Still Life with Man Made Objects
Select some man-made objects… Find objects that are linked by common use… spend time working out the format and composition… Make a careful evaluation of tonal variation… Think in advance about how you would exploit visual drama…
19 & 20/06/15
When you’ve completed your still life, look at it carefully and make notes in your learning log. Comment on the following:
- your planning and working methods – after making two previous still life paintings in quick succession, I was more confident about the composition, scale and format I wanted to use. The preliminary sketch confirmed my thoughts but was still very useful, had the sketch not worked, I would have had the opportunity to rethink. The most valuable sketch because of this, was the tonal “map” of the arrangement.
- your choice of format and scale – as above. The objects were not large, however, the image benefited from enlarging them, giving them more importance and as they were predominantly spherical in shape, a square format focused in on them well.
- the composition – following on from the previous comment, I also wanted to put the objects into an interior’s context but liked the way I could actually see the outside through the open door. This cast some interesting shadows and gave more tonal interest to whole image, along with some contrasting angles and straight lines against the curves and ellipses of the objects. This was something I liked when researching 19th and 20th Century still life painters and paintings ie Table in Front of the Window by Pierre Bonnard.
- colour interest – I think that this is the first time ever, I have consciously looked at the colours, mixes and their tonal variations. I have never before worked out these mixes and tonal gradations beforehand – it’s always been a case of pick and mix on the fly. Whereas that “method” worked at times, at others, I could see a lack of uniformity across the painting and no thought to warm or cool colours or using local colour as shadow. This painting, I feel, gels well in colour because they were premixed.
- your use of tonal contrast – as this painting was done over two days with varying weather conditions from bright sunlight to dull and overcast, plus light sources from the open door and the window to right, not to mention overhead lighting when it was particularly dark, my preliminary tonal sketch was invaluable. It truly served as a map of tones across the painting – I was able to follow this directly from the sketch and did not use the fluctuating light sources over the course of the time. The objects themselves gave me the shapes, angles, proportions and colour but the sketch gave me the tones. As the teapot and teacup are predominantly white, I decided to use a neutral ground colour. I used ultramarine, burnt sienna and white giving a warm neutral. This worked brilliantly and helped me gauge the tones within the white crockery and door frames.
- your use of paint handling – from the previous two still life paintings, where I used much more dilute paint and inks, I found I was less heavy-handed here. I have learnt (as mentioned in my sketchbook) from portrait class that darker tones appear to work much better when thinner in consistency and lights benefit from being thicker. I have tried to sculpt with the paint using flat, reasonably large brushes. From using the tonal sketch, I also think I applied paint with more confidence than usual and this stopped me overworking it.
Finally, look carefully at all three still life paintings that you’ve completed for this project… decide which is the most successful.
I think as a painting, taking into consideration all the above comments, the final Still Life with Man Made Objects is the most successful painting, however, as an image, I still like the Drawing in Paint still life because of its colours and more loose approach, its flaws have an appeal to me.
What elements have particularly contributed to the success of this painting?
The tonal work, because of the preliminary sketch, is consistent and the use of colour on a predominantly white object to show tone, works well I think. Also, the fact that the entire painting is made with just three colours, plus white, gives it a cohesive appearance across the whole picture.
Which areas need further development and practice?
All of the elements I have explored, actually using the tonal sketch, thinking about colour with tone beforehand, are new to me and require more practice. What I would really like to do is to combine the freshness of the “Drawing in Paint” still life, with the techniques of the “Still Life with Man Made Objects”.
If you did a still life painting for Assignment One, revisit this now and make notes on what you could do differently to improve it.
Where do I start??? My main positive is the drawing, and I think that’s it. From what I have learnt so far over the course of Part 2 I would consider:
- Being more selective regarding the objects in the arrangement – they have no relationship.
- Although tonal drawings were done, they do not appear to have been utilised to their full effect. Even though a light box was used, the lighting does not seem fully consistent.
- The paint handling was a little heavy-handed yet appears tentative in places. The darks, particularly in the bottle and back ground have no subtly and the glass is dull and opaque rather than rich and transparent.
- This is an example of my pick and mix approach to colour where it has not worked. By putting more thought into the colours, their tones and transparency versus opacity, I think I would have achieved more freshness. Rather than thinking on my feet and making the wrong decisions, the hard work would have been done regarding the colour and tone and this would have given me more confidence in placing the paint and making the painting less overworked, dull and heavy.
I have to say that the photograph is also improving the painting by seemingly lifting the colour – in real life, my comments most definitely apply.