Background work

20 December 2016

Most of my still life paintings are set up in my studio with light from a window on my right. Although the subject matter is what inspires me, the backgrounds and shadows are some of the most important parts of the painting as they enhance and compliment the subject matter itself.  On the technical side, I nearly always start with the background and shadows, move on to the subject and then dance between the two, building up their relationship until I think it works and they are ‘speaking to each other’.

Bits - 36 x 96cmBits  36 x 96cm

Shadows reflect their object – that’s obvious – but it’s not just the shape or the type of light that comes into play. They have hints of reflective light and colour in them that speak to the object to each side of them.  Sometimes small bits of light bounce off other things and interfere with the prominent shadow and it’s hard to work out where it’s come from.  Likewise, bits of light often capture the dark side of the object.  If the background is busy, it too becomes something different within the shadows.  The relationship between the lit side of the object and its background also varies.  So there is a lot to think about and get involved with.

So what happens when light goes through the object?  “We’ll see”, as my father used to say when I was asking something he didn’t want to answer!  I recently finished a painting of light bulbs with many shapes, sizes and degrees of opacity and I am now working on a row of ten green bottles – all different thicknesses and shades.  We’ll see…..

Hanging by a thread 30 x 90cmHanging by a thread  30 x 90cm


Ten green bottles – work in progress