14. Sweet Peas and Vase

Sweet Peas and Vase, chalk pastels on paper, 2005

Sweet Peas and Vase, chalk pastels on paper, 2005

During my decade in the San Francisco Bay Area, I came to appreciate the strength of California’s sunlight.  California renders days where the cloudless blue burned so intensely it seemed to penetrate through your eyes, directly into your brain.  It reminds me of aviator’s poem, climbing  “…up the long delirious, burning blue.”   My California photographs often captured the stark contrast between light and shadow, where the background would completely blacken and leave a vivid image in the foreground.  The photograph from which Sweet Peas and Vase is is one of those images.

This pastel work was the first where I began to experiment with color-value substitutions, a principle I’d learned in a watercolor class some years ago.  The idea here is to introduce colors otherwise absent from the photo, but having the same grey-level value (lightness/darkness).   I substituted burnt sienna and burnt umber into the otherwise black background, which softened the image considerably.

The small blue vase of sweet peas–blossoms freshly-picked from my cottage garden–was a regular visitor to my breakfast table.  The photograph from which this piece derived I’d taken on one of those penetratingly sunny California mornings in May. The office where I worked wouldn’t expect me most mornings until 10, which gave me long, delicious mornings for breakfast by the garden.  Breakfast evolved into something much more than just food.  It became a ritual way to bring the garden’s color and life directly to the breakfast table.  Over the last ten years of my life, breakfast has become my personal ritual–a daily sensual celebration I share with the precious people of my life.

~ by Delfino on 2009/03/06.

One Response to “14. Sweet Peas and Vase”

  1. No, not taken as a “slam” at all. The idea for this piece originated in a photograph, after all. And I’d found the photograph compelling enough to bring it into the world of pastels.

    I’d decided to use harder chalks, to attempt to render the translucency of the petals, and to try to coax the light through the petals. I was surprised when I made this piece how much of the image was in shadow–there is more gray than you might suspect.

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