Art: Still life: In need for some directions
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Thread: Still life: In need for some directions

  1. #1
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    Still life: In need for some directions

    Hello there,*

    I am trying to learn to draw and have started doing still life last week. Now, I understand that I have to do loads, not just 2 pieces, long and short, and fail in order to learn. However I feel I do not understand what I have to look out for, what kind of errors I need to see.

    These are my studies:
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    The first four are still life drawings of a polystyrene head.
    Length varies from 10 minutes to 1,5 hours.
    Pencil only; 2B, 4B, 8B usually. A3 format.

    I was actually surprised to find I can draw a hammer and apples and it would look like a hammer and apples. So for me, it's as far as it goes. What would a teacher see, though? I don't understand the purpose of still life. I can cite JeffX saying you can learn value and form and composition, but I am actually not aware of how that translates to a general drawing skill. I am especially confused about the use of medium. Shall I paint as well? In color?

    I would be really grateful for any comments, tips or anecdotes you might have to make me understand what I have to learn. I have 2 jobs and not as much time as I would like to, so I would like to spend it as wisely as possible.
    Thank you.

    *I honestly didn't know where to open this thread. Art discussion was too general, CC/WiP to specific. So I gave fine arts a shot. Sorry for any inconvenience!

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  2. #2
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    Dec 2010
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    Your off to a running start imo. The apples have a good texture to them and the heads are pretty decent especially considering how challenging the human head can be. Anything with a circle or an ellipse is a bit distorted though. They are challenging and I think a book about perspective would explain what to look for better then I can. I have Perspective Made Easy coming in the mail as I ve heard that its a good/well written overview of the subject for artists.

    Also I d recommend simplifying it the drawings. Use your 2b pencil and keep it really really sharp and do precise line drawings. Start with str8 lines to find proportions and perspective but then use only line to describe your subject. Use different weights to give depth. Draw lines that arent actually there in order to describe some surfaces. Check out drawings by great masters such as Rapheal and Durer and you ll get a better understanding of what I mean.

    When you want to study light and the way that it reveals form just get that ball you have and set it up alone. Carefully study the tones and go to for a really great explanation about the theory involved. What I ve also done is made a few of these and set them up under light then drew them. One of the best exercises I ve ever done. You see very directly how different planes look with different amounts of light. Then we you look at something round like a ball or an egg shape you ll see the different gradations more thoroughly.

    With a very limited time for this I would stay away from paint and color atm. A 2b pencil will teach you everything you need to know and paint is just more complicated and a bigger hassle. As a plan I d do similar exercises that you ve done already with precise line work, then make a polyhedra or 2 and draw the those with tones, move onto a ball and egg, then go into drawing the more complicated forms with both line and tone.

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  4. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by LordLouis View Post
    I was actually surprised to find I can draw a hammer and apples and it would look like a hammer and apples. So for me, it's as far as it goes. What would a teacher see, though? I don't understand the purpose of still life.
    I don't think that still life (or any other kind of fine art for that matter) has a "purpose." It's like asking what the "purpose" of music is. If you want to paint still lifes, I'd recommend finding objects that interest you enough that you want to engage with them by painting them. It really is that simple.

    Your observational skills are very good. You might want to impose a bit of structure on your human heads by studying the 3D forms of the head so you have more of a sense how it's constructed. (The simplified mannequin head sold by is an excellent tool if you can afford one.)

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  6. #4
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    JeffX99 is offline Registered User Level 17 Gladiator: Spartacus' Dimachaeri
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    Hey LL...since I was "cited" I guess I better step up, eh?

    These look great so real critique to offer specifically, even with my "teacher's hat" on.

    As to the "why" behind still life I can maybe shed some light.

    First, they're easy to deal with and there when you need them and they don't change if you need to come back to them (of course that assumes artificial light and non-decaying subject).

    You can spend as much time as you need observing nuances of light and shadow, reflected light, etc. as well as move around to see varying effects of light on form.

    You can concentrate on accurate drawing as much as necessary, subtle perspective effects on the small scale, etc.

    Composition study and exploration is a major advantage as you are in control of overlap, tangent issues that may appear, balance of forms, etc.

    You can study surface effects such as reflection, texture, etc.

    You can study edges, volumetric form, rendering, organic forms vs. inorganic/hard-edged forms, etc.

    The basic advantage of the still life is you can study, learn and observe most of the fundamentals of visual art in a really controlled environment, starting from simple setups and increasing in complexity and challenge as you grow.

    The still life also offers the artist quite a bit of creative statement just in the selection of objects and their arrangement.

    So lots of only advice is keep doing more!

    Hope that helps some.

    What would Caravaggio do?

    Plein Air
    Still Life
    Sight Measuring
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