If I had to pick only three favourite subjects, I would say:
- Cloudy skies
I have always liked apples because they offer a wide range of visual qualities. They come in different colours (green, yellow, red or a mixture of these), size and shapes. Apples can be rustic or sophisticated; shinny or mat. These fruits are ideal for studying the way light plays on spheres as well as the different shadows.
Apple - oil on canvas by Benoit Philippe (Private collection)
Still life paintings are an excellent laboratory to learn to paint from nature. Apples are easy to find and stay fresh for a long time, so you can take as many session as you need to finish your painting after you set-up your composition.
Finally, apples remind me of Paul Cézanne.
Cloudy skies are another favourite subject. I like the changing nature of the clouds, their soft volume and how they make the sky interesting and ever changing. I usually use strong colours in my work, but enjoy the subtle variations of light and shadows in clouds, bringing out a high key palette.
I have painted many woods and it is a subject I am happy to revisit. The light is what always strikes me, from dapple light to rich dark green. Woodlands offer the freedom to paint quickly after setting the main elements with a few brush strokes.
How these subjects became favourites of mine? Practice plays a role here. The more you practice a particular subject, the better you become at painting it and enjoy the experience. The only thing to watch for is not to go into automatic pilot because you know (or you think you know) the subject well. In other words, I try to paint the apple I see, not a generic apple.
What are your favourite subjects? Why?