cezanne still life -...

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www.ArtTutor.com 1 In this lesson we will be painting a still life inspired by Cézanne and other Post-Impressionists, paying close attention to the way colour temperature can define an image. Still Life with Fruit Bowl, by Cézanne (1879-80) I will be taking hints from a range of artists, such as Gauguin and Picasso, but paying particular attention to this still life painted by Cézanne, ‘Still Life with Fruit Bowl’. My set up will be different to his, and I urge you to set up your own, but I will be making reference to and observing this painting throughout. At some stages we will see the close distinctions between a ‘Cézanne-style’ and a ‘Gauguin-style’. OILS DEMONSTRATION CÉZANNE STILL LIFE By Lucy Somers

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    In this lesson we will be painting a still life inspired by Czanne and other Post-Impressionists, paying close attention to the way colour temperature can define an image.

    Still Life with Fruit Bowl, by Czanne (1879-80) I will be taking hints from a range of artists, such as Gauguin and Picasso, but paying particular attention to this still life painted by Czanne, Still Life with Fruit Bowl. My set up will be different to his, and I urge you to set up your own, but I will be making reference to and observing this painting throughout. At some stages we will see the close distinctions between a Czanne-style and a Gauguin-style.


  • Czanne Still Life by Lucy Somers

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    My Still Life

    Here is the still life I will be working from. If you choose to arrange your own still life, there are a few things to consider that will make it easier to paint. It is good to make sure you have features that will stretch to the top and bottom of the picture plane; here I used a wine bottle, and scattered fruit in front of the main arrangement. Also, one feature of Czannes still lifes is that there is almost always a horizontal line present either as the edge of the table, or the horizon line. I was working on the floor, and so created a faux table edge with a block of wood. As for the fruit, I was desperate to pick up some Russet apples because of their gorgeous cranky surface, but instead made do with some soft pears that I knew would bruise well after a few days painting. Also try to find somewhere that the lighting can be steady and angled on one side. I painted mine in diffused natural light with a small lamp to augment it. This will ensure that there are lots of shadows to paint, and that the colours dont change too much as the weather changes!

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    Materials For this painting you will need a selection of quite hard bristly brushes, with one soft brush for delicate outlines and a large watercolour brush for gentle glazes.

    The colours will depend on your still life, but I will be using: Cadmium Red & Cadmium Yellow (for the fruit) Ultramarine Blue & Prussian Blue (for the cloth and floor) Violet & Alizarin Crimson (for glazes at the end) White (to make the colours cooler) Raw Umber (to bruise the fruit) Black (for the outlines)

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    The Initial Sketch

    Here I have started straight onto the canvas, with the intent of achieving Czannes style by imitating how he worked. In many of Czannes later paintings the under-drawing is a major feature of the work, and the painting is complete at what will be our stage three! The under-drawing does not need to be perfect, just brash and confident. Work out where your still life should sit on the canvas by trying different things out, and keep a rag next to you to wipe off any lines you dont want. Try to be selective in your first sketch, the idea is to just get a few key marks on the canvas to act as an anchor and guide your scale as you put in more detail. You can see the ground I used was an old painting that I had painted out, and if you can, do the same, because old paintings form an excellent seal over the canvas, and also provide a fantastic texture to work over. Using old surfaces will be especially useful if you are a cautious painter or if you are used to using small amounts of paint. The craggy surface will make it essential to load up your brush perfect for Czannes slicing brushmarks.

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    Step 1: Blocking in the Shadows Now you have a rough idea about where all the objects belong, start to fill in the main areas of shadow with the same thin paint you were drawing with. This shadow will become more subtle as the painting progresses, but will help form the structure of the image. One feature that makes Czanne paintings look Czanne-ish, is an overall warmth in the image; the blues are often delicate and purplish, with lots of browns and reds dominating the image. This builds up the pressure, ready for the cold highlights on the fruit to be the perfect resting place for the eye, making them the centre of attention. To achieve this, Gauguin and Van Gogh went for very intense contrasts of colour temperature, painting the scene in the hottest colours possible, and then using icy lemon yellow or cold white to contrast. Czanne, however, approached this technique a lot more delicately, building up the image in layers of hot and cold over the top of each other. This is how we will be working. To achieve the delicate warmth in the material and floor area, for the majority of the painting process they will be very blue and overly cold until the final step when we glaze it with a red. The fruit will also to-and-fro, between hot and cold. First cold in the base coat, then with thin hot colours scratched into the surface as bruises and shadows, then the final highlight of cold dazzling light. See the bright highlight on the right-most apple.

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    Step 2: First Drops of Colour!

    While the surface is still dry get the first coat of clean bright colour on the fruit. One feature of Czannes paintings of fruit is that they are the dominant part of the image because they have the most intense colour. One way we will achieve this is by giving them a ground of unrealistically bright colour to glint through our later layers. For this use a totally clean brush (giving it a fresh clean, so that dried on dirt doesnt sully our colours) and a small jar of clean turpentine. Rather than mix up our thin solution of paint, we will follow Czannes method of working with a wet brush, with thick paint at the tip. This means that the paint will only be thinned once you are spreading it onto the surface. You will need to play about with how much turps to have on the brush, because all brushes hold different amounts of liquid. The perfect proportion will wet the canvas enough to let the paint spread easily, but not so much that it runs down the surface. Rags at the ready! Dont worry about catching the colour from the outline, but be sure to clean it off the brush straight away, so that it doesnt sully all of the colour.

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    I have started with the most basic colours I could see in the fruit, beginning with the palest. I started all of my fruit with a thin coat of cadmium yellow. Then adding tiny amounts of cadmium red to my cadmium yellow, I got all the various shades seen on the oranges and apples. Remember to keep this fairly thin, so we can carry on working over this layer, and use as few brushstrokes as possible. Think bright and gaudy! This is the stage at which many Czanne paintings were left, showcasing just how confident and delicate he could be with the painted line.

    Still Life with Water Jug, circa 1892-3

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    Step 3: Block in the Grounds Now your fruit is roughed in, it is time to rough in the main areas of the image. Like the fruit, you should work a shade or two brighter than you would expect, so that we can darken it later. Here I have blocked in the main colours of my still life, with an opaque layer of paint, which has given the painting more of a Gauguin feel. In hindsight I would have worked more tonally from the offset, and painted these layers with much thinner paint so that it did not have the opaque coverage. I would suggest working these areas in three tonal

    selections of each colour, with a separate light, mid, and dark tone out on your palette. One thing that is key to attaining that Czanne look is to work the surface in small clumps of short brushstrokes that are all slicing in the same direction. This direction should be up to you and how your wrist wants to move, what is important is the consistency and confidence.

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    Step 4: Re-establish Shadows and Dirty the Fruit

    Now it is time to heat up the temperature of the fruit. To give them the dense heaviness of Czannes fruit we will really over-emphasise any slight bruise or shadow by adding small patches of dark and dirty colour anywhere we can. For this you will need the stiffest scratchiest brush you can, because we will be rubbing small amounts of paint into the surface quite roughly. Returning to our palette with cadmium yellow, cadmium red, add some raw umber and ultramarine. Without diluting the colours at

    all, try mixing a little of the blue into any reds and oranges, and mix some of the browns into yellow colours, allow for lots of contamination between colours. Now observe the fruit very closely, looking out for any slight shadow or bruise, and work into the surface of the painting by rubbing in darker colours with a very firm brush. This will mix in the dirty colour youre using with the surface paint as you go. Wherever the fruit has a shadowed edge, you can work some of the outline colour into the fruit. Be experimental with what colours you use to dirty your fruit, but test it on the palette first. I also used tiny bits of any other colour I had out on palettes. For the apples I worked a tiny amount of neat ultramarine blue into the red, for the pears I worked raw umber into small patches. Be careful to use the paint in tiny amounts, because otherwise it will be too easy to accidentally cover too much of the fruit. We want to keep some of the bright colour peeping through still.

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    Step 5: Meaty Opaque Highlights

    Now, as a total contrast to the previous step, we will be working the highlights into the fruit using large quantities of thick, cold colours. On coloured surfaces, Czanne made the light look cold by adding white to whatever colour he was covering, so return to the palettes we used when painting in the hot colours, and try adding more white. To maintain that dappled Czanne look, use a filbert brush, keep tonal changes in small clumps, and make sure brushstrokes generally point in one direction. On the fruit, add a small amount of white to the colour of the fruit and lay it on quite thickly. In places I used my thumb to get the paint extra smooth. Be over-zealous, add these highlights anythwere the fruit is in the brightest light. Once your fruit is newly highlighted, reassert the dark outlines that may have got covered up in previous stages. This can be a chance to slightly alter the shape of your fruit too. You can see at the top of the pear, I used some of the blue from the outline as reflected light from the teapot.

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    Step 6: Smoothness and Patterns

    Even though the mottled texture is prevalent throughout the image, you can always create focus with a patch of smooth paint. I used that effect here with the light on my white teapot, which although far from a clean white, still outshines the other highlights. My favourite method for getting that crisp smoothness is still the pad of my thumb; it is far more tactile than a palette knife, and because your thumb curves at the edges you do not get the harsh edges indicative of the palette knife. With the white on the pot, the overall image is beginning to look rather blue and a bit too cold. Therefore, in the next step we will be softening the impact of the blue cloth and the blue floor to give the fruit the chance to be really dominant. For the next step the paint needs to be at least tacky, if not touch dry. I left mine for 2 days, but this will depend on how thick your paint is.

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    Step 7: Temper the Surroundings

    Next is the step that absolutely filled me with joy. At the previous step our painting looks a bit chaotic with all the colours competing at equal intensity. The final stage is where we will work into the semi-dry surface with thin solutions of transparent reds, to really warm up the surroundings at the same time as calming our blues and letting the fruit be the most colourful elements. I left my painting for two days, but keep an eye on surface, because you want it touch dry but not completely dry. This way, we can disturb the top layers of paint, without lifting all of the paint off. Fill two egg-cup sized containers a third of the way with turps (or white spirit) add a pea of alizarin crimson to one and a pea of violet to the other and dissolve the paint fully (preferably with a different brush to the one you will be using).

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    For the central blue cloth, I used the violet solution. If the surface is totally dry, use the solution, but if it is still wet, you may want to make your violet progressively thicker, and work it into the surface a bit more. You can see around this apple that I started fairly pale and for the darker patches to the left I was using the technique the encountered at the beginning of working undiluted paint into the surface with a turps soaked brush.

    On the lower area I used the Alizarin Crimson solution, but with a far softer brush a large squirrel-hair watercolour brush. I worked very softly trying not to go over any area twice, but some of the pigment was still picked up. I made a point of using this, to exaggerate the dappled light, delicately using any white I picked up to add highlight elsewhere. As a final touch take some black on a fine watercolour brush and add a couple of choice crisp outlines, but take care to not put too many in!

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    The Finished Outcome

    What joy it was to put on that final glaze of alizarin, and see the yellow pears come to life! With my natural inclination to paint very brightly and very opaquely, it was quite a challenge to keep the painting looking Czanne rather than Gauguin! Before writing this guide I hadnt realized just how close their fruit-painting styles were, or just how enamoured Gauguin was of his fellow post-impressionist, Czanne. To keep the painting looking more Czanne-ish I definitely would have kept the ground less opaque, as I discuss in step 3, but Im overall thrilled with the final product!

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    About Lucy Somers Lucy Somers is an early career artist exploring paint in a variety of different manners, working abstractly and conceptually, creating painted environments, and painted constructions. Alongside this Lucy paints figuratively, using still life and interior scenes to test out ideas and revel in paint itself. See Lucys full profile at: www.ArtTutor.com/artists/Lucy-Somers

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