Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Garlic...and shadow box setup

Tried out a new surface last night, a double-oil-primed linen panel from Ray-Mar. I liked it in some ways, didn't in others (as is typical of everything, from painting surfaces to life in general).

Wonderful artists and blogger-friends Loriann Signori and Casey Klahn asked me about my still life setup. A picture is worth... so here's a photo rather than a detailed and confusing explanation.

The silvery thing in the right-corner foreground is the metal spotlight (cheap adjustable artist's spotlight into which I put a daylight-simulation bulb). The shadow box is, as you can see, the essence of low-tech: just cardboard with a couple of sides ripped off. A lot of people use cloth for their backdrops; I use paper, because it gives me a cleaner shadow shape and simply because I tend to enjoy painting just the object without any other subject matter (e.g., cloth folds) to distract the eye. I ordered a bunch of cardstock paper in tons of different colors for the backdrop colors. I also really enjoy changing the color of the paper on the sides to give interesting colors in the reflected light (wish I could claim this idea, but it's extrapolated from the marvelous book How To See Color and Paint It by Arthur Stern, which I believe is out of print; it cost me $60 a few years ago on Amazon and I just checked and it's now about $90. I only ever did a few of the exercises in the book--it's nearly all exercises--but the concepts are so exciting and become ingrained after even just a couple of exercises. If you're curious and don't want to buy it, try to have your public library order it from an interlibrary loan. I get to borrow TONS of painting books that way!).

The single light source is extremely important in order to produce unambiguous shadows, both form and cast. I'd love to someday try painting with only north light, but my studio has skylights and windows on every side--!--which is a lovely thing, but bad for painting. Because of this, I only paint at night so that I can control the direction of the light source.

To the right of my shadow box, you can see how I impatiently just shove potential subject-matter objects and already-painted objects over on the countertop. Recognize any of those? :) I also love how the little wooden guy has ended up sort of saluting the clay models over there.

More art on my website: jalapfaff.com


JMahorney said...

Very nice Garlic. Really like the brushwork.
Yup that's about the setup I use. Same light and I use paper too. I've started putting a "snoot" on my light to limit the light direction/focus more. The snoot is just blackwrap (think matte black tinfoil) clothpinned around the light. The only thing I mess with is different light bulbs. Now I use a spot halogen but Ive swear I've tried every bulb. I'm always trying to find the whitest bulbs I can. "daylight" bulbs seem too blue(even ott lights) and regular incandescent are too orange.
Thanks for sharing. :)

Marian Fortunati said...

Very cool to see your set up.
My friend Laura told me about the interlibrary loan idea a while back... Stupid me... I was spending big bucks which I don't have BUYING the books..
Thank goodness I have internet friends with such great ideas and lessons to share!!

Casey Klahn said...

I made a rudimentary one for my drawing class. It was the first time I'd done one, but looking at yours I see that I'm on track, but your details are the bomb.

Thanks for posting this!

Loriann Signori said...

Fascinating Jala! Thanks so much for posting all of that information about your set-up. I'll check out your book suggestion as well.
A night painter-I never knew!
Cheers, Loriann

Kelley Carey MacDonald said...

I was going to say how much I loved the color in the garlic - then when I looked at your set up, there were the colors! Thanks for sharing, your painting of the garlic is just gorgeous.

Karen said...

I love the garlic...I love how you always find variations of color within the larger areas of local color.
Thanks for posting the picture and describing your set-up!. I love to get a peek inside others' studios. And the info. about the paper is really interesting...and makes complete sense with your paintings...I may have to try that.

Jala Pfaff said...

Jeff - thanks. I'm not sure what kind of daylight sim. bulb I'm using at the moment, but it kinda works. Or at least I've learned to work with it. Does putting the "snoot" on the lamp help? With what?

Marian - Yeah, you wouldn't believe how many books I request from the interlibrary loan thing. Like, hundreds. They probably all have me on a blacklist somewhere.

Casey - what details? You mean like using paper vs. cloth, or...?

Kelley - Thank you. Glad you liked it. I love seeing others' studios and setups, too.

Karen - Thanks for noticing.

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

Our library system is a treasure trove of out of print art books which are now very valuable. Thanks for sharing your setup and lighting tips. Great stuff here, Jala.

Dewberry Fine Art said...

Thanks for sharing your set up. I love the thought process of getting to the paint. Such an important aspect that I sometimes over look in the excitement or limited time I have to paint.
Love how you handled the painting of the garlic.

Jala Pfaff said...

Mary, Dori - Thanks much for coming by the blog. I'm glad you got some use out of the info here. ...Aren't libraries great?

Ed Terpening said...

Just found your blog, nice work. Like the scissors painting, too! I use RayMar oil primed linen and love it (though wish they were not so expensive).

Jennifer Bellinger said...

Love your paintings! I knew when I saw your oils that you must use the still life set-up box from Arthur Stern's book! I bought that book back in 1985 and it is why I'm so in love with painting! Values take care of themselves if you just trust your eye and mix the color you see! I teach this method to my beginning oil students. Also the direct method taught by Charles Hawthorne and before him, Monet. Best wishes for your current exhibit of pastel paintings.