Painting has been teaching me how to see things instead of just looking at them.
I chose to paint pine cones in order to learn something about the ways in which I see the color brown, as well as to push myself to paint something from life that's intricately patterned.
After I decided upon the pine cones I realized that for the painting to interest anyone as a painting (as opposed to its interest to me as a learning experience) it needed to have some other visual elements. The compostion needed more than just two pine cones sitting on a table. I chose a jug and cup because I liked the shapes, because they're both shades & tints of brown, and because they both conceivably belong beside the pine cones. Maybe it's a fall day and the pine cones remain after the yardwork has been done, while the jug and cup wait to provide some refreshment? The triangular folds of the cloth add a geometric element; it drapes over the front of the table helping to create an entry point into the image. It's a beige cloth, and the table is unfinished pine. There's lot of brown in this painting.
But pine cones aren't just brown. Pine cones are brown, gray, white, sage green, black, and maybe a little orange too. A lot depends on the way the light is playing on the bumps, nooks and crannies that make up a pine cone. The individual bumps are the pine cone's scales and they're oddly shaped - the ends of some are square, some are diamond, some are trianglular, many are just flat, like leaves that have a pronounced bend on the end. The scales radiate out from a center point on the bottom, where the cone connects to the tree, but the direction of the spiral depends on one's perspective; patterns can be seen in more than one way. In some places on the cone, the scales are tightly packed, in other places they're open like the petals of a flower that's reaching for the sun.
I didn't think so much about color, shapes, patterns, or pine cones before I started painting. I didn't really see the world around me. I definitely never saw pine cones. I wonder what else I've missed.