Being in lockdown has encouraged me to re-look at subject matter immediately around me, such as flowers in my garden. There is a charm to working with familiar flowers and objects – it makes more of a human connection between canvas, artist and viewer.
Throughout my painting career I have stuck to a number of principles: the critical importance of observation, a respect for nature and a love of colour. There is no better subject to put these ideas together than still life – I have always been driven to present still life in a modern style, nothing stuffy and no cold exactitude.
Have a look at my ‘home’ work Daffodils from the Garden (see below) – I had forgotten just how intense their yellow is. I was determined to get that shock of colour onto canvas using very high-key contrasts with my background, with each element enveloped in light. You cannot help but be reminded of Vincent van Gogh (1853–90) and a summer spent refining his yellow for the perfect sunflowers.
Structure and shape
Normally, I start by selecting objects and drapes from around the studio then create the structure and shape of my composition as I like to create a dynamic between objects. It is always visually exciting to create a counterpoint within a painting – here the counterpoint is between the vase of flowers and the silver muffin dish. The interplay of colour and association with other parts of the arrangement help to pull the eye in and around the painting. When organising my compositions I tend to use an inward angle – where two colours meet, the intersection leads the viewer towards the middle of the work. Look at the edge of blue and orange areas.
The daffodils lead a ‘symphony in yellow’ here, for which I used a range of cadmium, Winsor and lemon yellows, both hot and cool, soft and hard. A deep cadmium yellow was used for the fruit and a warm Winsor lemon yellow for the daffodil petals, which contrast with the complementary colour of the violet used for petals in shade, thus giving an intensity to the arrangement.
I decided to use a backdrop of scarlet against the green stems and flowers to bring out that wonderful complementary shock and give a kick to the impact. The reflective qualities of the silver muffin dish pick up the yellows and oranges of drapes and fruit connecting the composition.
Although one has to respect nature in terms of proportion and shape, with colour I don’t care if it takes on a life of its own – you have to think of the bigger picture when painting and I use every technique available to me – including flat design, graduating tone and bold
colours for shade and sunlight.
Bands of falling sunlight are picked out with violet and blue accents on the curved surface of the vase and the sphere of the fruit was described by overlaying a red glaze onto the lower section of the fruit and adding the odd highlight of lemon yellow hue and low light of violet.
DEMONSTRATION: Daffodils from the Garden