Thursday, March 3, 2016

Still life setup

I thought it might be interesting to post how I set up my still life. Here is a photo of the setup.


I use a spare bedroom as my studio. Everybody knows the most important thing in an art studio is a north-facing window. But life is not always perfect and you need to adapt. There is a large window in my studio, but it's facing north-east. Actually, more to the north than the east, so it's good enough. I do get a little sun early in the morning before 10 am, but after that it's a pretty stable and cool light coming in the window. I do notice some fluctuations of the light through out the day, but I think even the true north light changes during the day. So that's just something we as artists have to contend with.

I found the wooden screen with a floral theme in a second hand store. I love to go to second hand furniture stores to see what I can find. It's like a treasure hunt. The screen costed around $150, I think? I found the vase in a goodwill store nearby and it was only $5. It was dirty and hiding on a low shelf. I brought it home and washed it clean, now can anybody tell that's a $5 vase? 

The little green desk is free. Our neighbor across the street from our old house put it out by the sidewalk for anyone who's interested to take before she moved, so I carried it into my garage. I like it, and it kind of reminds me of a student desk in China when I was growing up.

I picked up the dozen pink roses from a grocery store (about $12?). Now when arranging flowers, one thing to remember is to not have all the flowers at the same height and same angles. Probably everybody knows that. Also I look at the flowers in groups because you don't want to paint the flowers one by one. Make sure you have one big group--the main character, and some small groups--the supporting actors. And I strewed a few pink pedals and leaves on the table to break up the flat green surface and to repeat color notes. 

This is a pretty simple still life setup. Just the roses and the vase, and what's around it. Truth be told, I had very limited time to set up and paint this picture before I had to run to pick up my son. I practically threw the flowers in the vase and started painting feverishly. But sometimes this is for the better because I had to stop before I ruin the painting and there is not time to dwell on details. I can say I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. Here is the painting.


16x 20, oil on linen board

When I paint, I don't feel obligated to paint exactly like how things are. You are the artist and are free to use your artistic license. Because, in the end, it's the painting remains, not the setup. Your painting has to stand on its own. The screen behind the flowers is black, so do I paint it black? No. I chose a muted purple color because I think light green goes well with purple, and they look harmonious with pink. You can also strategicly move things around a little. I used a big pink pedal to break up the bottom line of the vase. So we can choose what to put in and what to leave out. 

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