Adv. Still Life: Compositional Studies

This entry is the first of what will be a series of posts throughout the entire semester about the advanced still life class that I'm taking now. In this class the students are really encouraged to be very self-directed and independent; we each set up our own still lives and we're free to work however we want for the whole semester. Because I'm interested in exploring a slower, more involved process, I decided to set up one large still life and do a series of paintings on it for the whole semester. This process is proving to be quite an interesting one and it's been evolving continually over the past few weeks, so I thought it might be helpful to really share what my progress has been so far.

I began by spending a week or two just getting the whole thing set up...I didn't really have much of an idea what I wanted to do going into it...and what I decided to do was largely dependent on the objects available which were mainly supplied by the school. However, I found a piece of furniture that I liked right away and so I immediately began building the whole thing around that. Here are some photos of still life once it was completely set up.

I began by doing a series of quick compositional studies of the set up, mainly line drawings, but some tonal studies as well.

As you can see, pretty early on, I began to develop the idea of doing multiple paintings that all fit together. I've been really interested in the concept of doing paintings which work compositionally on their own but also work well as part of a larger piece. Hopefully you can see, in this study, I have three paintings that fit together into the whole rectangle. Interestingly enough, I found that each one was based pretty closely on the golden ratio...I didn't plan that out at all, it just sort of happened that way, but I liked the idea, so I've been working with it and developing it a bit more.

Then I decided I wanted to include more of the top portion of the set-up, so I started experimenting with trying to add several top panels on to the composition I was already working out...this necessitated adding several other panels as well, and the whole thing began to get a bit more elaborate, as you can see here...

Here's a more fully worked out version of this idea... I think this is pretty much the overall arrangment I'm going with, though I'm sure I'll be making adjustments as I work each painting up more.

I've also been doing little studies of each individual panel...I've been trying to really loosen up and do very quick simple sketches.

I've also been trying to draw alot from memory. A bunch of these sketches, including this one, were done on the train going home, after I'd been drawing from the set-up and observing it for a while. Drawing from memory is a really great exercise to see how much you're really seeing...I've found that it often helps me realize what areas of the drawing are weakest and still need to be worked out.

Finally, I've started doing some more in-depth studies of the top portion, in both line and tone.

I'm going to be including a self-portrait in the mirror on the top shelf, so I'm working out exactly how that's going to's interesting to see that, in this instance, the value study is actually alot more helpful than the line drawing, especially in terms of seeing the self-portrait as a reflection in the mirror that is spatially farther away from the viewer. In the line drawing, the portrait really wants to pop out, and it just doesn't read like it's sitting in a place of space further back.

I have three of these paintings up and running now, and I'll hopefully be posting about them soon so you can see the progress on those as well. This is definitely the biggest and most involved project I've ever worked on, and I'm really excited to see how it continues to evolve throughout the semester!



October 14, 2008 at 1:21 PM

Wow, Laura, this is so cool! I especially love the self-portrait in the mirror; I think it's going to look very pretty and interesting.

And I LOVE the still life you set up! It's so pretty!! :)