Trying to create space / by Melissa Hefferlin

For the last ten years or so still life has commanded at least half my attention. Because of the time which I have in my Spanish studio, I've been able to be more adventurous about my compositions. As seen below, I've added complexity with the introduction of a miniature self-portrait, and a back wall which not only has different planes, but has three separate lighting situations. I want the color on the back walls to be clean and rich, but for the LIGHT to feel real, to feel spacial, to wrap like a shawl around the still life from behind. I want the corner to have depth, and then for the light to glow as it comes through the window, landing on the area right of the little self portrait. To the bottom right of the self portrait, some of the bottle green shimmers on the white wall as the light moves through the translucent glass. I'm not there yet. Perhaps you can see the depth in the studio itself, and the flatness still on the surface of my painting.  That my studio is not true North, and the light changes in position and color all day, adds to the difficulty.

I also have a great deal of drafting to do on the chrome structure of the little cosmetic mirror. I'm saving for the end the pleasure of frosting the foreground silks with more light. 

During the month of July a young woman from Canada was studying with me, and I encouraged her to paint her first self portrait. After her departure, and a in her honor, I wanted to have another go at my own, now older, portrait. My skin is too tanned from the Mediterranean sun, and the afternoon light is warmer than I'm accustomed, so I am struggling with the unusual skin tones, to get them interesting and true. The bronze horse is by Elizabeth DeCosimo, and the bottles are Spanish antiques. The fabrics come from my treasure chest of old friends.  Perhaps you've observed that I took some liberty with the scale of the smaller bottle, enlarging it for a more interesting scale.

This represents about half-way in the progress of this painting.