today, the baby was off with the other side of the family, and i could sit and work – or sit and not work – to my heart’s content. so i spent happy hours sitting there staring at my painting, drowning in cups of coffee.
i started on the front cake plate. that represents my hardest bit, and i like to get that out of the way first. but really all i did was to put in an line representing the left side of the cover where it bisects the waiter’s head.
then i moved to the front of the counter and got the receipt and rolled up silverware. then i got the coffee maker some, putting in the red highlights and painting in the cover of the filter box. and kept on with the red, splashing it liberally (see how small those threadlike reds are?) over the counter underneath the coffee warmer.
i had a particular problem, one i’ve encountered a few times in this painting. between the edge of the coffee warmer and the stack of bread is a white thingie, and there’s what looks like a milk steamer arm that you’d find on an espresso maker, poking into the white space with its hard-edged metal nozzle. so i spent quite a while trying to resolve that.
this makes my eyes hurt. i really should use a tripod…
i had originally left a white space at the right edge of there the stack of bread is, because i read the white thingie into the drawing twice. i do that. and i know at the time that it’s only going to have to be redone – at a cost – later. a co-employee, many ranks uphill from me, once told me that my attention to detail sucked. he was right, of course. i should have been an abstract expressionist.
you can see the spout in the picture above. i had to restate the shadow under the breadplate, and put some burnt sienna into the wooden bread board (further defining the cloth that hangs over the edge (but i can see now that it’s wrong and will have to be redone)). then i went a little nuts with the red, like i said. but suddenly i could see red all over the reference photo, and it’s when i start to paint what i see that i paint well.
there are two schools of thought on this. the one says you have to forget what something’s supposed to look like, and just paint what you see. and the other says you have to inform what you see with what you know is there. i have learned from bitter experience that i really should follow the latter path. but i love the flowing feeling when i paint what i see without thought.
after that i went back toward the middle of the painting, and mostly finished the creams and things in the front of the painting, and got the bottles and jars in front of the waiters to the left. and then i noticed another problem, and got out the toothbrush to carefully scrub the place underneath the left-hand waiter’s left arm, because i just now figured out what it represented.
the area under the one waiter’s arm is actually the other waiter’s two hands, one holding a ticket and the other writing something with a white pen. it fills the space under the one waiter’s arm, but i had drawn it in about half that size.
the scrubbed area didn’t get very light. in fact, it’s pretty dull. and so the highlights have to be very dull as well. so i just outlines the fingers with red and put a few dabs of sienna on the planes of the hand and left it at that. it’s good enough, and i probably don’t have to do anything more to it.
then the last thing i did was to put some color on the waiter on the left. burnt sienna, and some red on her face and neck.
in this way i’ve whittled down what needs to be done to finish this painting. it’s going nice and fast, mainly because i’m trying not to overwork it, and soon i will be done.
and then – what to do with my palette? it’s a giant plastic palette with wells for a couple of dozen watercolors, and each well is filled with as much of a tube as i could squeeze out. i’m running out of burnt umber, it’s true, but when i’m done with this painting i’ll have this massive palette full of paint, and no real desire to use it again.
i’ve moved to making my own paints, and i don’t want to use someone else’s mix that is anyway many years old. i want to make my paints every day, or every painting, or at least every time i run out of paint. so i’m thinking maybe i’ll give my palette to my kid, along with my entire collection of watercolors in tubes. this is an important step. she already has my travel watercolor kit, which my dad gave me when i was her age. maybe she’s not enough of an artist yet to use it, and maybe it’d be better in the studio where jim and i can watch over it (instead of it getting pitched in a hurry when she ducks rent and leaves town, kind of thing). we’ll see. but the next watercolor i do is going to be all made from scratch from dry pigments and gum arabic. i’m looking forward to it. it’s going to be a learning curve, but i love a challenge.