Still Life Set Up

I have a deep appreciation for an interesting, well developed and beautifully painted still life. I’m trying to learn more about how to set one up and it remains, for me, as challenging as ever.

Some of the sources I have checked strongly recommend a theme or a story. In other words, all the items in the still life have a meaning and collectively, they tell a story. I think of the paintings I’ve seen with a pot, a knife and a dead rabbit and maybe an onion all set in some long ago kitchen. The story is pretty clear. I’ve also seen paintings that are more symbolic and contain things like red roses (blood or love), rosaries (spirituality), and perhaps an old nail… all symbols for the crucifixion. But the viewer has to understand the symbolism and do a bit of thinking to understand the message.

Some recommend a theme related to colors, shapes, or patterns.

I’m going to continue to work on all of that. In the meantime I’m also working on remembering some of the rules regarding structuring a still life set up. Nothing kissing, overlap to show depth, odd number of items in the view, etc.

So, my orchid bloomed again and the light coming in through the back window just makes it look so beautiful. So I grabbed a sheet of black foam core and propped it up behind (otherwise I would be looking at the side of the wing back chair next to the table. So I got this:

With the glass top wicker table, it was way too busy and my black board wasn’t big enough. So I pulled out some more black foam core and got to this:

Then I started zooming in with the camera and finally settled on this.

But those shadows on the right don’t read correctly because they are actually being cast from my lemon tree which is out of the picture. So I moved the lemon tree and tried again. In the final photo, I managed to crop out the end of the root closest to the viewer, but can use the photo above to put it back in if I want.

I love how the bottle and the little brass owl an the pot actually reflect on the black surface of the table. I even like the bar code price tag on the pot. I especially like the the light play and how nicely the lost edges on the bottle and plant leaves and shadow side of the owl could be developed. The white line where the two bits of foam core overlap can be ignored… . However, there is no color harmony, no message or theme so it doesn’t really fit the criteria of a great still life.

I will keep trying.

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