Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Still Life Genre

Definition:  A work of art that depicts inanimate subject matter, such as food, flowers, or tableware.

Still Life, a descriptive yet rather odd name. I get it being 'still' as in not moving, set in place, inanimate. The 'life' part is what I find strange. I am just supposing that it derives from painting florals. The flower(s) alive but in the setting of the artist choice. Well, whatever, it's a popular genre for art.

 It is certainly appealing to be able to choose from a variety of objects that interest me and then arrange them according to my idea and compositional desires. This is quite different from 'plein air'. With 'plein air' we are painting what interest us from what nature provides. We may change a few things to create interest, contrast, or to improve the composition of the viewed scene, but typically it is what it is.

 Ah, but with still-life we pick and choose and arrange until we get what we want. Sometimes it's just to get a pretty painting. Sometimes it is to make a statement...

 Here are a few examples of still life I have attempted while learning this art thing...

9x12" graphite and white pen
I just wanted to practice drawing and quickly assembled these items. I was sitting at the kitchen table and put this ‘still-life’ together right there on the table to my right. Wine bottle, cork, wine glass, Asian pear and a match box. Hmmm, I wonder what statement I'm making.....?

Graphite, ink, and white pen.
Sometimes when I walk by the lake I will pick up driftwood that interest me. It may be the shape or the texture that appeals to me. I found these two pieces on separate outings.
When I was looking for something to sketch I picked them from my driftwood cache. While attempting to arrange them, on the top of the clothes dryer (of all places), they just fell into this embrace. Why the top of the dryer? To get them at eye level while sitting on a stool. Plus the lighting was good.

Graphite and white pen.
This was a warm up sketch. Never got the perspective right. I think I was sitting too close. Anyway, it was a good exercise with my new General Pencils. It's done on a toned typing paper, but not enough tone to show off the white charcoal. Someday I may learn to get the drawings fundamentals correct at the start. I think I can do one of these items ok, but together, nah. This scene is in the corner of our family room. I see it all the time and think "I'd like to draw that". I'm over it now. It’s a fail. My Sketch Club mentor said she liked it and that I should redo it and really exaggerate my missed perspective. Do it loose, more abstract. Hmmm, not sure I’m up to it.

11x14", Gouache on stretched canvas

I think this is the only “finished” painting I’ve done. My wife does not have a green thumb, but she has managed to keep these succulents alive. My granddaughter is also a fan of succulents. I gave her this painting as a high school graduation gift. This is an unusual painting. It is Gouache on canvas. It was a problem of my own doing. I prepped the canvas with mid gray interior house paint. The Gouache didn’t do well on that surface.

This one is a digital finger painting. An experiment using a 7” Nook Tablet running a sketch app. There are some parts I like. It's a doodle. I was trying to learn the app. The app has a blend/smudge tool. That is what I used to get the smooth transitions.

9x12", 90lb watercolor paper, ink and watercolor.
Does a clock count as a still-life? I'm guessing it does. I did this drawing while visiting my wife's family. Her Aunt asked if I would sketch her Grandfather Clock. I did a quick sketch for reference, along with a photo and then did this drawing at home. When I finished it I sent it to her. After all she had my favorite cream cheese cherry pie for dessert.

6x5.5", General Sketch and Wash pencil, General Graphite pencil

On the same trip I sketched these shoes. She had a whole row of her daughters' shoes displayed on a dresser. Progressing from baby to tween.
Since they obviously meaningful to her I picked two pair, smallest and largest. I was really interested in the folds and creases in the baby shoes. This is a preliminary study. I intend to do a pen and ink with wash of this setting. I'll add a clock to the scene. There was one on the dresser. Passing of time, you know.
She was really pleased with the sketch, rough as it is. I photographed it and left the sketch with her.

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