with pencil or marker:
sketches are under-rated and under-used. Keep them small, truly
thumbnail-size. Dimensions 2" or 3", but I generally go
with 1-1/2" x 2" or so. No more than 30 seconds per thumbnail.
Make a bunch of them; they really help as a road map to keep you
on track with your larger work!
under-rated and under-used tool. You've seen comics of the artist
using his hands to make a frame that he looks through...An empty
film slide holder works well. You can make your own out of illustration
board, cardboard, paper, etc. You can also buy one from just about
any art supply store - brick and mortar or online. My favorite
is available from Judsons Art Outfitters here in Colorado. And no,
I'm not a paid advertiser for them. I just love them!
A still life shadow
box provides the artist with a way to control the lighting of a
still life set up and removes the visual distractions of other objects
in the room. These are some examples of still life shadow boxes:
For more ideas, do an
internet search on "still life shadow box"
clamp on lights can be purchased at local big box stores. Mine is
a 20 year old industrial clamp on light that I picked up from a
now defunct building supply chain; it probably cost around $7 at
the time. It is outfitted with a daylight bulb (check your light's
maximum wattage rating) and provides excellent lighting for still
life set ups.
light stand is something that the clamp on light attaches to; it
can be easily moved around and gives you a lot of flexibility in
setting up the light on your still life.
In my process, I set
up a still life and several variations of it, and then I take photos
(reference photography) of each variation from several points of
view. I may take 50 to 100 pictures (or more!) of a particular arrangement
and its variations.
Since I use a digital
camera for this process, I download the images onto my computer.
I then play a slide show, at about a 3 second interval, to give
me a brief glimpse of each image. I pause the slide show on any
image that catches my eye so that I can make a note of which image
it is. I'm usually left with a list of around 10 images that have
caused me to take notice. I then go back to those images and spend
time evaluating each of them. Occasionally one of them will have
all of the elements I'm looking for and can serve as the inspiration
for the artwork. What usually happens, however, is that two or three
images each have something that I want to include, so I combine
them to use for the inspiration.
A word to the wise:
you don't need a camera with all of the bells and whistles to do
this job of reference photography. A digital camera with at least
3 megapixels will give you enough resolution to work from, whether
you are looking at the image on a computer screen or you're printing
it onto a 4" x 6" paper. If you already have a digital
camera, it will probably do the trick.
I have a digital camera
"collection" that spans roughly 16 years; the earliest/most
basic camera is as capable as the newest/most elaborate camera is
for taking reference photos that can be used for still life painting.
I have a friend who
still uses a film camera; as long as she is able to have the film
processed locally, she will continue doing it this way. She understands
how her cameral works and can get the pictures she needs in this
way. So, if you are still using film photography, you can do it
this way, too. It just will take longer for you to see what the
pictures you are that you took since they have to be processed and
I discovered painting
on small supports a few years ago while taking a plein air workshop.
It teaches you to see the general shapes and values and not get
hung up on the details within. A small format can be tough to hang
onto or to stabilized on your easel, but Carol
Marine has a great panel holder available here. I highly recommend
it as it does the job and is priced very reasonably.