Phases of the Peach

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The finished painting

There’s a crooked peach tree on our front lawn, one that yields a sizable bounty every August. And I have finally finished this peach painting, after beginning it a year or more ago.

Last year I decided I wanted to paint peaches from it, and got to sketching. Whatever little spark I’d had after making the sketches faded once I started painting the sky, though, quashed by doubt–a blue sky, really? is this kitschy? I’d started with a gold base, hoping that some of the shine would come through but realized that as an undercoat it just made the next layer of paint look dull and weather-beaten. I fixed it up enough to get a good blue and some reasonable clouds, but otherwise the empty sky was relegated to the side of my art table, gathering dust.

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Initial sketches

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The model peach

Seeing the peaches ripen this year motivated me to give it another go one evening, so I painted in the peach shapes using a copper paint, effectively repeating the same metallic-paint-as-undercoat mistake. Doh. It sat untouched for another few weeks. The peaches themselves began demanding attention, dropping off the tree, so we gathered them up and  last Sunday made a batch of peach preserves. While making the preserves, I realized that this was it–if I didn’t work on the painting now, I would probably set it aside again for another year.

So yesterday I loaded up my iPod with Jill Sobule and a bunch of All Songs Considered podcasts and made myself go face the peach painting. In hindsight, I realize that three things made it possible to paint, and finish, now: a deadline, the daytime, and having peaches (both cut and whole) nearby. I guess there’s some subject matter that demands a mood–the Sleepy Hollow painting needed the nighttime, and this one needed the sun.

The cut peaches helped me match the color and paint a base for the cheery yellow insides, but then I got impatient while working on the skin. I held up the whole peach as a reference, and even took a picture of it in the right spot, but I wasn’t happy with the results as I painted because I was so concerned about messing up the edges or the sky. Time to mask. One I masked out the peaches it was a breeze–fast, loose, textured strokes. So much better!

I worked from the peaches themselves as much as possible, though at one point while I was feeling stuck I idly looked through the pics-in-progress on the camera. I was struck by how much more I noticed about the highlights of the peach, and used that little LCD preview as a reference to go back and fix it up. This also came in handy when I was almost done and started wondering whether I should hang it diagonally as I originally intended, or turn it on its side instead. I took pictures of it both ways, and also set it up and stared at it for a while each way before deciding to go back to the diagonal. And now, it’s done and hanging on the wall. Hallelujah!

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Masking is crucial

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Post peel-painting

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Skin detail

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Necessary supplies

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