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Still-life: The Practical Experience

August 2, 2011

Hi all. After a long silence I am writing my watercolor blog once again. Those who visited my blog have asked me to start it again. I was doing my masters in Visual Commnication from Industrial Design Centre (IDC), IIT Bombay. The course is just over. I did not take any job from campus interviews as not a singly company offered me a true job in visual communication. So I am staying at home, enjoying reading, writing and of course painting. Most probably I migt go for Phd, but till now did not receive any good options (with scholarship basically) for it. I am running out of money, still I am happy to enjoy painting. It proves that I am a passionate artist!

Any ways, I was thinking from where I should start writing. I decided to start from still life. We shall go into deeper and hard areas of watercolor slowly. Why still-life? Because it will give you a chance to improve your observatory power. Working with organic shapes will help you to understand the curves, shapes, three dimensionality and color sense. If you are arranging it of your own it will increase your composition sense. Besides, painting objects will allow you to spend as much time as you can stick to it. After all they are objects and they can not move unless anybody interferes! For any art college still-life is a mast. Start with forms readily available, choose a nice background and arrange them. Choosing a backdrop will also demands color sense. Later we can go to model study, quick color sketches on railway stations, bus stops, cafeterias restaurant or any place where lot of people are available with different characteristics.

Let’s come to still-life. Collect any object which is from nature. Go to your kitchen, open the refrigerator and take out some lovely fruits. Or go to your garden or on the pathway and collect some branches live or dead, wild flowers or anything (not the kitty or doggy of your next door). Place them be the side of a window, make sure they are in your EYE LEVEL. If you have your own studio it is the best. At the beginning I would recommend you not to take many objects as it could be difficult to handle. If you are using artificial light, use one point light. Increase in number of lights makes it more difficult.

Still-life Setup with artificial light


In this discussion I went to my backyard and plucked a guava (very common fruit in India). I placed it on a base with white background and put an artificial light (150W). The image is given above. I drew thrice of the same composition without changing my position, composition or the light. The first one is a pencil sketch as given below. It is very important to understand the light and shade. Different grading in shades with graphite pencils is the best option to understand 1. highlight, 2. mid-tone ad 3. shadow. Recently I bought 4 Cretacolor pencils having number 2B, 4B, 6B and 8B. It’s time to explore them. Also I used a solid 10B graphite for final touch. It was a very quickly done. It was just to show you the light and shadow, and who I convert them into color.

Pencil Study


Here I have given two procedure you can follow. First one dealt with layer by layer coloring. For that I took Fabriano 200 gsm midium textured paper. This one is a nice option for layer by layer coloring but not good for wet on wet (as I experienced). First color total area (for one fruit only) with the lightest ton you can see. Let it DRY. It is just a wash. Add more color in it and paint the next layer which has darker areas. This is the process – follow it until you are finished. But remember let it DRY before every time you start a new layer. You may find hard edges. Don’t worry, this paper can allow you to smooth them. Take a slightly wet brush into fresh water and smudge the hard areas. At the beginning you may find it difficult but practice can make you work better. This needs a lot of patience but you can go for minute detailing if you want.

Frankly speaking personally I don’t like this technique (may be I am not so patient).

Watercolor Study: Layer by Layer


The second option is little bit hard. You have to paint highlight, mid-tone and shadow at a time. For that you have to calculate the colors you are going to use, which color in which area and how to wind up. For me I wet the paper with fresh are, left some white areas for sharp highlight. I waited for about 1.5 min and started painting. My board was inclined at almost 30 degree angle and did not change position till the end. This is called wet on wet technique and I love to paint in this manner. It is hard but can give you unexpected color mixing (and smooth as butter) on the page. After first coat I waited for a while till it dried completely. I had some smoke around and came back. Then it was time to enhance the MID-TONE and SHADOW parts. Don’t touch the highlight part as it will leave patches. I chose local paper I feel comfortable with. After finishing it was time to mark my ‘signature’ on it!

Watercolor Study: Wet on Wet

So guys, don’t waste time. Go and start painting. After a few days I shall proceed to next level. Between I shall continue my cityscape paintings. ENJOY!!!


From → tutorial

One Comment
  1. andy permalink

    nice. very helpful, full of information, really a practical exposure to watercolor. hope to see more from you. i would like to follow your exercise. post more exercises as soon as possible. you really motivate us to paint. thumbs up dear!

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