Saturday, October 13, 2012

While waiting for lunch...

I never tire of the classic diner still life. There's always about a 15-20 minute time limit from when the order goes in to when the food is on the table. The time limit focuses the brain better than coffee does.

The humble catsup bottle, sugar shaker, napkin holder, and creamer are an interesting challenge to paint, because they offer a variety of transparent and reflective surfaces: stainless steel, glass, and paper. And there's the catsup creeping up the side of the bottle, backlit and warmed with transmitted light.

What interested me this time were the two colors of light on the subject. From the left was a cool light the window, which mostly looked out to the blue sky. The light inside was from a relatively warm compact fluorescent. So my first move after laying in the subject in pencil was to lay down a  ghost wash to establish the overall cool and warm statement, being careful to paint around the highlights.

I hope all this make sense. I would show you a video, but I was too preoccupied to shoot one.

Technical notes: The painting is done with a half pan watercolor set in a watercolor notebook. I used two flat watercolor brushes: 1 inch and 1/4 inch, with a few dark accents from watercolor pencils.


Erik Bongers said...

Yeah, the "Fight of the Lights", I saw it, even without reading the text.
Like the rendering of the ketchup.

Tom Hart said...

I love that "ghost wash" tip. One of my favorites.

A couple of material questions, if you don't mind:
I'm enjoying my Schminke half-pan set. But I'm a little concerned because I'm having trouble finding a source for replacement (or different) half-pan colors. Where do you get yours? It seems that the suppliers that sell the sets don't sell the individual half-pans (or pans).

Also, I know you use a small soft back to transport your field sketching materials. Inside that, do you have a small hard case for the protection of your brushes. That's another item I'm having trouble locating.

Amelia said...


I really like your combination of loose washes with pencil definition, it's a great style and gives the eye a lot to look at. I primarily work in watercolor and have been doing it for a long time . . . and yet I still learn something new every time you do one of these. It's both inspiring and challenging, something for me to aspire to. Love that ketchup, too!

Thanks for blogging so faithfully. I know it's a big commitment on your part but it's so nice to take a break and see what you've been up to each day.

Rich said...

You've got that catsoup real ketchupy, James, and Chardin would probably enjoy this little still life as well, if he still were among us...

David Teter said...

So this is a 15-20 minute little study or did you continue some later?
Love these, both the diner studies as well as your watercolors.

Anonymous said...

Very nice, that ketchup creeping up the sides, especially.- mp

Cale said...

Hi, James
just got back from sketching as well.
What did you mix for the grey/warm greys in the shadows and napkin holder?

Celeste Bergin said...

informative post and a beautiful watercolor

James Gurney said...

Tom, the half pans in most watercolor sets are interchangeable. I have some extras from a Lukas set that I've plugged into my Schmincke. You can also fit some full pans (which are twice as long) into the slots. But like you I've run out of some colors, so what I usually do is to squeeze some tube watercolor into the well to fill it up again.

Cale, it's hard to remember what I used in those mixtures, but probably raw sienna, ultramarine blue, and raw umber.

Thanks, Rich, Anon and Celeste.

Amelia, I'm so glad you're enjoying the daily posts, and thanks for taking the time to follow them and to comment.

David, this one was finished completely on the spot. After the meal I added a few touches of white gouache for the highlights I missed, especially on the creamer.

Unknown said...

The light inside was from a relatively warm compact fluorescent.