Still life #2 – Progress and questions

It was true that my first still life was a bit schizophrenic in its lighting and had some weird boob pimples, but it really wasn’t terrible. I’d certainly done a worse job on plenty of other things I’d attempted. And I’d enjoyed painting something that my copier couldn’t do a better job with. So once again, I decided to give myself a challenge.

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One good thing about being old is that I have TONS of stuff. Not expensive stuff, but small, interesting, highly-paintable things I’ve collected throughout the years — especially natural objects that I found in the woods or on the beach (though this shell was clearly bought somewhere — who finds shells like this?). I thought each of these two objects would be a challenging way to try texture, and would together provide an interesting contrast while sharing a beachy theme that made them cohesive (though I’m not worried about composition at this point).

My painting was done at a different angle, since I don’t have a standing easel.

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Now I wish I’d worried about composition. Blech. But there are some things here that I actually kind of like. I did a bang-up job with the top of my shell, and that was HARD. And I love the left side of my driftwood — I added a lot of interesting, blocky shading there that really shows the depth. But I can see the exact place where I started to get bored and lazy: pretty much in the exact center of the log. Everything to the right of that point is complete Amateurville Horror.

I’m struggling a bit — and this will be a question for Jim in my next class — with how much I’m supposed to draw. Of course I mapped out my largest shapes: the exterior of the driftwood and shell. And I did draw ovals for the largest indentations in the driftwood, and stripes for the spirals of the shell. But on the right side of the driftwood I mapped out next to nothing, in large part because the light when I did my initial drawing made most of the indentations look shallow and it didn’t seem worth it. As the sun came up, they looked…entirely different, but it seemed too late to map anything out, I was bored and lazy, and I winged it. And it shows.

I also had no idea what to do with the background, which was an old wooden table, as you see in the photo above. Should I attempt to replicate any of the grain, which in real life is so prominent? In the end, I just wanted to get it done — and, since I’d made the rookie mistake of not putting out enough paint, and what I had left of my mixed stuff was getting really thick and gummy — I just painted it pretty monochromatically. It was an afterthought — and again, it shows.

What I did well:
Left side of the driftwood, which — to me — seems to have a spark of that unfussy, effortless(looking) blocky style that I love in modern painting
The shell, while flawed, looks like…a shiny shell

What I could’ve improved:
The composition — yawners
Right side of the driftwood is lacking value and looks flat and unconvincing
In real life, the shell is poking out slightly from the driftwood. That doesn’t come through in my painting — instead it just looks squat. I’m not sure what went wrong here — maybe the placement or value of the shadows? Again, that changed throughout my session, throwing me off.
Background looks like an afterthought and entire subject appears to be floating in space.

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