I borrowed this lure from my friend John. He not only photographed my wedding, but has a nice collection of old fishing lures too!
This antique plug is painted wood and was made in Stanford CT. The manufacturing information is stamped into the metal foil at the head of the lure. Having called Connecticut home for the past 20 years I’m always extra interested in objects that were manufactured here like the H.D. Smith screwdriver I painted a few years back.
This painting started out like most of my works, a precise line drawing on a gray-toned canvas. I slowly painted in the form of the lure’s main body. The striping along the back of the plug has to conform to the cylindrical form of the overall lure. This was made possible by premixing a range of dark blues. Then I patiently painting each strip working from left (darkest) to right (lightest)
When mixing up these paint strings I usually choose 5 steps as a starting point. Yep, I premix little piles of paint from light to dark right on my palette. I typically go just beyond the bounds of what I think is necessary. In other words, my paint string range starts off slightly lighter and slightly darker than necessary. Once I have premixed blobs of paint it’s easy to paint the subtle gradations required to make the form seem convincing. I just go right down the range and if I need a halftone in between each paint blob I can make one quickly with my brush.
I never used to be so organized with my palette and overall approach to oil painting but time has taught me that there is always a propensity towards disorder and painting mistakes are not far behind disorder. So I stay as organized as possible and improvise as necessary. As noble as this is I believe this is precisely where some painters get stuck. Their paintings look fake and too precise.
Remember I mentioned that I do improvise as necessary?
I will frequently adjust my paint strings making them warmer or cooler, duller or more chromatic. These subtle changes in paintings are the most difficult to teach another young painter but make all the difference. Without subtle variety the objects may look stiff and plastic-like when plastic is not the intended material to be painted. These finer points of successful picture making are subtle indeed. I can barely point out these changes in a final painting they are so slight. It’s like trying to discern the exact quantity of spices used in a dish after consuming it. But as any good chef will tell you, it really does matter what you put into the meal!
One of my favorite parts of this painting was the lightened reflection on the background. That metal plate on the head of the lure was positioned just right so that a lightened area of light emerged just to the left of the tarnished clasp that is attached to the actual lure. This was no accident. I spend a great deal playing around with even the simplest still life arrangements!