UA1-WA:P3-p3-Ex Attempting a still life

A throwaway line in the course notes suggests having a go at a still life image if we haven’t before. Scary, but nothing ventured nothing gained.

First a review of anything relevant I’ve done in the past. If there is any such thing it could only be as part of Textiles 1: A Creative Approach.

sketch_20120213In February 2012 I played around with a painting by Cézanne’s, Still-Life with Apples and Biscuits. That was while doing a section on design development and I somehow tried to combine elements with some sketches of shells and it all went rather strange. If you really want to you can see more here.
sketch_20120416Not long after that I was playing around trying to get ideas for a class piece. This is based on an old jug, permanently borrowed from my mum, which has a lovely complex shape and interesting little illustrations all over it. You can see the initial sketch here and then scroll down to see the various bits and bobs I did to develop it.

p5s4_03This_is the final work, documented as part of Assignment 2 Project 5 (see post 26-Apr-2012). The photo doesn’t show it but this was printed on a very fine, shiny silk with a beautiful drape (but rather delicate).p5s4_02 All the little elements are based on the decoration on the vase. I was (still am) pretty pleased with the result. I think it could qualify as a still life, or least as a potential component of one. It doesn’t work as a standalone composition at the moment – a bit of a lump in the middle of the “page” – but of course that weakness is one of the reasons I wanted to study Art History. My tutor’s comments included it “had some very subtle and delicate effects combined with collaged effect and then enhanced by over printed sections which added depth. But looking at it as a flat piece of design work, I didn’t find it quite as interesting [as an earlier sample]. However, once it was draped and folded it became quite beautiful and design really worked well on the silk fabric.”

sketch_20120427My next attempt had its genesis straight after in the sketchbook on 27-April-2012. First up was an unsatisfactory sketch of some fruit on a shiny piece of paper.
fruit2_edgeA photograph that I took and manipulated was much more interesting in both colour and texture.
sketch20120508We’re back to unsatisfactory with some dreary experiments meant to explore texture (by now in sketchbook 4).

sketch20120511cA couple more versions followed here.sketch20120511d With colour I found I couldn’t see shapes. In the black and white version I thought maybe I was getting somewhere.

sketch20120629I did a final sketch just before attempting an interpretation in applique for Assignment 3 Project 6. My post (30-Jun-2012) notes that I wanted to keep focus on curves. Looking back I think I was trying to follow my preference of finding echoes of shapes/lines/… across an image – see for example comments 13-Jan-2014 discussing Laurens Craen’s still life, although there I saw that the contrast of a few straight edges provided a welcome contrast and interest.

p6s3_18On 30-Jun-2012 I posted the final work – and it didn’t work (although it looks a little better in real life). There’s more discussion in that post, but one thing I remember particularly was trouble with determining the borders or framing. I think there’s a pattern that I start with some objects I think might be interesting, arrange them thinking of the negative space between them, but never come to grips with the composition as a whole. My tutor’s report at the time commented “Compositionally, I think that the strawberry shape needed a bit more emphasis perhaps in the treatment of the leaves and stalk, using more angular shapes in contrast to the curves. If you look back to the original, the composition is very effective, but it is the highlights created by quality and varied emphasis of the lines, that make a visual liveliness. With your textile version, the colour balances on the shapes are all very similar …”

My conclusion from all the above is that I want now to focus on the composition as a whole, and within that more variation.

Step two was to review some still life works I’ve seen in recent months. I’ve collected quite a few images, but will save the full set for a question in the next project. For now just a brief look back at my recent annotation and analysis of Laurens Craen’s work.

craen_02craen_03Much too complex in the detail of course – and the course notes particularly suggest caution for this first attempt. I looked back at the other Laurens Craen works I’d found (in my files but not here since they’re not my photos). Pretty much all of them are based on a triangular arrangement (although none of the lines straight) on a table top with one corner and part of the front edge exposed.

All of the above was written before I started working on the new drawing.

sketch_20140117I drew out a very much simplified form, then hunted around the house for items and started arranging. And rearranging. I was hoping with the preparation this would be easier, but it was painful. In the end I remembered this is a learning exercise. A start.

sketch_20140117bThis is probably the best I came up with. Potatoes. Not brilliant, and it was only when uploading the photo that I realised I hadn’t got my planned triangle.

In morning light the next day I noticed an angle which seemed more interesting, and got out graphite pencils and paper. Easing into this I wanted to concentrate on careful observation, shapes and relationships.

sketch_20140118bsketch_20140118There was a false start, and a slightly less false version number whatever I’ve got to now.

That’s as far as I’ve got. I don’t think it’s worth discussing in detail. I need to keep working at this – not the specific thing but sketchbook work in general. The goal isn’t good drawing or painting as such, but if I can’t create a satisfying composition, if I can only critique others, how can I ever make good textile art? I’d also like to sharpen my observational skills.

So this post is recording a start. I’m hoping to continue having goes at still life images although not necessarily write about it here. However for a number of reasons I like having a searchable, reviewable record so I’ll quietly add to a new sketchbook page at https://fibresofbeing.wordpress.com/understanding-art-1-western-art/uwa-sketchbook-1/.

UA1-WA:P3-p3-Ex Attempting a still life
Understanding Art 1 – Western Art.
Part three: Modern art and still life
Project three: Introducing still life
Exercise: Attempting a still life

1 Response to “UA1-WA:P3-p3-Ex Attempting a still life”


  1. 1 Jane (epocktextiles) January 20, 2014 at 6:59 am

    I like the potatoes picture, very earthy.I can see the triangular composition there, (actually I see 2 triangles – one made by the potatoes, and one with the pots as well) and I like the angle. Have you ever thought about printing the photo and tracing it to really “see” where the lines are, then go back to sketching from real life? (… and obviously this is a suggestion from a non-professional, as you know)


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Fabulous figure sculpting workshop with Kassandra Bossell!

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