Diana Probst, Cambridge Artist

Still Life – Jug

Clumsy jug on a pale yellow surface, with a blue backgroundI painted this over several days, with a long break in between for Christmas commissions and then for other work that came up. I started with an hour-long study in pencil, and measured that up against a photograph to check my drawing. The jug is an irregular outline, with no easy ratios for measuring.

I did a quick sketch of the jug to reserve the position on the page. That meant I could divide the background and the foreground, and not have the line between the two appearing on the jug. You can see in the sketch just how quickly I put the jug in – it was not going to be the final part, and it just needed to do a job and then be painted over. It is definitely a right-hand-biased painting, as you can see by the rounder shapes on the right.

yellow and bright red jug, in close-upI gave it a bright blue background, because that was going to be a cold, distant part. The blue would be painted over but shine through as long as the glazes were thin enough. The yellow tablecloth was left the colour of the prepared canvas, which was a mixture of a lot of leftover paint, mixed with white. I use that technique a lot, because coloured canvases have a couple of advantages over plain, primed canvas. In this case, one of the advantages was a paint layer that looked absolutely fine in the underpainting, so I left it like that.

I then painted in the shape of the jug properly, once the underpainting was dry. I decided to use a blackish background, and used Payne’s Grey. It is bluish enough to pick up the blue behind, and while the opacity was not perfect for the task, I was going to be painting thinly anyhow. The jug needed hot, red areas under the darker parts because otherwise they would risk blending with the background because of their tone. The red here ensures that even though they are both dark, they have differences in colour temperature. Now is the time when I got the shape of the jug as it was going to be, comparing it to the pencil version, my photographs, and the real thing. I had the jug set up a few feet from my easel, and I could look at it and at my work together.

After that, the work was largely done on the background and the cloth, even though they were the wrong colours. I took half a day to colour the background and start on the jug, giving it its first coat of colours that were right. A few days later, I did the tablecloth and a second pass on the jug. Once that was dry the last tweaks went onto everything, including a complete overpainting of the background to trim the edges of the tablecloth, cutting off any ragged colour that had crept in when I did the drapery, and a couple of frustrating hours getting the shadow right at the bottom of the jug, while keeping the jug from losing its shape. Then I put my signature on it and called it done. Jug, 6 days of work. £300.
oil painting of jug on a tablecloth