When life gives you lemons …

I’m doing a class with the wonderful Gabriella Buckingham. It’s called “Experimental Still Life” and runs for 8 weeks. This is a short report from week 3 – the lemon week

Our main assignment this week was to paint a lemon – from life. I could treat my compositions and subject matter in any way I liked (from realistic to abstract) as long as it originated in a true lemon observation.

6 sheets of paper, prepared for a week of lemons

To really test the subject matter in different ways, I decided to make six small lemon-studies on paper. I chose paper as my surface because it is inexpensive and thus gives me greater freedom to experiment.


Did I really say I was going to make six – 6 – of these?!

Preliminary conclusion: painting from life is very, very, VERY time-consuming! It’s also a lot of fun & a great challenge (it would have been easier if the sun didn’t keep moving all the time). That said, I found the process to be a lot more interesting than the finished result. If I am to continue in a figurative direction, I need to find subjects that speaks to me on a deeper level (or get to know the lemons on a personal level?), or alternatively: try to make the composition into some kind of story, that is trying to make narrative art (which for me, being also a writer, might not be such a stupid idea -).


Started with collage (papers made on the gelli plate) added bottle & glasses with the gelli plate (I painted the glassware on the gelli plate with white – then turned it around and printed it onto the background). Added a bit more white and the turquoise shadows.

Conclusion: The whole process is much faster and easier than painting directly from life. And the result is kind of funny & a bit silly – just like me I suppose …

LEMON & friends

No. 3 is a quick compositional sketch. It’s drawn with a 9B pencil, and I discovered that the graphite transfers perfectly on to the gelli plate, where it can be used for several prints in a row – but, be warned, it seems to be impossible to remove the graphite lines completely from the plate afterwards!


no 4 – tried to do as little as possible with the print, but couldn’t resist painting a backdrop and adding a touch of lemon-yellow … and two tiny bits of collage 

LEMON STUDY NO. 5 (the impossible one)

I struggled such a long time to get the background right in this painting.

My initial intention was to make a patterned wallpaper, rich and intense, almost overshadowing the little group of objects in the foreground. But it just wouldn’t work, I adjusted the pattern, changed the colours, the hue … nothing! In the end I just glued a piece of paper over it all – and voilà the painting became a collage

LEMON STUDY NO. 6 (The silly one)

Question: what if I make everything as a collage?

Answer: you get a rather amusing result.

Conclusion: Just as observed in STUDY no. 2, collage is great if one’s goal is to add a dash of playful silliness to one’s work.

Main conclusion

When life gives you lemons – make art!

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Lyn says:

    Nice work!

    1. Sigrun says:

      Thank you so much, Lyn!

      1. Lyn says:

        You are welcome!

  2. Love these! I think my favourites are 1 and 5, and I like your compositional sketch very much too. Thanks for sharing your process.

    1. Sigrun says:

      Thank you so much, Isobel! I like no. 6 too – for its bold easiness.

  3. bluebrightly says:

    Great work! I love them all and the way you finished with so much humor and energy (#6) tells me you had a great time. Just wonderful!

    1. Sigrun says:

      Thank you so much! Humor seems to be an essential quality for me.

  4. JosieHolford says:

    Beautiful, beautiful lemons!

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