View Full Version : Need some help with still life

10-05-2013, 01:09 PM
Stats: Beginner. Originally acrylic on canvas. I covered with 2 coats of Golden ground and finished with Sennelier pastels (I really like this technique. I only did it to salvage the canvas). My main 2 questions are below:

1. Does the shadow of the vase on the table look odd to anyone else? Looks odd to me and I'm at a loss as to why or what to do to fix it. My subject is just in a box so I had to create this table and shadow and obviously I'm no table/shadow creator. :rolleyes:

2. Does the lighter background behind the flower buds look wrong to anyone else? I need help. I tried to lighten that area up with light blue/light green to provide some contrast to the dark buds/dark background. Many blendings later it was just too smudged so I went over it with a dark olive green to kind of tone down the smeary parts.

Thank you and any other C&C welcome although I'm scared to touch it now. :cool:

http://i719.photobucket.com/albums/ww196/partlycloudy/whiteflower.jpg (http://s719.photobucket.com/user/partlycloudy/media/whiteflower.jpg.html)

10-05-2013, 04:22 PM
I've been glancing at this since posting and here's my updated version. I worked on petal shadows and vase shadow. I'm much happier although still not fully satisfied with shadow on table. It still looks like two different tables to me from one side to the other. Scratching my head.

http://i719.photobucket.com/albums/ww196/partlycloudy/whitehibcomplete.jpg (http://s719.photobucket.com/user/partlycloudy/media/whitehibcomplete.jpg.html)

10-05-2013, 04:37 PM
Okay, I just worked on that shadow again and got the two table sides pretty much the same color. I think I'm finished. I could tweak it for the next week! At some point I guess you have to stop. Yeesh!

http://i719.photobucket.com/albums/ww196/partlycloudy/whiteflwcomplete.jpg (http://s719.photobucket.com/user/partlycloudy/media/whiteflwcomplete.jpg.html)

10-05-2013, 10:52 PM
Definitely on the right track with the changes. Pam:wave:

10-06-2013, 03:42 AM
OK you asked for c&c, so I will do that as if you were a student of mine. Buckle your seat belt, because I give honest critiques.

On the plus side...your flower is very nice! It looks soft and natural. Now for the bits which need dealing with:

1. SHADOW. the shadow does not look right at all I am sorry to say. It does not seem to "belong" to the vase. It is never a good idea to make stuff up like that...you need to use observation. Guessing the shadow this time, just simply did not work. Why put your subject into a box? There is no rule to say a still life subject should be in a box, the box is only there to HELP with the light, most artists ensure that they use some kind of spotlight on the subject, to get very specific shadows. I, on the other hand, never use a box, I put my subject onto a tabletop, with the light from a window to one side, or with shadows from a lamp shining from one side. I recommend you try this, your shadows will then look natural. If I was your teacher I would insist that you do NOT make up tables and shadows!

2. VASE. It is also not at all a good idea to chop off the base of the vase. As a result, the open neck of the vase, and the vase itself, do not match.
If you are standing up and high enough to be able to see into the neck of the vase, then the base of the vase would have an even deeper curve - this is called "perspective". You need to understand this, and learning the rules is helpful...but observation works too. Just put that vase in front of you. If you can see into the neck, then your eye level is above the neck, obviously. Now look down at the base, can you see that the curve is even stronger there? But for this picture....You cannot add more to the base of the vase, so to help yourself a little, I would "raise" the neck as if you were looking straight across at it. Then it "matches" the base a bit better and does not look quite so wrong.
(Unfortunately the image uploader has decided not work suddenly, I was going to give you an example. I will try again later, so sorry...In the meantime you could look at this: http://arts-humanities.squidoo.com/beginners_guide_to_drawing

3. A good idea, always, is to create a little thumbnail sketch, about the size of a playing card. Set your subject up within a rectangle, or square, so you can see how it might look. Then you know where to set your subject on your support.
Again, I cannot upload, so I suggest you look at this:

4. BACKGROUND. Your colour choices are very nice....it is good to have the orange of the vase contrast with the blue of the table, and then to have a more neutral background for your flowers. But I feel the background looks a bit murky and too grey. You could improve that background slightly by using a bit more "broken colour" - that is short side strokes of pastel which overlap each other, using some tiny touches of both the orange and the turquoise blue, in darker and lighter versions...this will pull the picture together a bit more. It is very difficult to do this with a computer mouse, but this gives you the idea. See how the neck of vase is raised too:


All you need is lots more practice; doing something like this as an exercise (working over an acrylic) will certainly help to familiarise you with pastels and what they can do.
But I really recommend you do not make stuff up, and before you begin to paint, try the idea of thumbnail sketches to get good placement of shapes within the rectangle.

10-06-2013, 06:38 AM

ok am trying a different browser. Here is a VERY simple example of a thumbnail sketch. It is about 2" high, and took just a minute or two. Notice how I did not just use outlines, but included some "tone" as well. It is not a sophisticated drawing at all! It definitely gives some sense of whether the subject "fits" within the rectangle comfortably, and could be taken further to have a bit more detail, such as some light on the buds, (and the apple which I put in at the last minute, just for fun) if you felt you needed it. But a thumbnail is simply meant to be a starting point.

Hopefully the other links I gave you were helpful.


10-06-2013, 08:49 AM
Christina - I see you've got some excellent tuition from Jackie already, and I just wonder if you had looked in our Learning Centre, where I've recently copied another excellent way of explaining - with specific reference to still lives (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?p=19798787#post19798787)...you will find there's lots of really good threads in there, if you ever get stuck and need a quick answer.

Just keep at it...you are doing really well for a beginner!:D

10-06-2013, 10:03 AM
Pastel, thank you!

Jackie, thank you so much for taking the time for this thorough feedback and the links (I'll be checking those out later today) and examples. I really appreciate it. I'm a newbie here to learn so critique doesn't scare me at all. I don't comprehend tact either so blunt and honest is always better for me. I'll repost once I've worked on this. Your examples are very helpful as well with enabling me to see exactly what you mean. I knew something wasn't right but just couldn't see what it all was. Oh, the acrylic/ground/pastel hybrid was just due to necessity as I'd begun it in acrylics back when we were covering acrylics in class. And the vase falling off the canvas? An accident and not a happy one!

Edited to say I did in fact do a thumbnail but somehow the vase ended up off the canvas anyway. I'm hoping that drawing link will address this or something in the sketching learning center. It's something I'm aware of and it drives me crazy. I've got some apples on another canvas hanging out on the far right side about to tumble off.

And, you know, I'm not sure why I put my subject in a box.

Deirdre, thank you for that link, I'll check it out. Part of the problem being a newb is not knowing exactly what's wrong so I have a tough time figuring out what to look for in the learning center. I'm starting a beginner's pastel class this month as well as planning on spending more time in the learning center though. I was there last night and it's a treasure trove of amazing instruction! Now that I've finally decided (this week) to pursue pastels I plan on working through each of the lessons.

Again, thank you everyone, I really appreciate your feedback!

10-06-2013, 01:30 PM
I also really like the flower. I used to have issues with drawing not fitting in the picture window properly, thus having a flawed painting in the end. So, I made a promise to myself to not proceed with a painting until the drawing and composition was correct- one of the best things I've done.

10-06-2013, 05:48 PM
One thing that I usually do is leave maybe 3 or 4 inches of blank paper around my painting. I will lightly sketch in the borders of the painting, but by leaving a few inches of paper around the painting, I have room to add in each direction should I need to! And, frankly, it happens quite often! Even though we may think we have the composition the way we want it in a thumbnail or the initial drawing on the paper, paintings have a way of evolving and either need to expand or be cropped (no problem there, usually)!


10-06-2013, 10:45 PM
One thing that I usually do is leave maybe 3 or 4 inches of blank paper around my painting. I will lightly sketch in the borders of the painting, but by leaving a few inches of paper around the painting, I have room to add in each direction should I need to! And, frankly, it happens quite often! Even though we may think we have the composition the way we want it in a thumbnail or the initial drawing on the paper, paintings have a way of evolving and either need to expand or be cropped (no problem there, usually)!

This is an excellent idea for any pastel painting, as it also gives you some test space to test your color choices before application, as well as "run out" room to go "out of bounds" if your painting requires it. This is an example of some "testing" I did during the development of a painting, and you can see that even during the thumbnail phase I tested colors for the thumbnails.


I also have found that when doing "white" objects with shadows, I put in the shadows first, and then the lighter areas, then the highlights. Putting darks over lights tends to make the colors chalky or muddy.

10-07-2013, 09:11 AM
Rug, Dak, and Art, thank you for your feedback and tips. I really appreciate it!

I worked on drawing with correct perspective/proportions yesterday using one of the links Jackie posted. Argh!

The cure is practice, practice, practice. And then practice some more.

10-07-2013, 06:51 PM
Ok, latest version using Jackie's suggestions. I also brightened up the buds and stems.

Any opinions on the shadow of the vase on the table? I squatted down to look at the subject straight on (based on the neck top change) and that's what the shadow looked like.

And yet it looks kind of off to me. :confused:

http://i719.photobucket.com/albums/ww196/partlycloudy/whtflwrfinished.jpg (http://s719.photobucket.com/user/partlycloudy/media/whtflwrfinished.jpg.html)

10-27-2013, 01:56 AM
beautiful work on the flower

10-27-2013, 12:16 PM
Thank you, Mary. That was the "easiest" part, relative to none of it being easy! Vases....I have a love/hate relationship with painting them! :(