Monday, November 28, 2011


Posted by: Kate

Dave and I were asked to each provide a Vanitas painting for a larger, multi-artist project.  While Dave already had one, I had to come up with something specifically for this project.  The problem is that I'm not really down with the whole "endeavor is futile, life is fleeting, moan moan moan," message behind the vanitas genre.  The vanitas painters were the 17th century's emo kids.  I understand the historical context, but come on, we live to like seventy these days, no one dies of leprosy anymore (not in my neighborhood at least), and all the luxuries and pleasures we enjoy these days preclude the woe-is-me-I'll-be-in-my-room-with-a-single-lit-taper-contemplating-my-skull attitude.

I wanted to do a new take on the Vanitas theme.  The thought of doing a dark and grim painting was not inspiring; I wanted to do something bright and colorful, even feminine.  I didn't want to present death as scary and hideous.  In addition to bright colors and flooding light, I included some seashells (representing birth) and white hydrangea blossoms (I don't know what they represent but they're awfully pretty and they make me think of spring).

Here is my vanitas painting in progress last week when I had an awesome camera on loan from a friend.  Mine will be back in action soon, thank god, but it will be like getting back together with a fat, lazy and emotionally distant ex after having a fling with a toned cabana boy on vacation.


Here's a close up of the chompers:


  1. Kate,

    I share your view of the whole Vanitas thing. Although I wouldn't mind working up a detailed oil of a skull just to take me out of my usual subject matter comfort zone.

    I love the way you paint wood. There is a crisp, authenticity about it that I want to learn how to do. My attempts are ok, but invariably end up with edges that are too soft. Any recommendations for studying and learning the techniques or tips you can give me?

    Keep up the great work!

  2. Thanks Scott! Dave and I usually paint wood in every single still life we do, so there's a lot of practice behind it. It's also important to vary the application. Use knives, scrappy bristles, and even triple zeroes. Scumble and impasto paint. Keep in mind that the quality of the surface you are painting on will have a huge impact on how the brushstrokes come out.

  3. Thanks for the tips Kate. Much of my work is alla prima and often times I get great textures and colors by accident in an area after I wipe or scrape it off because I didn't like the first pass. Wood detail though is best built up in stages If I hope to get surface quality like yours. I'll keep working at it for sure!

    Keep up the great work.

    Artist in Disguise

  4. Great painting!
    Love the textures Kate,
    thanks for sharing!