Let’s take a look at a still life this month, Still Life – Kettle #2 by Nicolai Fechin. Still lifes don’t usually captivate me as a great landscape or portrait painting might. But this one by Fechin is an exception. It’s a wonderful and complex display of color and technique.
(Click here to download a high-resolution photo of the painting.)
Brief details about the painting:
- Oil on Canvas
- 24 x 20 Inches
- Completed: Unknown
- Current Location and Ownership: Unknown
Use this as an opportunity to test your ability to analyze master paintings. In the comments below, share what you think are the top 3 most important aspects of the painting. These could relate to areas such as composition, color, value, progress, brushwork, subject, or symbolism. Once you have done that, you can compare your thoughts with my own in the drop-down below.
Click here to see my thoughts.
- The light orange background provides contrast for the dark focal point around the middle. There’s also a strong contrast in color temperature: warm oranges and yellows against cool blues and purples.
Tip: It’s important to understand the role of the background in your painting. It might not command attention, but without it, your focal point cannot shine. The background is to the focal point as the bass guitarist is to the lead guitarist. They are important in different ways and they are stronger together than as apart.
- Crisp highlights and small bursts of saturated color help reiterate the focal point. They also contrast nicely against the dark blues and purples.
- Painting reflective objects is all about getting the highlights right. Keep them sharp and precise. In most cases, it’s best to paint the highlights last. Set the stage for your highlights. The main exception would be if you were painting in watercolors, in which case you typically start with the highlights and work back to the darks.
- Notice the dry brushwork and scumbling, particularly around the background. This plays well against the relatively smooth and refined brushwork used around the focal point.