Seashells, citrus slices, tupelo leaves, and melon wedges are just a few of the ordinary objects Cecile Baird has portrayed anew—and aglow—in her still lifes. “I’ve always been inspired by the old masters and the dramatic lighting they used, but I like to put a contemporary spin on it,” she says. “I want people to see the beauty in simple things, to look at them like they’ve never seen them before.”
Many of Baird’s still-life arrangements require careful preparation and considerable creative finagling, and her winning entry is no exception. “Part of why I love still lifes is that I get to put it all together and tell a story with them,” she says. “For the banana piece, I propped the top of the banana on a rectangular glass vase and held it in place with tape. It was the slices falling down that were the problem. What I ended up doing was photographing the slices separately, backlighting each one in different positions.” Then she worked from her photos to create her drawing.
On first glance, viewers might mistakenly believe Baird’s luminous depiction is an oil painting. The artist achieves the “intense look of oils” with colored pencils by burnishing and layering colors together, she explains. “The way to make them glow is to convey a full range of values from total dark to white,” she adds. “I really push my contrast.”
Baird worked as a graphic designer for many years, and the skills and aesthetics she developed in that role have naturally informed her artwork. “I like simple, bold, clean designs, and I use a lot of repeat patterns and shapes,” she says. Find Baird’s work at M.A. Doran Gallery, Tulsa, OK.
This story was featured in the December 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art December 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.
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