Many artists have their ‘signature’ subjects: visual preoccupations they return to again and again throughout their careers.
Pablo Picasso included guitars in some of his earliest “blue period” paintings. The instrument continued to appear throughout his cubist developments, and again in his later ‘free’ style.
Andrew Wyeth had his secret model, Helga. Edward Hopper had windows. He didn’t so much paint them, as paint ‘through’ them. And dear Edgar Degas had his ballerinas, capturing them solo or in groups, painted or in pastel. He even completed a late-period mixed-media sculpture of this subject.
When I become either famous or dead, like those other guys, I will probably be remembered for my coffee mugs. The executor of my estate will uncover vast, dusty troves of the; ferreted away in wooden trunks and under floorboards. They will sell at auction amidst a hubbub of awe mingled with pity. “If only he had applied his prodigious talent toward a more monumental subject.” And that’s fine. There’s a certain steadfastness about the coffee mug; an inevitability to their forms that makes them at least as worthy of immortalization as musical instruments.
Balance Through Contrast
This one developed over the course of a couple hours two weekends ago. The simple harmonious color scheme and solid composition lend this one a unique charm. The real game-changer, though, has to be the spoon. It adds interest through three kinds of visual contrast:
1) Detail. The suggestion of the intricate details in the handle contrast with the otherwise simple shapes of the napkin, mug and table top.
2) Movement. The spoon creates a strong diagonal line across the composition otherwise dominated by less dynamic vertical and horizontal lines.
3) Surface. The concave bowl of the spoon and the suggestion of reflective metal provides a balance to the matte planar surfaces of the other picture components.
This painting was less fraught with difficulties than some of its predecessors. From an early stage, the picture showed promise:
At this point, even greater pictorial unity is present than in the finished product. What it lacks is a full depth of tone. Also missing is any differentiation between the material that make up the different parts. There are no hard-and-fast rules dictating the inclusion of these qualities in every piece. The image probably could have been considered a successful, finished work at this point..
However, I had set out to depict a more fully-fleshed-out still life. I also wanted to see whether I had learned to avoid some of the issues that plagued earlier efforts, so I continued.
The end result justified the decision, in my opinion. What about yours?