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Silver Globe Pitcher: FINAL


oil on panel
16 x 20 inches
Award: Oil Painters of America 2009 Western Regional Juried Show

I made a video slide show showing all the stages of the painting and some detail closeups. You can see the movie for this painting here.


More about this painting:
In 2008 I began a series of still life paintings using crumpled wax paper as my subject. I was drawn to the material because I can twist, and crush the wax paper into draped and spiraling shapes to create dynamic environments for the simple, antique bottles and pitchers I collect.

I am always on the lookout for interesting vessels to paint, and when I found a spherical silver water pitcher at a flea market, I instantly fell in love.

Certain objects call to me and must be painted. I have learned that collecting something not-quite-right, just because I "might use it someday" is rarely successful. Those objects languish on my shelf for years, always passed over. The objects I paint resonate with me deeply and demand to be painted immediately. I had a vision of the silver globe pitcher draped in a "shawl" of crumpled wax paper, with the shawl arranged as if a small breeze were filling and lifting it.

When I set up a new still life I spend several studio days crumpling paper and discarding it, moving objects around, trying to find the best shape and composition through my viewfinder. The wax paper takes gentle coaxing and twisting to arrange it in with the feeling I am envisioning.

The final arrangement must look fresh and transparent, like it just landed there, no matter how many discarded pieces it took to reach my vision.

I begin all my paintings with a detailed contour drawing in graphite pencil on wooden panel I have prepared myself with homemade gesso. I spend several days on the drawing, first on trace paper and then directly on the board. I find that if I spend the time needed on the drawing, the structure and believability of the final painting is more successful. I never rush the drawing process, even when I am anxious to begin painting.

Once the drawing is finished, I paint in many layers over the course of a month or more, first in grays, called a "grisaille", to establish values, and later in color. I use tiny brushes from start to finish, and work on a small area each day. I move slowly around the painting, bringing each section up to the highest degree of finish possible before moving to the next area. Silver Globe Pitcher took me over 120 hours to complete over the course of 2 months.

It is only the latest stages of my process where I get to enjoy the beautiful and most subtle effects of light and texture on the surface of the objects, like the turquoise tarnished area at the base of the pitcher, the transparent paper melting into the background, the pedestal of the pitcher peeking through the folds of paper. But it requires all the earlier stages of building a solid drawing and value structure in order to successfully render the beauty I see in the surface details.

Silver Globe Pitcher is a rare instance where I include a self-portrait in my painting. I wanted the self-portrait to be a discovery, so the viewer sees and appreciates the whole composition first, before noticing my tiny image reflected in the vase. That way, each viewer has a sense of having discovered something on their own, a small secret in the painting.

My self-portrait embedded in the painting allows each person to discover my own image peering back. The viewer can see the entire little studio where I worked on this painting, and have a sense of being able to get a glimpse into the experience of the painter.

See the previous blog post about this painting here.


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Reader Comments (15)

Wonderful. So satisfying. Although it makes me want to smush the whole thing and crinkle up the paper even more, just to hear the sound it would make, and feel the crunching in my fingers.

Favourite parts: the way the pitcher dissolves. I always feel I have to delineate the boundaries of each object. It's a compulsion I haven't fought off successfully yet... And the "tooth" marks where the wax paper was torn off the roll :-)

But really it's about the light. The paper just provides a context for light and shadow.

More please!

February 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSpatula

Beautiful piece Sadie!

February 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPaul F

Fantastic, love the reflection and image inside the pitcher.
Have truly enjoyed visits to your blog, thanks so much for sharing your work.

February 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJim Serrett

The colors underneath the globe look like the colors one sees when motor oil mixes with a puddle of water in the sunlight.
I can tell by looking at it that you love it...Can you tell it loves you?

February 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGregory Becker

This is beautiful! The pyrotechnics of the paper and the pitcher are undeniable, but I also think that it looks like you could peel that old paint right off the board they are sitting on. Brava!

February 5, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersarah meredith

Thanks everyone, especially for noticing the specific things, I never know what other people are seeing!

Spatula - When I looked close I realized a contour was rarely visible at all! I try to get rid of contours whenever possible, it's fun to see how much form you can still describe.

Gregory - I DO love that oily colorful surface... in fact I spent the last full day of painting finalizing that, I didn't want it to be done, it was so much fun to paint. I think there's some sort of oxidation process going on making those colors. I do love the objects I paint, although sometimes when people visit my studio they says "that's IT?" because the real life objects look smaller and less significant in person. I've never wondered if the objects I paint love me back, but now I'll have something new to think about during my next painting :)

Sarah thanks for noticing the chipped paint on the board, it was just so wonderful and fun to do!! In fact one little spot keeps fooling even me. I keep thinking there's a drop of paint I need to smooth out and then I realize I put it there on purpose. (Doesn't show up in the photo though, it's too subtle) I love that old board I found - it was the shelf in a closet of our house. I was thinking I'd have to scavenge a good surface for my still lifes, and then it turned up right in my own house. There is a yummy swirled knot on one edge with paint ground into the cracks, it will make an appearance soon I think....

Thanks everyone, painting is a lonely business as you all know well!

February 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSadie J. Valeri

I was talking about your painting. It's breathing on its' own now.

February 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGregory Becker

Oh yes, it's much easier to feel the painting loving you than the objects in them :)

But sometimes the painting hates me... those are the bad days!

February 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSadie J. Valeri

Glorious. Congratulations!

February 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterslinberg

I have really been enjoying your blog's quite inspiring! Beautiful painting.....

February 16, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterd. prizzi

Sadie-- Just watched the video for your pitcher painting. Incredible! Love seeing the process taken apart. Thanks for sharing this, and for your lovely work! --Rachael

March 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRachael Burger

This is just stunning, it works on so many levels and the reflection of you is like a little old master painting in itself :-)

June 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

Fantastic! Its a great painting. Your deserve the recognition. Love the reflections.

June 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHonor Martinez

Very, very nice. This is a strong, insightful painting and it really shows that you kept your eyes wide open the whole time, looking and looking. There aren't many artists around these days with that kind of commitment. Congratulations on a wonderful piece.

August 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Apatoff

I love your silver and wax paper compositions! They are really beautiful! I have painted a lot of silver, but can't wait to try the wax paper!

September 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSuzy
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