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The Art of Still Life

By braddy  
Sorry for the pretentious title - it's all I could think of!!
I don't often shoot this kind of thing and this is my first attempt in a long time. Lighting is mainly from a window, with a reflector to keep the contrast muted. Subject was placed on a black glass table with a black backcloth. Heavy vignette added in PS. The fruit bowl is composited in from a separate photo and colour matched to the paper - otherwise the page was blank and in my view upset the balance of the shot.
I'm interested in getting some views on lighting and composition.

Tags: Still life Art Close up

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chase Plus
15 2.2k 565 England
19 Sep 2019 10:41AM
This is an interesting tutorial, worth a look.
I think you have done ok here for a first attempt in a while.
The thing that jars with me is the mug, it doesn't go with the theme you are creating and is very reflective. Something like a wooden brush holder may have been a better choice.
Lighting is really nice and subtle on the brush heads but is a little harsh on the paint tubes. Stopping some of that light with a piece of dark card or even something like a shower curtain stuck on the window would perhaps help.
If you are going for the reflections on the glass table then you would need to show them more, otherwise use something to stop them...another piece of black material or similar would suffice.
Composition is very subjective, that really is your choice. Move things around until you are happy with what you see.
You have done well with the addition of the fruit bowl to add some bg interest but (to me) it doesn't look relevant to the rest of your items, perhaps you could have partially 'painted it' so it looked like work in progress, squirted some paint from the tubes onto a paint palette, the options are endless.Therefore critique is difficult to give.
My advice would be to start with something really simple and get the lighting right, move from there and add things to the composition.
Hope that helps a little.
dudler Plus
17 1.6k 1858 England
19 Sep 2019 11:42AM
This is something I very rarely do - but we have an expert on the Critique Team, Chase (aka Janet). I commend every word she writes to you.

The light's fine, the background's OK. The selection of items is pretty good, though the New York mug strikes a far more modern note than everything else.

The problem is that it's cluttered: you've put everything on the sketch pad, with a big black border (I wouldn't have noticed the vignette, as a result).

Arranging a still life is a skill in itself - it needs a free-flowing, casual approach, rather than an engineer's tidyness. I'd suggest separating the stuff more, and having the sketchbook as a separate thing, not a base for everything else.

You need to make it look accidentally beautiful, rather than contrived - easy to say, I know, and very hard to do (and i've got to face up to it for a specific project I need to finish soon!)

I recognise that this is less constructive than is really helpful, and I apologise for that - Janet will be able to provide really good and positive input, I am certain!
19 Sep 2019 12:27PM
Good advice from Janet and from John.

What strikes me more than anything is that it doesn't look as though any of that stuff actually belongs to an artist, or has ever been used at all... everything looks pristine,brand new, not a single spot of dried-on paint on brushes or tubes. And everything has been arranged with an almost military precision which is totally at odds with the subject... the paints are actually lying to Attention!

Sorry to be so negative, but to me the result just looks contrived and sterile.

banehawi Plus
17 2.5k 4246 Canada
19 Sep 2019 2:10PM
Its a good start. Follow the advice and try again.

Ive uploaded a mod that shows this is a different way.


braddy 11 30 Scotland
19 Sep 2019 3:23PM
Many thanks everyone. I will take everything on board and try again. One general lesson is not to post anything that I can already see failings in myself!! I'm letting myself down and wasting the time of others. The NY mug and the irrelevant backdrop sketch are cases in point.
Most items are pristine because they were a re-stock for a course I am going on next week. I'll repost when I get back and hopefully there will be some signs of use to make the image less contrived!!
In my repost I will try to address (a) replacement of the Yankees mug with a more neutral brush holder, (b) a more relevant background, (c) signs of use, (d) less clutter, (d) removal of the reflections, (e) more balance to the lighting.
In the meantime, Janet, I always have your portfolio where I can find inspiration - and get some understanding of how far I have to go in this particular discipline!! It is superb!

chase Plus
15 2.2k 565 England
19 Sep 2019 3:51PM

Quote:I'm letting myself down and wasting the time of others.

Not at all Paul, don't beat yourself up when it really isn't needed, after all, that's why we lot are here to help !
Don't do too much at once, you will just get confused.
Lighting is the most important thing with still life, I have made many mistakes and lots of images have found their way into the bin.
Try Googling 'Harold Ross'....that's where I would love to be but he uses light painting, something I have tried and failed with up to now.
Keep it simple at first don't rush, well you don't have to, still life is just that...still Wink
paulbroad 13 131 1293 United Kingdom
20 Sep 2019 8:32AM
The whole idea of this section is to show your experimental work and see what others think. You may get a general 'like' you may not! You may get a split decision - the difficult ones to interpret. Not my kind of subject, and content and composition will always be a personal decision.

The lighting is not quite right, making the brush heads become a touch indistinct, but not a bad effort in my opinion.

dudler Plus
17 1.6k 1858 England
20 Sep 2019 6:48PM
Janet had obviously written her comment while I was distracted, and actually posted her suggestions ahead of me...

Don't worry about imperfections - though it helps if yo utell us that you've not happy with X or Y.

And it can be fine to use everything in a pristine state - THAT is then part of the theme of your picture, almsot like a commercial product picture.

And if you reflect on my comment, it's clear that i'm not an artist myself, as I didn't spot that all the products are current!

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