This grape box label is the inspiration for my next painting. I traveled up to Arroyo Grande this fall to photograph the grape harvest at the Saucelito Canyon Vineyard, hoping to capture not only the harvest, but the beauty of the California wine country.

The people at Saucelito Canyon were great. They gave me up close access to the picking of the grapes.

I found an old wooden grape crate, just perfect for the old California Beauty label. The crate will be sitting on a table, covered by a 1950's vintage grapevine tablecloth.

Here is the prop setup for the painting. The right side of the image has a cutting board, loaded with cheese, grapes, bread and wine. The toy truck will be loaded with grapes and I will paint a couple of vineyard rows inside the grape box.

Just below the box label and on top of the tablecloth will be the vineyard owner. He will be resting on top of a few grape boxes, holding the tool that all good vineyards need...a corkscrew. Todd Greene, my good friend, neighbor (and owner of a vineyard in Paso Robles) was kind enough to pose for this painting.

The corkscrew.

After about a week of drawing on a 40"x50" linen canvas, I've decided to begin the painting by attacking the tablecloth. All the intricacies of the tablecloth pattern, its folds, shadows and shaded areas present a major puzzle. I will approach it one color at a time. You can see above that I've begun with the pink and blue hues first.

When I work on the lower part of a large canvas, I sit and paint from a chair.

The tablecloth puzzle is all worked out.

Here's a close-up where it folds over the edge of the table.

Todd is now officially the 'corkscrew keeper' of my painting.

I've taken the small illustration on the grape label and used it as the wallpaper on the wall behind the wine and cheese. When the foreground objects are painted, I'll be able to tell how much darker or 'grayed down' this background needs to be.

The crate label is rendered onto the box, trying to paint it dark enough to make the sun struck areas on the man and the corkscrew stand out.

The warm color of the wood box is painted around the label.

Here's a look at the overall painting up to this point.

The vineyard in the box is my next area of the painting. I've painted the four pickers first and will block in the grape vines and the ground next.

And the harvesting scene in the grape box has its first coat of paint.

The cabernet grapes that I've painted next to the grape box are quite a bit lighter than intended. The color lightened when it began to dry but will gain their rich dark color when the final paint is applied.

Here's a look at the left corner of the painting.

More cabernet grapes in the truck.

Truck and grapes are complete.

On to the cheeses and...

...the two pears.

I've rendered the cheese knife.

I was growing tired of rendering food, so I decided to work on the two wine bottles. The Larkmead cabernet looks very shiny.

I like the art on the label of the Saucelito Canyon zinfandel.

Here's a look at the entire canvas.

The Thompson seedless table grapes and...

...the cutting board are in place.

Behind the pears is a bunch of red table grapes.

I always enjoy painting reflections. This time it was the reflection in the glass of wine.

The two loaves of bread are painted in place and...

...the still life section of the painting is complete for now.

Looking out the window, I've painted a view of a vineyard, nestled below the oak strewn rolling hills.

Here's a look at the entire canvas with every square inch covered with its first passage of paint. Now it is time to examine the overall lighting, values etc. and make the final determinations for the final passage of paint. The most obvious area (to me) that needs adjustment is the wall with the grape ladies. It will need to be darkened and all the values painted closer together, which will eliminate the competition it's having with the foreground imagery. My intention is for it to be a backdrop, not a focal point.

I've ganged together 3 photos of this section of the painting. The top image is after the first coat of thin oil paint. Having decided to darken the background, I started by painting the three women (middle photo). Notice how the space behind them begins to look lighter. That is just what happens when something adjacent to another space or object is darkened. It creates a new relationship of values in that area. To complete the background, I next darkened the space behind the women, making all the values closer together, creating a more solid backdrop. Notice how much richer the wine bottles look, now that the area behind them is darker.

The tablecloth has many subtleties in both the shadows and light struck areas.

Here's a closer view.

I now have the background wall and the foreground tablecloth completed. These large areas will dictate the final lights and darks of the entire painting.

The wood crate and all the lettering on the crate label took a great deal of time. I made sure that the final values worked as a good dark backdrop for Mr. Corkscrew.

In order to see the difference in what an object looks like with the first thin passage of paint compared to the final thick layer, I've put the photo of these grapes above. Look at the photo below to see the finished grapes and...

...notice how much richer they look.

I just finished the cabernet grapes in the back of the truck.

The truck is completely finished. I will have to go back and darken the tablecloth under the truck. When I darkened the tires, it made the contrast too strong and they need to 'sit down' visually.

I've moved up into the grape box and will finish the four pickers first. Here is one completed.

I'm using as large a brush as possible to paint the figure, giving this section of the painting a more 'painterly' look.

The women pickers wrap their heads with bandanas, protecting their hair from getting snagged in the vines.

After painting the pickers, I'll paint the vines and the soil.

Here are two close-up shots, showing the heavier final passage of oil on the vines.

Notice that the lighter value strokes of paint are thicker than the darker strokes.

Here is the completed scene in the box.

Both bottles of wine are finished. Notice that the reflection in the bottles (above the labels) has a blue tint in it to show the sky.

I moved down the painting where the paint was dry and put the finishing layer of oil on the cheese knife.

My main focal point, the vineyard owner (Todd), took a number of days to get just right. I first detailed the corkscrew and then the figure, all the way down to the pattern in his straw hat. The seam in his Levi jeans can also be seen in this photo.

The grapes are next!

The Thompson seedless grapes aren't just green. There are subtle variations of yellows in the riper pieces.

This is an overall look at the painting to this point.

The red grapes are rendered with their shades of red and green.

The pears look extra rich, hiding in the shade of the glass of wine.

The glass of wine is now done. The top surface of the wine looks like a pool.

The final element (the bread) of the still life is completed.

Here's the lower area of the still life. With this area of the painting completed, I will now work on the last unfinished section of this oil, the view out the window.

This photo doesn't show the actual color, especially the sky which has blue tones, but shows the distant vineyard after the harvest with its fall color.

"California Beauty" is finished. I will wait a week and give it a light coat of varnish to bring out the dull areas. I will then have it scanned for documentation and will post the scan in this spot to show the true colors.