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
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
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.
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
Todd is now officially the 'corkscrew keeper' of
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
Here's a look at the overall painting up to this
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
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
Here's a look at the left corner of the painting.
More cabernet grapes in the truck.
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
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
...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
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
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.
finished the cabernet grapes in the back of the
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.
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
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.
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
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
grapes are next!
The Thompson seedless grapes aren't just green.
There are subtle variations of yellows in the
This is an overall look at the painting to this
grapes are rendered with their shades of red and
look extra rich, hiding in the shade of the glass
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
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.