Basil and Fred

"Basil and tape", oil on Arches oil paper by Helen Davison

“Basil and Tape”, oil on Arches oil paper

Another painting on paper, this time larger at around 10″x 12″. I find green a tricky colour to use. Depending on the combination of yellow and blue used to mix it, it can sometimes feel quite thin and under-powered. Then, of course, there are so many hues to consider that really it’s wrong to even think about green as one universal colour anyway. This is illustrated in a basic way by the completely different base notes in the basil leaves and ceramic jug.

The leaves themselves were also awkward. While they look lovely in my kitchen waiting to be eaten, to paint they form quite a shapeless block of relatively unstructured individual shapes. At first I looked too hard at details and put in too much information. Every crinkle, shadow and highlight went in, but the overall effect looked unnatural and a bit too stylised. I ended up unifying the mass and kept the reworking broad and largely unfocused. I perhaps went a bit too far and lost too much definition, but it generally looks more naturalistic as a result.

I included the small strip of masking tape stuck to the tabletop. It was there to mark the position of another item I was considering putting in to the composition. That option didn’t make it, but the tape itself added a spatial element that I found pleasing.

"Fred the Flour Man", oil on Arches oil paper

“Fred the Flour Man”, oil on Arches oil paper

And then on to a bit of fun. Fred the Flour Man is a small ceramic pie steamer (or funnel, or whistle, or whatever they’re called) that belongs to my mother-in-law. I’ve wanted to have a go at painting him for a while, especially so since recalling seeing in a book a Euan Uglow painting of the same subject. I haven’t quite got the shape of the head or hat down correctly, but it was a fairly rapid sketch on a small off-cut of paper, and I enjoyed just letting loose.