“Auriform (Polished Abalone Shell)”
11 x 14 inches
oil on panel
This painting, along with “Bottle Collection” will be showing at the Susan Powell Fine Art “Annual Still Life Invitational”
April 1 - May 7, 2011
Opening reception on Friday, April 1, 5 - 8 pm
Susan Powell Fine Art
679 Boston Post Road
Madison, Connecticut 06443
The composition for this painting has been slowly evolving in my mind for months, ever since I found the polished abalone shell at a flea market in Seattle while visiting friends there last Labor Day weekend.
Abalone shells are lined with pearlescent nacre, and I have long admired the turquoise, veined interiors and wanted to paint one. But the outside of the shell is usually an ugly, gnarled granite, and I wondered how I could prop one up on end to expose the more interesting inside. When I found this one, buried in a pile of old clocks and dolls at a flea market, but with the outer shell sand blasted off, I knew I had to have it!
Since then, the shell has been sitting in a shadowy corner of my still life shelf. As I worked on other paintings over the last several months I watched how the shell seemed to melt into the shadows, leaving the ethereal, pearlescent surface just barely gleaming out of the depths.
Abalone shells are a low, flat spiral shape, and both the colors and the shape seemed to call for spirals of waves submerging it, implying the shadowy depths beneath tidal waves. I arranged the shell low in the composition, and twisted sheets of wax paper in winding spirals above it.
The distressed, painted shelf supporting the still life has become a cherished fixture of my studio, and by now I have painted every chip and knotty whorl along its edge many times. Somehow, the shell just landed at an opportune spot, and the largest knot on the wood seems to act like a faint, inverse echo of the shape of the shell and waves above. As much as I carefully compose my paintings, I like to embrace these happy accidents, which usually only reveal themselves to me deep into the process of painting.
This painting, including the preparatory drawing, took about 5 studio days a week for about a month. Aside from teaching 2 days per week, this was the sole project I was working on for the course of the month. As with all my paintings, I work exclusively from life, never from photos. I use the finest materials: handmade gesso-primed panels, time-tested medium recipes, and quality oil paints, built up in thin layers. My process is inspired by the historical Flemish layering technique, which I feel is the only way to achieve the level of realism and illusion I aim for.