Saturday, March 21, 2015

Painting shiny, silky taffeta

Visiting the California wine country last year we chose our accommodations based on interior painting potential. That's normal, right? The Queen Anne style Vintage Towers Inn in Cloverdale was the perfect place. We were visiting off-season, on a week day, so I was able to rearrange some of the elegant furnishings and set up a still life or two.

I am fascinated by the way the old masters render rich fabrics, clearly indicating velvet, silk, satin or organdy, so naturally, the quixotic shifting light of silk taffeta curtains caught my eye. Taffeta moves from shadow to highlight very quickly. It's difficult to paint because the dramatic changes seem unrealistic and illogical. As is often the case, you have to trust what you see rather than what you think. And the challenge was compounded with stripes - always tough to carry shadows and light across stripes!

In this still life, the shapes of the salt and pepper shakers suggested "eveningwear" to me. A salty, white-gowned bride and peppery, tuxedo-clad groom!

So... the stage was set for The Happy Couple!

painting shiny silky fabric

Placement, drawing and establishing values.

Adding definition to the shakers and more color range to the drapery.

Further refinement.
At this stage the salt and pepper shakers seemed a bit too cool relative to the warm drapery and something needed to be done so they looked like they belonged in the same painting.

I thought the answer was to warm up the color of the shaker which helped a little, but not enough for this still life.

siny fabric close up
detail of The Happy Couple ©2015 Dorothy Lorenze
Right, painting many small, subtle highlights throughout helped describe the character of this shiny, silk taffeta. 

Ultimately, lightening and warming the wood trim pulled the composition together. Now the window frame hugs the bride and groom connecting them to their elegant curtain call. Cheers to The Happy Couple!
painting shiny silky fabric
The Happy Couple ©2015 Dorothy Lorenze, 8x10"

Thank you for visiting and viewing my painting.


  1. So true what you said about painting what you see and not what you think, "The Happy Couple" is beautiful, well done.

  2. Naomi Rudo, Bellingham, WAMay 3, 2015 at 3:25 AM

    I loved seeing the progression through your different elaborations, along with your comments. The final result is terrific! And I love the brilliant colors of the curtain stripes!

    1. Thanks so much Naomi! I'm happy to hear the progress shots and explanations are meaningful to you. I enjoy sharing them. (Sorry if this reply is delayed, I was having a bit of trouble with email)


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