Extreme Makeover 3

Still Life with Shells and Fruits
by Vicente Collado Jr
Fri 6th January 2012

This still life was painted in 2003 when painting was for me more enthusiasm than expertise. It was quite acceptable to me then if not perfect in terms of forms and composition. The shells, the main objects of interest and basically orange in color, were set off by a complementary blue atmosphere. The sturdy triangular arrangement binds the various elements into one strong unified whole. The yellow peaches and fruits mark the tips of the triangle that serves as the boundary of the area where the excitement is. Very little seemed to be lacking in this creation.

Original Painting

But, looking at it now, I can't resist the urge to inject more vibrant colors and greater atmospheric perspective in what now appears to be a dull and flat composition. Neither can't I help noticing other shortcomings: the lemon peel is too long, the shells lack natural luster, the fruits and leaves are not fresh, and the strong contrast between the warm and cool table draperies grab too much attention. A renovation is certainly needed and is clearly the most logical next step.

Knowing a makeover would merely be a light exercise, I brought out my brushes, squeezed my oils on the palette and proceeded to work.

The following images are some of the significant intermediate stages of the transformation.

To add more depth, I replaced the bright blue textile in the background with a simple airy neutral gray. To remedy the "kiss" occuring between the big conch shell and the watermelon, I moved the watermelon backwards providing a natural leaning support for the shell. Then, I brushed in the basic colors of the fruits, adding more reds to offset the dominant yellow. I also blocked in the drapery, deciding for a green, pink, and white combination. The fruit arrangement on the brass fruit holder seemed too crowded with heavy peaches, so, I added more green and purple grapes that can overhang without falling. For balance, I sketched another glass of wine on the right side with the brush I had on hand which happened to hold green pigment.

With the basic structure established, I can now concentrate on just painting. I started developing the fruits and the drapery. I blotted out the other wine glass on the left and the jar at the lower left which had become superfluous composition-wise. I then focused on the contents of the fruit holder, refining the details of the apple, peaches, pear, plums and grapes. I also worked on the sliced orange, strawberry, peaches and plums in the foreground. I quickly brushed in the leaves in the background, going for a brighter, more intense, version of green. After making minor adjustments on the background leaves and fixing the watermelon, I finally turned my attention to the shells, painting them with the colors internet images show they have in reality.

I continued refining the features of the shells toning down its color. I then set my attention on the white drapery, rearranging the folds to make them point to the center of interest. After giving the glasses of wine another coating, I lightly dragged a thick layer of white paint over them for the frosty look. The haze on the red grapes and the velvety fuzz of the peaches were painted next. I refined the flesh of the cut oranges, formed the strawberries and added the body shadows to the wine. I then gave the metal fruit holder an initial gloss. Highlights were added to the green grapes, plums and apple. I then finished the skin texture of the strawberries and the cut oranges. Finally, I gave the finishing touches on the spikes and edges of the big conch shell.

Still Life with Shells and Fruits
Oil on Canvas
50cm x 60cm


The natural pinkish interior of the conch shell requires a predominantly green surrounding to keep it in focus. This is the reason why the background was rendered dull green (complement of pink) and an abundance of green (leaves, fruits, draperies) was splashed all around the place.

Also, part of the table was draped with pink and white fabrics to echo the color scheme of the conch shells. The folds and creases were made to point to the conch shells as a way of leading the eyes to the focal area.

The taller wine glass on the left bisects the triangular composition, preventing the eyes from wandering off; but, this needs a smaller wine glass on the opposite side as a counterweight.

Aside from the the focal area, the composition also has other areas of interest the eyes can feast on like the mini-arrangements of fruits all over. But, these appetizers always lead the eyes back to the main course, the conch shells.

Formwise, I was able to apply techniques I've picked up all these years to render the shells, grapes, glasses and other items more realistic and true to themselves.

In general, I am happier with this new version where the colors seem to dance and vibrate with life, and where the forms are more accurate technically and more unified as a composition.


Still Life with Shells and Fruits
Fri 6th January 2012