to complete your study at one sitting.



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