It all starts with the teacup. I like a vintage piece with a fabulous form, a little iridescence or gilt (for the light to play on) and, most importantly, a flower or fruit that I have either in my garden or someone else’s!
Then I like to to a bird that compliments the still life. Here I thought an Anna’s Hummingbird would be the right scale and it’s plumage echoes the golds and greens and roses of the cup.
I took many shots of this teacup and rose and while there were aspects about each photo that I liked, in the end I chose this one because of the dramatic side lighting and the fact that there was a space the made sense compositionally for the humming bird to land on the rim.
My initial loose oil sketch tells me if my composition is working or not – I was concerned with this big rose off to one side, but the bird and handle should balance it out well.
I really liked the gold outline of a rosebud and leaves on the saucer and since it doesn’t really show up in the painting, I thought I’d use it as the background pattern.
Building up my darks in the hummingbird and teacup.
Building up the mid-tones.
Working the volume with highlights and shadows.
Filling in the background, hoping the dark color and flat pattern won’t overwhelm everything.
Pulling up more highlights to make sure everything pops against the busy background.
As I continue to work the painting, I try to balance realistic polish with a sense of painterly spontaneity. There are hits and misses along the way as I work on.
I decided to loose the big white rose painted in the background, it was too confusing and distracting. I also decided to put in gradient lighting that would make sense with the light source. I also worked a lot on the teacup and hummingbird, my goal is to really make them glow.
Hey, that saucer’s looking great now! There are elements that I miss from the previous version though, the pink glint on the back feathers and the more dynamic posture of the bird. I kind of like the darkness left in the gold leaf pattern in the background too – It’s less realistic but more interesting. How “real” do I need to be with a hummingbird on a teacup anyway?