A Cabbage on Canvas


Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary, Tuesday, 4th September, 2007


cabbageI LOVE THIS size of canvas; it’s just under 8 x 8 inches, 20 x 20 cm to be precise. Most of my work is for reproduction on paper or online so it’s like coming back down to earth to paint in acrylics on something as tactile as 380 gsm cotton medium weave canvas

I chose the square format because I wanted the picture to be an object in its own right; somehow the portrait or landscape rectangle implies that a picture is a ‘window on the world’ but I’d like to emphasise the quality of ‘isness’, if you see what I mean. It’s just cabbage; not a cabbage in a landscape, not a cabbage in an elegant still life; just a cabbage. You’ve probably got the idea by now! (Actually, I also feel it's a kind of self-portrait, or a image of something I feel, but I guess that's true of any painting).

For this reason I like the idea of hanging it without a frame, a frame always makes a comment on the painting; solidly traditional, a gilt-edged object of value, contemporarily minimalist or, my favourite, distressed driftwood, but it always puts the painting in a context. To enable this small canvas to stand as an object in its own right, I’ve painted the sides, not in detail but enough to tone them in with the picture.

The painting took longer than I thought, a good afternoon of work, and the light changed as the sun moved across the sky and eventually down behind an oak tree, but I didn’t want to resort to working from a photograph, as I would have ended up imitating the lighting effects. This is a cabbage observed over several hours, not a fleeting moment.

Most of my drawings are in sketchbooks and they get stored away in the attic. The canvas is different; I’ve done it with an exhibition in mind; it’s something that can go away and hopefully have a life of its own.

By the way, I used just the three primaries and white in Finity Artists' Acrylic Colour, with a touch of yellow ochre for the soil. My acrylics set includes Phthalo Green Blue Shade but I felt this would be too dominant so I found it better to mix each shade of green individually.

Brushes: hogshair, flat, 2, 4 and 6 (and briefly 12 at the start, soon realised that was too big) and round 3. I found the flat more useful for the leaf veins.


Link to larger version of this image