Cook’en up a still life painting

In 1918, the metaphysical painter Carlo Carrà wrote, “We have little time for those who tell tales of a new world every twenty-four hours … It seems sufficient to us that the artist should have a clear idea of what he is doing hour by hour.” His clear idea was to depict the “secret magnificence” of humble objects. It is probable that the like-minded San Francisco painter/printmaker Gordon Cook has been compared to ancestors like Carlo Carrà and Giorgio Morandi, but their shared approach, balancing observation with a calm, measured poetry, is due for revival. Cook knew exactly what he was doing.

In this painting project we will be exploring the genre of still life and the style of painterly painting.

Still life genre:


Image source By Jan Bruegel

still life (plural still lifes) is a work of art depicting mostly inanimate subject matter, typically commonplace objects which may be either natural (food, flowers, plants, rocks, or shells) or man-made (drinking glasses, books, vases, jewelry, coins, pipes, and so on).  More from WikipideA


Painterly painting”

The term painterly is used to describe a painting done in a style that embraces, shows, and celebrates the medium it’s created in (be it oil paint, acrylics, pastels, watercolor, etc.), rather than tries to hide the act of creation.

Image source By Joyce Washor

Image source By Joyce Washor




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A painter and printmaker, Gordon Cook became active in the Bay Area California art scene from the time he was married to abstract painter Joan Brown in the 1970s.  In fact, Brown painted a portrait of the two of them posed with their dog in the formal garden of the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House.

His early paintings were small in size, muted in color, and usually depicted single still-life subjects such as a box, a single flower or a wheel. These works were both very defined and quite expressive with impasto paint application.

Before then, his reputation was for printmaking, and after the 1970s, his focus turned to landscape painting, especially solitary buildings in the delta area of the Sacramento River.  Cook has also painted floral still lifes, nudes, portraits and cityscapes.

Cook was born in Chicago and attended Illinois Wesleyan University, earning a B.F.A. in 1950;  He also attended the State University of Iowa in Iowa City.
His work is in the collection of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco.

From ArtZone461

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Our Project:

Our end goal is to smudge some paint on a flat surface…

ok? … well, there is a bit more to it…

  1. Find a subject.  A SIMPLE SUBJECT!  An Everyday object…. And PLEASE NOT YOUR PHONE NOR iPOD!!!  -I have seen way too many kids have epic fails trying to paint them….
  2. Really LOOK at your object from all sides, hold it in your hands turn it around and around until you can see it clearly in your minds eye.
  3. Sketch it out in your SB at least 5 times from different viewpoints
  4. Think about the Figure Ground relationship.   You really want the negative space[the background and ground] to accentuate the object [your subject]
  5. Next once you have shown me a real size draft, on paper, we will have a critique
  6. Then you will do revisions of your draft
  7. Sketch on the canvas board
  8. Block in colour- think about the painting of your ‘grounds’
  9. Paint in the detail while thinking about the term painterly and realising it is about letting you brush strokes be a part of the painting and not trying to hide them.


Still Life Painters

Day One:  Intro, Activity: Value sketching crumpled or folded paper- 3 small 10-minute sketches.

Day Two: Lesson on Composition, the art principles associated. 2D pic plain, XY&Z axis, Symmetry, asymmetry,  Edge, kissing, Fig/Ground relationship, Mergers etc.  Activity: 4 small compositional object sketcher for 3 different object- 12 in total!

*Day Three: Starting to work up our idea for the project.  Sketching.  Talk and Demo on priming canvas, ground colours, and the difference between materials- acrylic, canvas, linen, primed and unprimed.

*Day Four: Working up sketches and large sizes draft.

*Day Five:   Today we are going tohave our draft critique and talk about Colour palette for acrylic painting. Students will paint a ground colour on their canvas as well as submit their full draft.

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