Thursday, February 16, 2012

Still Life Composition: A Demonstration

Strong, incisive compositions have the capacity to entice, involve, provoke and inspire. Build your paintings on such a foundation and you'll set the stage for portraits of life and expressions of the soul. 

Some time back, The Artist's Magazine asked me to do an article demonstrating how I designed my award-winning painting, "Cheers!" For a link to Artist's Network, which highlights all the steps involved in setting up this composition along with insight into my choice of props, placement and intent, click on the link below.

Here I have included two photos from that series. One is of my original set up; the other is the resulting painting. Note how I took some artistic license with the finished piece. Despite having designed what I thought was a pleasing and moving composition as my inspiration, once I began massing in the shapes,  I realized  that if I  tweaked  a few things, (the height of the silver vase, the viewer's eye level and placement on the canvas, for example)  my painting would be much stronger. I hope you agree!


As the saying goes: "The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement!"

"CHEERS!" Oil on Linen 11 x 14. Private Collection
oil composition demonstration image
Set up for "Cheers!"
Note the differences in my painting and  set up
I enjoy the entire creative process, from concept to completion. Still life let's me do just that. And given the freedom to arrange elements what visually speak to and for me in an interesting relationship to one another, it allows  experimentation with lighting, mood, storyline and other key facets of individual taste.
Tips for Creating Moving Still life

1.      When setting up, create a sense of unity & harmony by overlapping a few objects.
2.      Start out loosely at the block-in stage. Paint large masses, then work toward finer details. Be careful not to lock yourself into a tightly rendered drawing, which often leads to filling in the lines.
 3.      Learn to look at your subject with fresh eyes, as if for the first time. Relish in its form, color, inadequacies, uniqueness, and paint what you see.
 4.      When painting under natural light, it’s a good idea to take reference photos for backup in case the light begins to change.
 5.      Always photograph setups that include perishables such as fruit and flowers.
 6.      Use an assortment of compatible shapes that are varied in size and texture. If your props are too similar, they will vie for viewer attention.
 7.      Fruit is always a good subject because of its beautiful, natural shapes, rich colors and interesting textures.
 8.      Put some distance between yourself and the canvas. Take breaks. Stand back to view your work from a fresh perspective. If you find yourself mired down with details or losing enthusiasm, set the canvas aside for a few days. Work on something else. When you return, it will be easier to spot errors or areas that need adjustment and get motivated again.
 9.      Include various levels of interest by leading the viewer into your canvas toward your focal point, and from there around and through your composition.
 10.      “Instantly paint what you see. When you've got it, you've got it. When you haven't, you begin again.” Edouard Manet


Bibi said...

Thanks so much for the guidelines and the post, very helpful. I love the still life!

Louise B. Hafesh said...

Appreciate your comment, Bibi. Welcome to my blog.

Enzie Shahmiri said...

Lovely blog Louise. I look forward to reading your posts.