Still-life of chiles and onion-like things…


I did something, today!  😀

Granted that I got out a bit later than I’d expected, but I was able to take a trip to the produce market and get some stuff to paint.

Assorted onions, a shallot, and chiles.

My Watercolor professor had said that fruit and flowers were good subjects for still-lifes.  I had originally intended on painting flowers, but realized relatively quickly that I would not have enough time to really do any flowers (besides maybe lilies) justice.

I’m getting a better handle on local color, but I’m not there, yet.  I think the Watercolor painting will help me with this, though…  That little yellow Cipollini on the lower right was probably the thing I really enjoyed the most out of this assignment…it’s not realistically colored, but rather I was trying to understand how to represent its form in a way that was readable.  As a first attempt, I laid down a really, really pale yellow-beige wash, so even though it looks like there is white there, even the highlights are yellow.  (or were, before I added in white gouache for bright highlights.)

I couldn’t really do that for the chiles, though — all of them, except the little Thai chile on the lower left, had bright white highlights.  They were really shiny.  Instead of trying to paint all around the shiny spots, I used Permanent White gouache (opaque watercolor) to mark the brightest shiny areas.

I also don’t remember what most of these peppers are called in reality…the little red one in the upper right caught my eye in the Organic section, and I realized that chiles would align with onions and shallots, thematically.  At that time, I went back to the regular chile section and picked out a few that looked interesting…which, I think, barely cost me anything at all.

I was sure not to touch the Habañeros, though!  😉  (those things are dangerous.)

The thing that looks like a red onion is a shallot that I mostly-peeled.  They have this really pretty muted purple color…which I think I was successful in capturing.  This was a mixture of Winsor Red (Naphthol Red) and Winsor Blue — Green Shade (Phthalo Blue — Green Shade).  Speaking of which…

Some of the reds I've been talking about (yes!  I finally photographed them!)
Some of the reds I’ve been talking about (yes! I finally photographed them!)

I finally got around to photographing some of my tests.  I don’t have a Phthalo Blue swatch, though it’s a really intense, smooth green-blue.  Naphthol Red (Winsor Red, above) is a red which doesn’t lean very much to either the violet or orange shades (most reds will lean to one side or the other as regards neighboring colors on the color wheel), but it has enough orange in it to interact with the green in the Phthalo blue, and create a brown which mutes the violet masstone (if I’m using that term correctly).  If it is a brown…it’s hard to tell what green plus orange actually equals, because there are no pure colors in paint.  There are pure colors in light; but not in paint.

I’ll have to do a study of violets on here some time that demonstrates the different colors one can get from differing pigments.  If I’d used a violet-leaning red, like Permanent Rose Red or Alizarin Crimson, plus a violet-leaning blue like Ultramarine (French Ultramarine plus Alizarin is GORGEOUS), I would have gotten a much more vivid violet — but one which was different from what I was looking at.

The overtones of the colors (that is, the colors contained in each paint which are in addition to the main color of the paint, or “mass tone”) would have been more compatible and absorbed less light.  Thus, a secondary color which looks less, “muddy,” results from using primary colors that are already biased towards that secondary color.

Because blue and red are the primary colors which create violet when mixed, a violet-leaning blue and a violet-leaning red will give you the most vivid violets when mixed.  However, it also turns out different depending on which pigments you’re using — Permanent Rose gives a lighter shade of violet than Alizarin Crimson, for example, because Alizarin is just much stronger to begin with.

(Tell me if you would like me to explain primary and secondary and tertiary colors in painting.  It’s pretty basic, but the concept is hard to grasp if you’ve never mixed colors.)

I finally got around to replacing almost the last of the Cotmans in my class set.
I finally got around to replacing almost the last of the Cotmans in my class set.

There is a use for “mud”, though.  Most of my shadows had to be in mud, and anything remotely brown or golden had to be muted from one or another color by adding that color’s complement:  that is, the color across from the main color on the color wheel.  But because there are no pure colors, the tone needs to be adjusted and perfected using other colors…the method of which would be difficult to explain unless you were over my shoulder.  But basically, you have to cancel out the overtones you don’t want, while feeding the ones you do.

I also broke down and bought a true Viridian, today — not knowing that it was just some variant of Chromium Oxide Green.  My “Viridian Hue” was Phthalo Green — you can see in the above photo that it’s a lot brighter than Viridian.  (However, I will probably want to paint that Viridian sample out again — it looks like I wasn’t using enough of it.  When it gets thin like that, I’m probably not using enough paint.  Same with that very thin application of Winsor Red, above.)

Last thing:  and this is that landmarks in the background of the painting can help to measure one’s objects.  This still-life was spread out on a couple of paper towels.  Toward the end of my sketching, I added in the seam between the paper towels — and realized that something was way off.  The Thai chiles, in this case, were way too small.  I hadn’t magnified everything consistently.

I didn’t tell you that I was working with tiny chiles and tiny onions, did I?  🙂  So, the shallot looks like a red onion, now.  Well…


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Haru ("Codey") is a third-year Master's student in Library and Information Science, hoping to find a way to fuse their desire to make the world a better place and to finance their art.

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