Earthly Delights: Works in Progress

I’m writing this at about the halfway point of the project as funded by Calgary Arts Development’s individual artist project grant program. Earthly Delights – 10 Paintings of Food in Places, has close to half of the paintings nearing completion now, and I have begun assembling the reference material for the next three paintings in the project. By the time you read this blog post I anticipate the first four paintings will be complete, the next three will be well into development and I will be assembling reference material for the final 3 paintings in the project.

So by way of a progress report I will share process images of the first four paintings along with a few production notes on each of them. In later individual posts I will share my thought process behind each of these paintings along with the finished images. Until then, enjoy!

The setting for Stories as Old as Time is a collage of various spots I photographed at Reader Rock Gardens in Calgary this summer. If you haven’t been, it is a real treat, a very special garden space in a city more familiar for its prairie grasslands and naturalized green spaces. As this painting references Fragonard’s french rococo painting, The Swing, it has been quite a challenge to interpret this contemporary Calgary garden space through that lens, but thrilling to see the painting come together.

Leaving the Party Too Early is set in Union Cemetery, which is on the other side of the fence from Reader Rock Gardens. Fun fact, there is a reference to that in the background of Stories as Old as Time (top). I think you can tell that I am debating how I am going to incorporate a few elements in the painting around the central tombstone and between the grave plot wall and table on the right side of the painting. However I do have a plan for that and hope it goes well in the completion of the painting. I photographed the setting in the summer, however for the finished painting I want a more autumnal feeling, so I have been shifting the colours from the reference photos, taken on a clear summer day, to a moodier green/orange/purple scheme.

The Social Circuit was photographed at the Canyon Meadows Aquatic and Fitness Centre after hours. The lighting was quite challenging, being a combination of flat overhead and front facing flash. Plus I was taking the picture from between the arms of neighbouring fitness equipment. They cast some pretty odd shadows that are none the less an interesting compositional element I may choose to work with. Inspiration comes from all sorts of unlikely places. For this painting I had to manufacture a semblance of a fancy celebration cake and a wedding cake. This required a lot of Youtube tutorials for cake stacking and cake icing and piping techniques, and a few days of preparing the props before they could be photographed. So I have a new skill set now (I’m probably setting a high expectation for the next birthday cake I bake). Originally I intended this painting should have a very warm beige for the gym space, however the window areas, which I wanted to be a more spacious feeling blue-green, were so eye-catching on the left side of the painting I decided I had to shift the beige of the fitness room more to the green side. This choice basically meant a marathon 12 hour painting session that day. More colour adjustments from my initial design will be necessary as I paint the still life portion of the image. But that’s what keeps painting interesting isn’t it? It rarely goes exactly to plan.

This setting for Every New Salvation was photographed at a walk-in and family practice medical centre in my local area. As you can imagine photographing in these spaces, which are currently being used, requires a quickness, flexibility and sensitivity to maintaining privacy of the users and not getting in the way of the staff. So there is a lot of knowing what elements I need to photograph and understanding that I will need to collage together different elements to fulfill my vision for the painting. Then back at the studio I find an area that has a similar lighting profile to the primary setting to stage the still life portion of the composition. For the still life I checked out 40+ health and diet books from the library to use as props. I imagine the poor librarians, should they stop to wonder why I am checking out so many different kinds of diet books, wondering how conflicted I must be to be trying so many different diets on at once. I certainly got some weight training lugging them all to the studio and back.