Moving forward? My first still life with controlled light

Once I’d finally gotten my light situation under control, I was ready to see if it actually made a difference in my painting ability. Maybe I actually had a hidden genius inside of me, ready to pop out when the conditions were right!

Jim had sent me a link for building a shadow box, and although that particular one seemed like a bit more effort and money than I wanted to spend, I did find an easy tutorial online that involved simply cutting panels out of the top and side of a cardboard box and covering them with tissue paper. Easy, cheap, works. I’d never quite understood the reason for an actual shadowbox — couldn’t I just put things on the table if I was painting with a tabletop easel? — but I’ve read in several places that it was helpful for controlling ambient light and generating interesting shadows, so I decided to give it a go.

This is, admittedly, an odd composition. It looked much better to me before I put it into the shadowbox — after that, with the shadows that were generated from the harsher light, it started to look a bit…random. The backdrop beneath and behind the objects was a piece of patterned paper — I ignored the pattern when it curved behind because I worried about the amount of noise in such a small painting (it’s 6×6), but it still looks unnatural to have the driftwood stick poking into the back of the box.

Aside from this, though, I actually like this painting. My values look good, and my brushwork doesn’t look fussy like it did in my last painting (stones). I’m not sure I got the light quite right — I was having trouble making sense of this complexity of this crinkled old leaf and winged it — but I’m not sure it’s noticeable to the untrained eye (at least it’s not to my untrained eye). Overall, I think, a step forward!

Things I did well:
Brushstrokes are fairly loose and unfussy
Good contrast and values

Things I could’ve done better:
Weird composition without a meaningful focal point
Intersection of driftwood stick and driftwood chunk is odd — is it floating? Is it resting?
Bug could be brighter — in real life it’s almost metallic-looking (I wasn’t quite sure how to make that happen. Glazing?)

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