In July 2015, I threw this piece called (Illusion of) Abundance together in record time to make deadline for a show. My models were tomatoes and some basil from the local farmers' market, arranged into a few casual poses for reference photos. At the time, I was experimenting a lot with acrylic (calligraphy) ink washes. The colors used here are yellow, red, purple, green, white, and black. Most of the shadows on the tomatoes come from purple washes, while the shadows on the green areas are from black ink diluted down to various levels of gray.
A number of viewers commented on how they enjoyed the brightness of the reds. In fact, most compliments related to the values being so high-key. That was good to hear because I wanted it to be more about design sense than detail, and about grabbing attention rather than encouraging contemplation. This was to be a piece for a restaurant, not a museum.
Thing is, when I work for myself I lean more towards the "museum" side of things, and for that reason the drawing always felt somehow incomplete. After spending months focusing on watercolor almost exclusively, I took a crack at updating the whole piece. My objective was to increase the ranges of color and tone, so I applied washes of cadmium yellow, alizarin crimson, and Cotman's "purple lake" over the tomatoes. The stems and leaves were glazed with lemon yellow, viridian, and more gray ink. The cast shadows are cerulean blue neutralized with cadmium red light (I used a student-grade kit, so all the colors are "hues" rather than being the real thing). I also heightened some linework with pen and black ink. The result:
The lighting conditions were obviously different for each photo.
I'm not one to say that either version is "better" than the other, but the feeling of the piece has clearly changed from spontaneous to deliberate. The revision has increased in warmth and weight, but at the sacrifice of immediacy and, perhaps, directness. Which is the clearer expression of a tomato? What do you think?