Wayne Thiebaud: Elliptical Machine
Whenever I paint a cup or a plate, I think of Wayne Thiebaud. That man can paint an ellipse like no one else. He makes it look so easy with his thick, perfectly imperfect strokes of paint. You don’t even realize he’s done it so well because you’re focused on all the other beautiful parts of his painting—the colors, the shadows, the brushstrokes, the pies. The hypnotic repetition. That’s right, he’s painted rows of ellipses. Rows on top of rows!
I just finished my third rendition of this still life of peaches and beer, done twice earlier in pastel, this time I used oils (8 x 8 in.). I became a little obsessed—in a healthy way—with the numerous ellipses comprising the beer glass. There are five in this one little glass, and they all have to match up: the top of the glass, top of the liquid, bottom of liquid, bottom of glass, and shadow. That’s enough geometry for me in one painting.
I applied thicker paint around each one so that I could carve out the shapes with my filbert brush. After I [thought I] was finished with the little painting, I came back to it twice to shore up a couple of the ellipses. They’re not perfect—that’s what made it a healthy fixation—but they read as correct perspective. And maybe you wouldn’t have noticed them because you’re staring at my peaches.
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