"Wholesome" series of oil paintings by Tricia Ratliff

Over the past couple of years I enjoyed painting about freedom and the cycle of life - and feathers were featured in those paintings. But over the late fall and winter I've also been enjoying painting my "Wholesome" series. It is a group of paintings that started with bread  ( Panera ) as a subject.

Bread and Wine 12x12 oil on panel

The bread feels complete - representing both daily life and larger spiritual meaning. It also calls up feelings of abundance, simplicity, health and happiness. A classic hand made loaf can even remind us of family and time spent at home.

Wholesome - 18x24 oil on canvas

These paintings are a good example of how a series typically evolves for me. Often the process isn't a straight road but more like an enjoyable walk in the woods without a path. This journey started long before the paintings. A couple of years ago, I was enjoying painting bread in one of my bread and wine paintings. I was thinking about  the symbolism of bread and that it would make a wonderful primary subject. But at the time I didn't do anything with it. I just thought about it for awhile and studied bread in museum paintings and as a secondary object in my own paintings.

Bread Milk and Eggs - 8x10 oil on canvas

It took awhile for the right compositional ideas to start emerging but after awhile I started to enjoy even the most subtle shifts in similar compositions.  When I painted the one above I was studying with David  Cheifetz whose work I like because he's good at pushing back anything that isn't the subject.

As I was working, I even painted the same composition using different techniques, in different sizes to get slightly different effects. When seen in person, this 8x10 below is actually quite different than the larger one above.

Simple Life - 8x10 oil on canvas

Here's another example of a painting composition that I used for a softly painted study (top) as well as a classical realist version of the painting (bottom). I painted these both as the same time but the top one was painted wet in wet while I was waiting for layers in the bottom one to dry. The jug in the painting on the bottom is accurate to real life while I felt free to experiment and modified the one on the top to create a more triangular composition. I also sorted the edges of the pot to create a glow. They look similar but to me these are completely different paintings in so many ways. 

Health and Happiness - oil on canvas

Bread and Wine 18x24 oil on canvas

After awhile, I would be working on other paintings and see new things that I wanted to pair with bread. Or, in this case the "wholesome" theme influenced a related painting without any bread in it. But you can see the similar color family and treatment of the objects as I'm pulling on a certain feeling.

 Crisp linen for quilting. 18x24 oil on canvas
detail of crisp linen

The thing about a series is that one thing becomes an intense focus for awhile and then the artist may shift (a little at a time) until we end up in a new place. Here in the painting below you can see that the tea kettle is grabbing more attention than the bread.

The "Wholesome" series will continue to evolve and I can't say where it will end or if it will tangent into something completely different. For example, I've been wanting to paint bread and wine again but I have a couple more ideas to explore before bringing that juicy strong alizarin crimson (red) back into the compositions.

Soft and Warm 12x12 oil on canvas  

What's next? Well, I'm inspired by a suggestion from my biggest fan (Mom) to paint one of bread with butter and jelly. I can already picture the juicy color of the jam and the soft tone of the butter.

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