In the old days, or so I read, an art student would spend months on end, sometimes for a year or two, doing little else but standing in front an easel in a room full of plaster cast copies of Greek and Roman sculpture, charcoal in hand, trying to draw faithful likenesses of those famous faces, heads and shoulders. For all I know art students still do this, or something very much like it. I don't know, I've never been to art school. But I do read books and one of the ones I've been reading this past year is Drawing from Observation: An introduction to perceptual drawing by Brian Curtis. The painting you see above is done in the spirit of the lessons in that book.
Starting with a set of objects, each spray painted flat white (except for the cork, the tiny bottle and the little pitcher), I put together a still life that is pleasing to my eye. You may notice the trianglular arrangements. For example the brown twigs that extend all the way to the top of the canvas form the peak of a triangle whose base is defined by the cork and the tiny bottle, one side running through the little pitcher. The vase in which those twigs sit is in the middle of a row of bottles, the three boxes opposite are in a row. Those two rows are the sides of another triangle. You may see other triangles all throughout the piece.
The canvas is square, twenty inches (about 51 cm) on each side. The white board I used as a background is nearly square, and it's smaller than the size of the image in order to leave the rectangles of black at the top and side, and of course the table top shows at the bottom. This division of squares into rectangles and then rectangles into squares is a reference to "rabatment" - a compositional device for the division of a rectangular plane.
In choosing to paint simple white forms - cubes, cones, circles, and so on - I meant to focus on just the essentials: The relationships of the objects to each in space, the sense of depth created through the use of light and shadow, and the varities of tone that are presented by the light cast about.
In his book, Prof. Curtis instructs his reader to work only in charcoal, only on paper, in the process learning how to make a three dimensional illusion appear on a flat surface. It's not glamorous work or the stuff of some romantic notion of the artist as visionary. Rather, it's quite repetitive, technical and dry work. But like all things worth doing, painting is something worth doing well.
Doing things well typically, if not always, requires repetition in the form of practice, attention to the rules and established methods of technique, and a discipline to work, despite the dry lack of romance. I want to do well at painting, and this is the only way I know.