Game Still Life with Pomegranate and Rabbit
30" x 40" oil on canvas
Welcome to the 2016, winter Whitbeck Notes
With the new year here I am already looking forward to the upcoming art show season and all that comes along with it. I will be adding some new shows to the schedule this year and expanding our area of travel. Like the merchants of old, who would load up their wooden ships and sail off to the new markets of the world, hoping for favorable winds and a more favorable exchange of goods, I too am planning on charting new areas and testing new waters. Very exciting!
I also look with anticipation to the coming of spring for another reason. As many of you know, most of my still life paintings contain fruits and vegetables as well as wine, beer, china and silver and so on. And it has been my practice over the past years to find these fruits and vegetables at our local grocery store, or at our Saturday morning farmers market, which is all well and good and has worked fine for my paintings. But a couple of years ago I decided that I would try my hand at growing my own fruit, and have in my painting's fruit that had been grown on my own land, by me, right outside of my studio window. So in the field that receives sun pretty much all day long, on the north side of my studio, I had built a natural arbor out of locust that I had collected down by the river. And on each of the longest sides of the arbor I planted two grape vines. A hearty New England type red grape. As theses grape vines were pretty small at the time, not much more then a twig actually, I assumed that it would be some time before I would see any actual grapes worth painting. And even though I have not had any grapes as of yet, I was surprised last year by the amazing growth of these "twigs", and how they had shot up all the way to the top of my arbor, which is eight feet tall. Quite a growth of vines and shading leaves all in one year!
So I am hoping that within the next one or two growing seasons I will start to see some fruit and begin working them into my paintings. I have been able to use the grape leaves and vines that I do have in many of my new work, and I find that having these fine nuances of the grape vine right at hand has added so much to the outcome of the paintings.
Grapevine detail from "Banquet with Deer and Rabbit"
Grapevine detail from "Game Still Life with Pomegranate and Rabbit"
My favorite seventeenth century still life painter, Pieter Claesz, used the vine many times in his work, and from all the detail that he had put on his canvas and panels, I can see that he too must have been working from the real thing one way or another. There is too much of a uniqueness in each of his vines to have been just a generalization coming straight out of his imagination.
One other addition to the Whitbeck Studio's Garden is the fig tree. Yes! A fig tree! And in western Massachusetts too. It turns out that fig tree cultivation is quite popular in the area and that one of our local farms, Dancing Bear Farms in Leiden, Ma. has made it the crowning jewel of their crop. But, as you might have already guessed, the fig trees here are not planted in the ground, but are planted in large pots that can be brought into the home for the winter and be "put to sleep".
Red Ginger Jar with Figs
18" x 14" oil on canvas
And so I look forward to having a few varieties of fig's around during the summer and finding a nice place for them in my new paintings. I also look forward to the great fig leaf! Such an interesting shape, and I know they will look great along side the figs.
Happy, too, will be the lovers of flowers. A few varieties of roses were transplanted from my mothers garden this year (indeed a lover of flowers! And who, more then once, has nicely asked me why I do not paint them more often). They seem to have taken well in the soil of their new home here in Montague, and I cannot wait to have them at hand, adding color and beauty to this years new work. Even now, as I write these Notes, I can envision the elegance and beauty of roses reflecting on silver, the bending pile of a rich Persian carpet, maybe the blue and white of a Delftware bowl. Its all coming together. All I need now is the patience to wait and let Mother Nature do her work.
This winter season in the studio I have decided to allot some of my time to the painting of large centerpieces. During the art shows in the summer I have found that studio time is more sporadic and less productive then that of winter, and that it is much harder to work on large still life paintings then the smaller ones. So during this winter I will concentrate on three or four large centerpieces averaging about 30" by 40", or whatever inspires. Who knows, maybe even a large flower still life. That's the beauty of a few uninterrupted months in the studio, plenty of time to let the creativity happen!
Be sure to take a look at my website, www.jameswhitbeck.com to view new work and to keep an eye on the art show schedule to see what is coming up. As I said earlier, I plan on adding a new show or two, and as this happens they will be updated on the website.
The Prints page of my website has also been updated. There you can see new work that is being offered as prints in sizes 11" x 14" and 16" x 20".
11" x 14" oil on canvas
All my best, and Happy New Year!