Having grown a little weary of the strict diet of cast drawings and paintings, I decided to go totally ca-razy by doing a still life focussing on porcelain and reflected colour. The idea, initially, was simply to paint a white coloured object on a coloured cloth. What I wanted to do was try to get the white of the vase looking light enough, but still allow enough 'room' for a much lighter highlight. The photograph doesn't show this particularly well but the 'real thing' is a bit better. Even so, it's a very difficult thing (as I discovered) to tone down the local colour of the vase to give the highlight enough punch.
I also wanted to try capturing the reflected colour of the red cloth, which I think I managed reasonably successfully. If anything I was a bit timid with how far I pushed this.
The cloth itself was a real struggle though. To begin with, I made a poor choice when I selected vermillion on its own for the cloth. In nature, the cloth was actually quite a cool red and probably a little alizarin crimson, with a touch of white mixed in, would have been a sensible addition. The next problem was giving a satisfactory rendition of the numerous competing factors involved in the surface of the cloth: first, the pleats and their individual 'wrinkles', secondly the undulation of the cloth as a whole, third the receding lines (due to perspective) on the uppermost surface, forth the sheen of the fabric - and so on. Layer upon layer of paint went down, got scraped up, was wiped away or got painted over. The best I can say about the final result is that it's better than it was! I've so much respect for those brilliant painters of ornate fabrics from centuries past!
The Chinese urn was a bit of an afterthought - intended to add interest. I like the contrast of the austere, almost monolithic white vase in the background with the little urn's more approachable dimensions and gleefully elaborate decoration.
Ben Laughton Smith
Aspiring artist, training in the classical tradition.