“Twisted Twenties” exercise

twisted twenties - simple apple still life exercises Apr 6 2019
The bottom two were timed at 20 minutes each, and the top two weren’t timed (I’d guess about 30–40 minutes each)

Study topics

Twisted Twenties” exercise from Sarah Sedwick (three-color palette, quick studies, simple subject)

Process notes

Set up the first three subjects near a window but no direct light, and the last one with a direct light. Rotated the subject with each study for slightly different views and shapes.

Trying out my new Arches Oil Paper with synthetic brushes and solvent-free gel medium. Scrubbed some Gamsol/Safflower mix onto the paper before starting each study with a synthetic brush to help the paint flow better and not drag over the surface.

Premixed the colors from yellow (cadmium yellow pale hue), blue (ultramarine), and red (alizarin permanent for first two and naphthol red for second two).

What I learned

My goal was to keep the brush strokes simple and unfussy, and that is so much harder than it sounds! There are a few things I can try next time to move in this direction:

  • focus on value and temperature, and be less concerned with exact hue
  • limit myself to one brush stroke in each color shape
  • organize my palette with more clarity when mixing colors, and mix enough steps for the light family and shadow family to turn the form with single strokes instead of blending edges together
  • shift my brain from seeing a specific apple with all of its particular dull spots and color markings toward being inspired by the apple and simplifying it
  • do preliminary black and white studies and then do color versions based on what I discover about the value relationships

I appreciated seeing the differences between soft window light and a direct light on the subject, and the impact of the different lighting conditions on the shadows. It was definitely challenging to find the terminator line on the setups with window lighting.

It was also good to be able to see the difference between my two reds, alizarin and naphthol. The alizarin made a cooler red that was more like the subject, which was very evident in the shadow side of the apple. This is a good case for having both a warm and a cool red on the palette, but also what got me thinking about exploring a focus on value and temperature over exact hue.

This apple’s best days are behind it and it’s lost any sense of vitality…I noticed this while painting the studies, but forgot the important principle of “don’t just paint it exactly as it appears in nature — make a good painting”. Or as Carol Marine says in her book Daily Painting: Don’t Ever Use the Line “But It Was Really Like That”.