I grew up around small family gardens my whole life. As a child I can remember strolling barefoot through my mother’s garden and several of my Uncle Ted’s gardens. I would eat all kinds of fruits and vegetables right off the plants and still do whenever I get the chance. There were always enough tomatoes and peppers to feed an army. Uncle Ted always had more than enough raspberries and blackberries to go around. In fact, he grows so many fruits and vegetables he gives most of it away to family and friends.
My uncle Ted is a serious vegetable gardener. He has several gardens strategically positioned throughout his property and they still are, to this very day, magnificent! It’s been quite some time since I painted a still life that involves vegetables. What can I say, I felt these juicy heirloom tomatoes calling my name – not only to eat but to paint as well!
I spent some time working out various thumbnail sketches of the tomatoes. How many should there be? Where should they be positioned, etc? I wanted to compose my still life with more than a single tomato but, two tomatoes just didn’t seem to make an effective composition. I know superstitious folks always drone on how, “everything comes in threes”. I’m not superstitious but compositions do tend to look better with three items compared with two or even four. Maybe it has to do with the strength of 3 vertices?
A triangle is the strongest shape in nature and in the manmade world. A triangle does indeed have 3 vertices (points), 3 sides and is frequently used in architecture where an optimal strength to weight ratio is desired. How many bridges and other metal structures can you recall are built out of triangles?
Because I was painting living vegetables time was of the essence! I had to capture the fleeting colors and tomato stems and leaves before their colors changed and their forms shriveled up. I typically work on a painting for 3-5 painting sessions. This all had to take place in the shortest amount of time possible. Fortunately the weather was warm outside and I was able to bring my in-progress tomato painting outside to speed up the drying of the oil paint. With the hot sun and a slight breeze the oil paint dries in a fraction of its normal time.
I was able to complete the painting in around 5 days and the tomatoes were still fresh enough to eat –kinda! Regardless, I don’t like wasting food so they got chopped up and added to my fresh garden salad.