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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Wine Bottles Commission

Painting commissions are always an adventure. The adventure becomes even more interesting when the subject matter is something that I have not painted a lot of before. This was one of those adventures.

I have always enjoyed and often admired some of the art on wine bottle labels. They can add so much drama and appeal to the wine. The challenge in composing this painting was to arrange the chosen bottles in a way in which they would enhance and compliment each other. It reminded me of curating an art show -- deciding which paintings would go well "hanging" side by side on a gallery wall.

It was not only a challenging commission but a fun one as well. The canvas was 24 inches high by 36 inches wide which gave me the opportunity to add extra drama by enlarging the bottles beyond life size. Painting the light and shadows on each bottle along with the art on the labels seemed a bit overwhelming at first and so I decided to remain calm and break it down to painting one bottle at a time.
Stages 1 and 2: Drawing the composition with a thin mixture of paint and mineral spirits allowed me the freedom to play around with the placement of the bottles without feeling too committed to the plan. As it turned out, I arranged and rearranged a couple of times as you can see by my lines. From there I went on to my first wine bottle (stage 2), painting it as efficiently as possible. Accuracy of the Opus logo reminded me of the accuracy necessary in a portrait. Either it looks like the subject or it doesn't.

Stage 3:  Graceland. With this purple and gold lined label and the tiny house in the center, I had to bring out my smallest brush that I bought specifically for this painting.

Stage 4:  1981. This eagle and its numerous twigs and branches along with the detail in the bird itself kept me on my toes. I didn't try to replicate every single detail but squinted my eyes to see and paint the general idea of it. The small lettering on each of the bottles was approached the same way. 

Stage 5: CAYMUS.  This CAYMUS bottle was the intended focal point, front and (almost) center. It was pulled forward to give it even more attention. There is something attractive about a tall, slender bottle of wine with a gold, artsy label and red cursive. (Once again, my tiny brush saved the day!)

Stage 6: 1982. Another eagle to compliment and frame the CAYMUS bottle. These eagles were detailed but fun. As you can see, this painting had miniature paintings within the painting. And then it was on to a golden chardonnay...

Stage 7: Aubert and Proper. Time was running out. This was a Christmas commission and Christmas was just two weeks away. I was so thankful that these last two bottles were a bit simpler in label design. I was also grateful for my past experience as a professional calligrapher. You just never know when past experiences are going to come back to help you.

Stage 8: The background. David Leffel taught me that if you want the focus to be entirely on the subject, keep the background simple. I used Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber to create this warm black.

Wine Still Life
24 x 36", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c) 2016

Stage 9: Completing the painting. Once the background was done it was time to paint the foreground. I kept it simple. Adding the light hints of the bottles' reflections in the wood was the effect I was looking for. Because this was a commission, I intentionally chose a wood color that would go well with the new owner's home.