Still Life, as Illustration

A bit of speculation, interesting but relevant even if it’s not what happened:

A humble token card

A humble token card

A year ago in late October, I scheduled a week of time during which I would work on some Still Life painting. I had a guest staying for a few days from out of state that we wanted to spend some time with, so Still Life was a good way of being able to stay productive without requiring long studio days, and I wouldn’t have to leave problems unresolved one day to the next. You can read more about that week at this post here.

In any case, on the Monday that I began doing these, I received an email asking about my availability for an upcoming Magic set. I responded back indicating my interest and my schedule availability, and continued working on the still life pieces. There are usually a few days during which the Art Directors collate responses then figure out who is going to do what in a given set.

Each day in the meanwhile, i was live streaming my still life painting on Facebook (the videos are still up and you can find them in my photo albums). It was a lot of fun and I was happy with what I’d produced. Each day I streamed one painting, done alla prima in one sitting.

Well, imagine my surprise when I was assigned a “Food Token” illustration for what would eventually become the Throne of Eldrane expansion set. It was really out of left field as a type of illustration, and I sat wondering if my prior week’s work had influenced Art Director Cynthia Sheppard assigning it to me. I know she’s active on Facebook, after all, and being an artist of considerable skill and talent herself, it did not seem odd that she might see me enjoying those paintings of fruits and vegetables, have a particular assignment requiring similar, and so hand it to me. I don’t know if that was the case, but bravo if so.

Food token illustration study 6x8” acrylic and pencil on toned paper Sold

Food token illustration study
6x8” acrylic and pencil on toned paper

The commission was indeed for fruits and vegetables, but all with some kind of magical twist, and in the case of the bananas, maybe an actual twist! For this commission I actually did a couple of really unusual things, as my illustration work goes, including painting from life, exactly as I did for the small paintings I’d done earlier. I went and purchased some fruit, split a pomegranate, and used some unfortunately mundane bananas. I did this after thumbnailing my composition out, and then laid out my setup next to me. I did a black and white study for submission and submitted it. I was only asked to remove the tendril-y bits from the pomegranate seeds so the food wouldn’t look harmful; I opted to make seeds glow instead.

I utilized the tight-but-loose method of painting I incorporate in those paintings and largely handled this just like a traditional still life painting. For the watermelon, wanting it pyramidal, I printed out large color sheets of watermelon skin texture and glued them to a foam core pyramid, then placed that behind the other fruits.

In the live streams the week before I mentioned that a few of them had been painted in modified limited palettes. Because Throne of Eldrane was supposed to hearken back to classical paintings, including 19c works, in terms of its color space, I opted for a Zorn palette of White, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red, and Ivory Black. These colors stayed on my palette for a bit and I ended up doing a few paintings in a row using them, or with maybe single color modifications.

I’m not gonna lie, this was as much fun to paint as it looked. Because the Zorn palette does have a limited chroma, and the glowing apple was supposed to be a bit punchy, I did add a bit of Photoshop sweetening to it. In the end, it sat next to other Food illustrations in the same set by Steven Belledin, Donato Giancola and Lucas Graciano, excellent painters I am honored to stand side-by-side with, who handled other types of food still life pieces for the same set.

I said it didn’t matter too much if I was wrong about the speculation: if it was totally by chance that I got this commission when I did, it still remains that having spent a week on still life paintings the week before, I was ready for this in a very unique way, and it was still a great prelude to working on this.

Food token illustration 11x14” oil on panel Original available this week

Food token illustration
11x14” oil on panel
Original available this week