Disclaimer: This is not a story about beets.

I’m sometimes asked how I learned to make my backgrounds the way I do. That story is also the story behind my painting called “Beet Salad.” (Ok, maybe there are some beets involved, but moving on…) A few very important things happened when I created this painting.

First, I had better materials

When I quit my first “real” job and went to Italy, I bought new painting supplies from the local art supplies store. When I came back to the U.S. and travelled to Italy on vacation, I was able to use the supplies I had left there.

©April 2014, Francesca Bandino,  Beet Salad . Acrylic on Canvas, 16.1x13 inches

©April 2014, Francesca Bandino, Beet Salad. Acrylic on Canvas, 16.1x13 inches

I really only had two brushes – no more, no less – but they were two excellent brushes. In addition, I was using professional-grade paints and the difference from student-grade was significant. The colors became bolder and more vibrant. The paints didn’t feel watery under my brush. They were full-bodied and I could actually feel what I was creating.

I had laid my canvas paper on the floor; I didn’t have an easel. I painted on the floor with my whole body, not just my hand. Every brushstroke was intentional even though I hadn’t put much thought into a single one of them.

No more paint was wasted

I had created streaks with paint left over from another painting. They had been created the year prior and then the unfinished canvas was left there when I moved my life back to the U.S, but they were just random green and gold streaks. I decided to add more green to those until my canvas was filled with color. I couldn’t remember the last time I had filled a whole canvas. My flat brush moved from the top of the canvas to the bottom and then back up again. I was careful not to ruin my precious brushes.

The background was vibrant. It could have stood alone because the movement of the lines was enough stimulation for my eyes, but I knew I wasn’t finished yet.

No more sketches

While I was on vacation, I wanted to paint and I didn’t have any sketches that motivated me to create. Not working from a sketch allowed me to paint more freely. As some art instructors of mine have said, painting is not drawing with paint. Therefore, it is creating something with colors rather than lines.

At this point in time we were still in the early stages of smartphones, so I had a bunch of useless pictures of things I had found interesting or weird at any given moment. After I had completed the background, I looked through my pictures to find something that would pique my interest. I found it – a picture of a beet salad I had gotten at a fancy restaurant! I knew that the orange and pink would stand out on the green canvas.

Colors became my priority

I painted colors that would look good together rather than a subject that would be interesting. How many people think cut-up beets are interesting? Not too many, I would assume. The colors led me to another path – nothing was what it seemed. Those dots you see, they were originally crumbs on my plate. I know, you thought they were sea bubbles, but they’re not. I used the other end of my paint brush to create them, not the end with the bristles. The beets, well, if I hadn’t told you that they were beets, would you have known? Mostly I’ve been asked if they are some sort of shell fish they can’t identify. What about those curly wisps? They’re just some food decoration, nothing exotic.

This painting marked a turning point for me, and I moved from being a realistic painter to being an expressionistic painter. It’s not about what you see in my paintings but how they make you feel when you look at them. What do you feel when you look at this painting?