Pepper Shrimp #3


Oil on canvas, 24″ x 24″

Take 3 for the Pepper Shrimp: a night in the fridge had these fellas ready for a final shot at being painted, but as there were only three shrimp to work from I quickly painted two on the plate and one beside it, and then took the two off the plate, put them beneath it and painted again. It was a ferocious painting session as once again the ants came in their swarms, and the sun I had them placed in for the light was moving towards the horizon quickly, changing the highlights and shadow shapes; I hadn’t much time to make the most of it being ‘live’. Before the session was over I took photos, and then continued with them over the next few days to finish what was started.

I thought that by placing the plate with these shrimp they would look more like food and less like little monsters. I hope it worked….This plate has a history. Being enamel and with a slightly convex base, it could spin, and when my girls were little  would take it in turns (after serious negotiations and occasional tears) to eat their dinner off, spinning it throughout the meal with great delight.

The brushwork became quite thick and suggestive on this piece, which I’m glad for, but it happened because I had to keep self-correcting as I wasn’t drawing it properly – I enjoyed seeing the paint build up in abstract layers, and like the surface of it now. Oil paint is so forgiving. No more little critters for now though. Something without legs and a head with antennae makes for a more pleasing subject…


Lemons #2


Oil on canvas, 14″ x 18″

Spherical lemons and round reflecting plates are a real work-out to paint. I am more and more integrating the difficulty of still life painting and why it is and has always been such a standard in the learning process for painters: the accurate assessment of shapes, and their interaction; brush work; color mixing and color exploration; tonal values, so very important; line and how to introduce it, and to emphasize it or not; composition; light and dark and how far to push it, and the combination of patience and spontaneity above all…

All of this from a few lemons I picked up at the market the other day…

Pepper Shrimp #2


Oil on canvas, 14″ x 20″


I love these little critters, love their shapes and colors, and would like to do a larger canvas covered in them. The question is how to make their beauty evident as there’s an element of the creepy about them, all those antennae and scratchy pointed feet and claws. Plus they have eyes, and cute little heads. It’s all about the exoskeleton –  there’s no escaping that. It’s their attraction, but it also suggests the alien; sci-fi writers must get their inspiration from the insect world.

I like working with this palette, all these reds and blues, like painting the ackee but with more drama. I’m reading Ashley Judd’s memoir, All that is Bitter and Sweet, and it’s so good I went online to TedX last night and listened to her presentation about her humanitarian and advocacy work, and cried and cried. People are so cruel, the world is so heartless for so many millions, and yet there is also so much nobility amongst us. Somehow these pepper shrimp connect into that, with their sublime beauty, their delicacy  and their intriguing shapes, and yet their armored bodies embody threat, and the struggle to survive, and if they were bigger they would scare us…


SAM_1738Oil on canvas, 8″ x 12″

Sketching in oils these days on small canvases to loosen up. Would like to try this subject again as I like the colors and palette but would like to  maybe introduce some drawing lines…we’ll see.

Pepper Shrimp


Oil on canvas, 8″ x 12″

I went on a cross- country journey last week, going the long way around from Kingston to Montego Bay, and so we passed through Middle Quarters, a junction deep in the heart of rural Jamaica. We pulled into the side of the road to decide which road to take, and were immediately flanked by a handful of women  who thrust bags of pepper shrimp in through the windows and demanded a sale. We happily complied, and they advised us on the best direction to take, and we parted ways, us with a bag of spicy river shrimp, a delicacy from that area alone, and they with a sale.

Delicious thought they are, they’re a bit messy to eat, especially in a car, so after enjoying one or two of them, my daughter put them in the igloo so their very pungent smell was contained, and so they would remain fresh enough for me to get them home…I had decided they’d make a great subject to study, and here is the result. This is one sitting, and the paint was wet and fluid so I had to stop. I think there are one or two little definitions to add and then they’re done. They are such lovely things, and their shells are so red, and their shapes so dramatic. And they taste amazing….