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jackiesimmonds
03-03-2004, 04:40 AM
Here is the first of the answers to the any questions thread, concerning still life backgrounds. Please remember that this is really a potted version, it is not appropriate to post a long long thread, and anyway in my book there are many pages on this subject.

So - here is a little suggestion or two, very much abridged from the book's text:

"When looking at a subject, people often neglect to take the edges of the rectangle into account. These edges frame the picture and force us to look at the background as part of the subject. This is why looking thro a viewfinder helps, it provides edges round the still life and you will quickly sense if you have too much, or too little space around the objects.

Instead of the "draped cloth" background here are a few other ideas:
1. you can use windows, a cupboard or a mirror,
2. a patterned wall, or coloured paper behind the still life.
3. You could direct a strong light onto your still life, against a plain wall, and make use of the shadows.
4. You could look down onto your still life, and make the tabletop your background. The tabletop could be plain, could make use of coloured fabric, or you could even use something reflective, like tinfoil.

If you like the idea of setting your still life within a simple coloured background, it is probably best to choose a basic colour which either harmonises with or contrasts with the colours of the still life. Using a broken colour technique will prevent a plain background from being boring. You need to think about ways of linking the background to your still life, and echoing some of the colours used elsewhere in the picture works well. Here are some examples, taken from Cezanne's images:

No. 1 shows the background as the surface that the objects are set up on, by looking down.
No. 2, Cezanne used a curved chair back in the composition, which echoes the shapes of the fruits; he also took colours from the still life and tabletop into the background.
No.3 the background consists of abstrast random strips, the colours echoing those used in the rest of the picture.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/03-Mar-2004/1805-still_life_backgrounds.jpg

Hope this is helpful
Jackie

oops - moderators - so sorry, I posted this into the wrong area. Please would you move it to the general pastels forum?
thanks
Jackie

llis
03-05-2004, 07:08 AM
Thanks Jackie. The tip about why a viewfinder is helpful really makes sense. I never thought about the viewfinder that way. Can't wait to hear more still life pastel tips from you and others. :)

jackiesimmonds
03-07-2004, 02:17 AM
Having offered to provide this kind of info, I have done so...but it doesn't seem to have generated any response from those who said they wanted it. So .. before I do any more ... was it helpful to anyone at all? (Other than Ilis??)

Deborah Secor
03-07-2004, 12:03 PM
Jackie--I think this is an extremely interesting answer. I'm always struggling to explain to my students that the background isn't leftovers or an afterthought, but an integral part of any figure/ground painting. It deserves equal consideration, if not treatment in the painting.

When we paint a landscape, a subject with which I'm much more familiar, we always consider the air between us and the focal point, as well as between the focal point and the farthest point we can see (the sky, usually.) But people find it difficult to consider the air between us and the objects on the table, and that from the objects to the far wall. Why is that? Is it because it's so close? Because there's so little value difference?

The picture plane is such an important element of consideration in any painting, yet seems to be emphasized more in landscapes. We divide the space into the four landscape planes: ground, mountains, trees, sky (flat, slanted, upright, arched overhead). Yet in the still life it's often challenging to see the planes, the floor or tabletop, the wall behind. Is it because it's so simple? Just flat and upright?

It's challenging to decide whether the still life will have 'things' as a background or 'air'. Will there be stuff behind it or just a simple description of light and color? Your three examples are very interesting. I need to reconsiderthe point of view in a still life...

I'm surprised more folks haven't commented here. I wonder if it's because they receive the words via e-mail and never get into the thread itself. (I've been guilty of that...)

I'm snagging some of your thoughts for my classes, Jackie! Thanks...

Deborah

Laura Shelley
03-07-2004, 01:45 PM
I have never succeeded with still lifes, IMHO. However, reading your advice makes me want to tackle another soon! Maybe I can make some sense of it this time. :)

MonicaB
03-07-2004, 03:51 PM
Haven't tried many still life pics, but just may after reading this! Thanks for sharing.

jackiesimmonds
03-07-2004, 06:03 PM
Jackie--I think this is an extremely interesting answer. I'm always struggling to explain to my students that the background isn't leftovers or an afterthought, but an integral part of any figure/ground painting. It deserves equal consideration, if not treatment in the painting.

When we paint a landscape, a subject with which I'm much more familiar, we always consider the air between us and the focal point, as well as between the focal point and the farthest point we can see (the sky, usually.) But people find it difficult to consider the air between us and the objects on the table, and that from the objects to the far wall. Why is that? Is it because it's so close? Because there's so little value difference?



Dee - There IS less in the way of "air" to think about with a still life - there is certainly almost nothing in the way of AERIAL PERSPECTIVE, or atmospheric perspective, which, in a deep landscape, gradually reduces the intensity of colours and tones. That is why I have concentrated on suggesting that people think about the "background" to a still life in this way -by using a viewfinder, it helps to see the background as SHAPE - the flat, two-dimensional space/shape between object and edge of rectangle, and between object and object. It is easier, I believe, to start seeing shapes in a still life, both negative and positive shapes, than it is in a landscape ... but nevertheless, the same principles do apply - at the end of the day, as painters we aren't simply recreating accurately the colours and tones of what we see, landscape or still life -we aren't growing grass or bushes, or creating cups and bowls - we are, in fact, producing a PAINTING of grass or bushes or cups or bowls. We are, actually, creating a flat, two-dimensional PATTERN of shapes and tones and colours on our canvas or paper, and if we begin to think in this way, then we stop reducing "the background" to the level of an unimportant afterthought; instead, it becomes an integral part of the pattern.

PegR
03-07-2004, 06:51 PM
Jackie, thanks so much for posting this--I'm wrestling with a still life, and it's been winning. I knew it needed "something" in the background, but wasn't sure what. The ideas about using something other than draped cloth rang a bell--I think the background is just too boring as it is.

I've been encouraged to keep plugging at the picture, instead of just ditching it and starting over completely!

Many thanks,

Peg

jackiesimmonds
03-08-2004, 04:25 AM
Jackie, thanks so much for posting this--I'm wrestling with a still life, and it's been winning. I knew it needed "something" in the background, but wasn't sure what. The ideas about using something other than draped cloth rang a bell--I think the background is just too boring as it is.

I've been encouraged to keep plugging at the picture, instead of just ditching it and starting over completely!

Many thanks,

Peg
My pleasure Peg, and hope the pic goes well.

Jackie

Kathryn Wilson
03-08-2004, 07:33 AM
Hi Jackie: For some reason I confused this Thread with another on backgrounds - sorry about that! I always find interesting information in your threads - this list especially:

Instead of the "draped cloth" background here are a few other ideas:
1. you can use windows, a cupboard or a mirror,
2. a patterned wall, or coloured paper behind the still life.
3. You could direct a strong light onto your still life, against a plain wall, and make use of the shadows.
4. You could look down onto your still life, and make the tabletop your background. The tabletop could be plain, could make use of coloured fabric, or you could even use something reflective, like tinfoil.

We all complain about backgrounds because we find them difficult - this should help a lot. Does anyone else have suggestions for a background, or something that they used and it worked?