I am sure Jill is glad to see it finished, as now I can take down the props which have been occupying a sizable area of our bedroom for the last two months. I certainly wasn't painting for two months straight, but as I only was able to work on it here and there, the time stretched out quite a bit longer than I had originally anticipated. In fact, there were probably only about thirty hours of work time involved.
I began by laying a gesso ground on a small Masonite board - about 9" x 11". I prefer a traditional gesso made by mixing calcium carbonate with rabbit-skin glue which is painted on in many thin layers, then sanded smooth. Next I lay out my drawing on the panel. If I had planed things a bit better I would have done this in silverpoint instead of graphite, as the graphite blurred a bit when I sealed the drawing. Then I began painting each section of the painting to completion a la prima. I used to begin with a grisaille, but found a la prima to generally be more satisfactory for the way I approach still-lifes and landscapes; I reserve grisaille for figurative paintings.
At the end of each painting session I snapped a quick photo to document the process:
Here I have painted the candle-stick and a small scythe or sickle. The candle is unlit; a symbol of light, but a reminder that the light of knowledge must be obtained through effort - every man must light his own candle. The sickle is an obvious symbol of death, but also of the bounteous harvest that should be expected as the final reward of a life well lived. Grain in the field is useless until it is cut down and subjected to destructive processes like milling which alter it, making it useful and beneficial for man.