When I learned to oil paint, in college, my painting teacher assembled still life arrangements for us students to have a go at - we also brought objects of our own into the studio and paired them with donated odds and ends from a sort of prop cupboard. So, besides basic color and texture studies, these attempts at still life were my first real observational paintings. Studying something up close, really looking at the same thing for a long time, its color and form, how light describes its surfaces, how shadows provide contrast and weight - all of this became fascinating to me. And, since I found I was good at it (whatever that means when you're young), naturally it became all I wanted to do. I worked almost exclusively in still life for the next five or six years. My paintings incorporated food, kitchen gadgets, chrome toasters and reflective utensils, salt and pepper shakers, electric mixers, china plates, glassware, and diner-counter table-scapes. In retrospect I know that all that close observation of form served me in good stead and prepared the way for my present work - my engagement with landforms and wider horizons. The problems are the same, really - color, form, light, shadow. And underlying those often more formal concerns, emotion.
I did imbue toasters with a lot of emotion back then (I truly did! I loved them so!), but I found after a while that I had run out of things to say, and I turned to other mediums besides painting. But all things seem to cycle around in time, and painting came knocking on my door again. Now, even though I do primarily paint the landscape, I often return to my first love, the still life. That close attention and deep looking never gets old. Neither does the pure joy of description of form, and the way form can obliquely describe emotion.
Here are two recent still life paintings, both oil on panel, very small, each measures 7" x 5" and took two or three hours to complete. Above, some feverfew blossoms in a glossy red pottery pitcher, and to the left, four rosehips in a glass of water. Both of these paintings contain a tangle of emotions - the plants are from a friend's garden and remind me of her, and both plants are also emblems of my childhood gardens, and echo thunderously in my memory. Feverfew as a potent herbal remedy for basic ailments, rosehips a sweet mixture of fruit and thorns - well, if you have a story to tell, and want to paint that story, I find that the still life contains - just as the landscape does - all the metaphors one could wish.