Carolyn Sterling

Parable of the vine

Carolyn Sterling

I was given a commission by a dear friend to paint a large painting of grapevines. Her home is decorated using the scripture John 15 – “I am the vine – you are the branches.”


The first thing was determining the size.  After measuring the wall, we decided that 5 ft. by 2 ½ ft. would be the right size.  I had never painted any painting that large. I work from pictures that I personally take. I usually paint from one or two pictures. For this painting I used about 20 pictures as I had individual pictures of clusters of grapes and leaves. I had no idea how to start the sketch and felt totally overwhelmed about the size of the canvas. My easel groaned over the sheer weight and length of the canvas.  I would walk into my studio and sigh. How do I start it?  Then a few days later I felt that placing the grapes first would be the way to start.  I then painted over the grapes with a light glaze. Another important thing to place was the trunk of the vine. I placed this on the “Golden Mean” – the perfect measurement.  You can see it sketched with charcoal. Eventually, I covered up a lot of the trunk with leaves.



Once the grapes were in place, I filled the rest of the canvas with leaves.  I never paint just one section of a painting at a time.  After the sketch is finished I always apply paint to the entire canvas, however, with this painting, I did not do that. I would get engrossed with one section and keep painting on it. I think this made the size of the painting less intimidating.


You can see that I started focusing on the leaves.


I am trained to paint in the Renaissance-style of painting, so each object painted has layer upon layer of color.  Every inch of the painting is painted with multiple layers of paint.  This process takes a very long time, but the results are worth all the work.

More detail filled in.

Close-up of leaf detail.

Almost done.

To see the completed painting, click here