Tumbling Red Pears – a still life from conception to painting

How does it happen that a painter notices red pears in the local grocery market? Then without looking at the price, she grins widely, grabs a handful and comments “they are for a painting!” How does this happen? What did she see in those pears that was more enticing than say the lemons or the oranges or that green skin of the avocado? Nothing. She picked up an assortment of these as well. But it was the red pears that she knew where going to be the main attraction.

Back home she arranges them this way…

Still Life with red pears in the studio by Terrill Welch 2014_02_26 009

and then that way

Still Life with Red Pears Falling by Terrill Welch 2014_02_26 013

She settles on “that way.”

You see, she was caught up in some ideas about “seeing” and realism in a conversation that was hosted by artist and colleague Lena Levin on her G+ profile. Partly because of this conversation, the painter kept thinking as she was painting – what am I seeing? What is the influence of what I have seen before? Where are my mental shortcuts? She has no answers but starts and continues to paint.

Tumbling Red Pears in process 1 by Terrill Welch 2014_02_26 021

As is common, there is no drawing to guide her brush. Her eyes must be her guide, along with her experience which is where the problem lies. It is in her experience that the mental shortcuts are developed and her eyes and brush stop noticing and actually “seeing” what is before her. She is even, in her noticing, not looking for details but rather relationships between light, shadow, colour and to-a-lesser-degree form. The painter understand that our brains construct images from rapidly gathered information from small areas that the mechanism of the eye scan and then the optic nerve delivers to the brain for translation and construction of a visual image. However, there is more information that is gather from the painter’s other senses that also assists in these constructed images. To name just a few bits of other sensor influence, there is the smell of the orange and linseed oil, the feel of the fabric and the planks of the wood floor with her bare feet and the sound of water dripping from the eaves. Then too there is all the previous data gathered about what a bowl of fruit looks like. There are all the bowls of fruit ever noticed and seen – both in real-time and in photographs and paintings. There are all the rules and breaking of rules about composition, about the actual process of painting as well as those about noticing, really noticing what she is seeing. Of all of this information, what will be the resulting rendering of THIS still life?

Well, the painter did not get very far before she decides to enhance what she is seeing. She adds a lemon on the bottom right. Yes, she says to herself, it should be there. And so it is.

Tumbling Red Pears in process 2 by Terrill Welch 2014_02_26 025

What could be the harm of adding one imagined lemon? I mean really. It is only a little bit of yellow right?

The painter chooses to ignore that her noticing had resulted in imagining a whole lemon.

Tumbling Red Pears in process 3 by Terrill Welch 2014_02_26 031

She determinedly continued to focus on the bowl of fruit. In fact, she focused so hard that the red pears began to tumble forward out of the painting.

Tumbling Red Pears in process 4 by Terrill Welch 2014_02_26 036

This is about the exact point where the still life painting made a notable separation from its visual reference. It is that blue curving line on the left at about the middle of the painting that did it. Then, without any ability of the painter to rest the brush, another blue line of motion appeared on the bottom right. She knew then that even the slight visual impressions of the paintings in the background would go. They would be replaced by the gold fabric and the light leftover from the blue in the sky of one of these paintings as an easy reference for the light coming in from the skylight and the window behind the still life set up. This was now a deliberate mental shortcut.

Tumbling Red Pears in process 5 by Terrill Welch 2014_02_26 042

Memory and imagination had conquered the physical evidence of what the eyes were actually seeing.

Tumbling Red Pears in process 6 by Terrill Welch 2014_02_26 062

The intention of the painting had clearly become focused on the illusion of red pears falling out of the bowl – a focus that intends to encourage the viewer to hold out their hands and try to catch the fruit before it tumbled out of the painting. The painting is set aside until later in the evening and then, with a few edits that lead the painter’s work through to the next morning, it comes to rest.

TUMBLING RED PEARS 20 x 16 inch oil on canvas

Tumbling Red Pears 2 resting 220 x 16  by Terrill Welch 2014_02_28 039

It won’t be released just yet as the painting still needs to sit for its final photo shoot once the paint is dry.

Now we can ask the painter – did you know you were going to paint these red pears tumbling out of a canvas when you saw them in the grocery store?

The painter blinks, slightly confused and unable to answer as she comes out of her painting trance – her deep practice of noticing what she sees, a seeing that uses all of her sense, a seeing that is disrupted by her memory and is enhanced by her imagination. At this moment all she can remember, all she can “see” is tumbling red pears – the ones she imagined, the ones she painted on the canvas. This is her painting of reality.

When have you most acutely recognized that you were “seeing” more by your imagination than with your eyes?

Before I leave us, I want to thank everyone who shared last week’s Art Studio Spring Thaw Event post. Your ongoing support is what warms my heart and also grows the global awareness of my paintings and my photography. Without your efforts my ability to financially sustain my studio practice would be gravely hampered. So thank you, Thank you and THANK YOU!

Also, I am lighting a small candle each evening to focus energy on a peaceful resolution in the Ukraine. My mantra is – use your words. Listen and talk it out rather than bully and fight it out. My focus is calming energy sent to Russia’s leadership with this message. However, it isn’t narrowly directed and I disperse it as a blanket over all global decision-makers and citizens. You are most welcome to join me in this practice. I am an artist yes, but I am also more than that. I am a human-being and I desire to live in peace and I desire this for all of us. This, like the effect of full sensory “seeing” in this painting, is a tangible practice in attempting to render my desired reality.

© 2014 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to http://terrillwelchartist.com

23 thoughts on “Tumbling Red Pears – a still life from conception to painting

  1. This was so interesting! I love reading about your thought process as you paint, and the idea of tumbling red pears is lovely–I can see why you went that direction. As a fiction writer, I’m always “painting” my imagination of what I or my characters see. But I think it’s an interesting practice to do as you mentioned early in your post about questioning what I am seeing in my mind’s eye–is it a habitual image, rather than something fresh and new? Am I really seeing it, or seeing something vague and writing about it in a vague way. Can I see it anew? Can I see it deeply? Can I smell and taste as I see? Wonderful way to question and go deeper.

    Also, I too have been concerned about what is happening in the Ukraine, and will join you in sending peaceful prayers and calming energy toward the whole region and its leaders.

    • So glad you enjoyed the questioning process Deborah. As you mention writers too often create word pictures and it is helpful, I think to use this same whole sensory process in their construction. In my inclusion of the Ukraine situation I wanted to give voice to my private fears and concerns and create a space for others to join me. It is a way of keeping my imagination in check so I appreciate you also sharing that you are sending peaceful prayers and calming energy Deborah 🙂

  2. Terrill – I had to laugh when I got to:

    “This is about the exact point where the still life painting made a notable separation from its visual reference.”

    What a beautiful painting and explanation your provided us readers to feast on. I always appreciate the “and this is how it came to be” posts.

    You asked, :When have you most acutely recognized that you were “seeing” more by your imagination than with your eyes?”

    I’m visualizing less snow — MUCH less snow — outside than there actually is 🙂

    • Laurie having lived where there is real winter and deep snow I can appreciate the important a of this visualization. And these “how a painting came into existence” are difficult to articulate but I think I get as much or more from them as the reader. That task of moving subconscious experiences into conscious awareness is, as you well know, powerful stuff!

  3. I really enjoyed your explanation of your creative process. So inspiring! I too will light a candle each night for a peaceful resolution in the Ukraine. Together, perhaps we can make a difference.

    • Dorothy, lighting these candles is one of the things that, short of burning the house done (close monitoring required) can do no harm and may have a chance of doing some good. And I am glad you were inspired by the sharing of the painting process – good luck with your own creative adventures!

  4. I had to say it, but I probably would have eaten those red pears, they just call to my taste buds and memory of sweet and so polished. Lovely story telling here – thank you
    Sometimes I wish I could just draw something that look similar to what I see – vaguely similar to what I see. I am working on learning my Dragon Dictate program, as my tremors are so severe right now I can not hold a pen, yet can still type 🙂
    I don’t think I could ever master painting with toes or mouth – well I can’t even do nail polish!!

    Thank you for sharing
    I am working on “no conflict” and only negotiations in my meditation – so much trial in people’s lives – who ever thought this was a good idea? Peaceful, loving solutions please, please.

      • Benign essential tremors is what it is called – I have had it all my life, but now that I have damaged my elbow joint on my right arm (raking leaves) they are overwhelming. To type I have put the keyboard in my lap and get the wrist firmly held in place and then just work my fingers. Making lots of errors these days. I do not even attempt soup in public any more!!!

  5. So amazing how it all comes together! Terrill you make is seem so easy, of course see easy with practice, the art of doing, the art of painting, the art of seeing. In your consciousness somewhere you envisioned this still life of tumbling red pears, when you saw those lovely red pears at the market. Not until you got to the canvas did the magic begin.

    This blog writing is amazing, part of me wanted to rush, wanted to see the finished product, another part of me wish to stand behind you, watching each moment, wondering, admiring the technique, the added yellow of the lemon, to curve of blue, the rush of red pears, tumbling from the bowl! And then this lovely, lively, color creation emerged before my eyes, to admire!

    Beautifully done. Thank you for sharing the process…


    • It seems you really had a great time with this post Jeff! This impact of the conscious and subconscious on my creative process has always intrigued and fascinated me. I remember when I was about fifteen I did a portrait painting of an elderly woman. My mother came in to where I was working, looked at the painting and said “who are you painting” as I had no reference image in sight. I replied “no one mom, it is just something I imagined.” My mother said nothing. She would look at the painting from time to time as it dried with that guarded look that is usually reserved for a poker game. Then one day a family friend came to visit. Mom suggested I show her the painting.

      The visitor gasped and said “what a great portrait of you grandmother!”

      I looked from the painting to the visitor, to my mother and it was only in that moment that I knew who I had painted. My grandmother had died about six months previously. I was very close to her. My subconscious mind was ready to grieve and remember. My conscious mind was blocking the process. Still, the painting was painted and the letting go process was began.

      • I did really enjoy this post! And I love the story that you have shared as well. You are truly an inspired person/artist! I am glad I have the opportunity to travel the path with you at this moment in time!

  6. Like every other creative process, Terrill, the one of creating art particularly benefits from the examination of a work in progress. You have traveled this road before, and it has always yielded exceptional results.The pears on display here are the core of a stunning impressionistic tapestry that unceasingly appeals to the senses.

    Yes it is the nightmare of endless snow falls that has been lately playing games with the imagination. Terrific post!

    • We have big wet flakes coming down here right now as well Sam. This is unusual for this late in the year but what can one do except dig out a warm sweater and find a great book for the afternoons.

      I am so pleased that this post has hit the spot for so many of my regular readers. One never really knows, just like the painting itself, if a post is going to work until it is done and then tested by viewers and readers. By the way, we watched the 1994 movie NELL last night starring Jodie Foster. Excellent!

    • Hello Rebecca! What an honour. Thank you 🙂 Reluctantly, as I commented on your post, I am unable due to time constraints to participate in paying this recognition forward. However, I deeply appreciate your mention. All the best of today to you!

  7. Pingback: Catching Tumbling Red Pears – a not-so-still still life painting | Terrill Welch

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