Untitled (Violet, Green, Yellow), egg tempera on calfskin parchment, 6 x 7 3/4 in.
One thing I love about doing this new series of still life paintings is getting to play with saturated colors that I'd never see on a farm implement, my source material for previous paintings. I set up a still life with the basic hues, but invent from there. I take a photo of the still life setup––actually several photos, trying out different compositions––and use that as my "drawing" because it establishes a fixed point of view and light.
Untitled (Violet, Green, Yellow) detail
I also enjoy painting the soft curves of fabric, the light turning to dark, the sharper lines of shadow. In this painting I pushed the green curve up against the edge of the panel, thinking to have it interact with it, or with the space beyond. I like the idea of playing with the tensions inherent in form and edge; the yellow form also has a conversation with the bottom left corner. The Descent from the Cross, below, is a painting I often think of when composing:
Rogier van der Weyden, The Descent from the Cross, c. 1435; oil on oak panel, 86 1/2 x 103 in.
photo courtesy Wikipedia. (click the link to see a high resolution image)
When I saw this grand painting many years ago at the Prado, I was amazed by the force of the figures squeezed into a shallow space. The compression added to its emotional power. One aspect of it that I loved is the way the two end figures lean against the frame of the painting, at left a foot, at the right a woman's hip; the folds of cloth also rest on the edge. This creates a incredibly convincing sense of actual space, actual form, on this brilliantly painted two dimensional surface. As I write this, and look at the van der Weyden, I realize that I should have turned the green form a little toward dark at the edge, to give it more of a look of resting against it. Maybe I'll change it, or maybe just let it go, and do better next time.