Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Rainy Day Still Life

Lately, if we have a rainy day for a workshop, I've been encouraging students to work from a still life rather than a photo. One of my goals in teaching is to help students learn to observe better. A photo has a very limited amount of information in it; the real thing has all the information you'll ever need, and provides lots of mining opportunities.

Although there are no rules for setting up a still life, there are certain guidelines that will help you make a more successful design. These include:

  • When you choose objects, find something tall, something short, something dull in color, and something bright in color. Contrasts (value, size, color, shape) keep the arrangement interesting.
  • But too much contrast can be chaotic. Have a common theme that can relate the objects, such as "fruits of the garden" or color.
  • A tablecloth has more interest than a bare table, but pay attention to the folds. Folds should be arranged to complement the "rhythm" in the arrangement, not conflict with it.
  • Make sure there's nothing distracting in the background. Place the table against a simple wall, if possible, or hang a sheet behind it.
  • Finally, try to set up the still life so everyone has an interesting view. Easier said than done, especially with a dozen artists!

Rainy Day Still Life
5x7, pastel

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