A friend of mine shared this photo she took on Instagram. It caught my eye. Lighting, reflections, textures etc. There is something about the composition that is off to me; does it lack a focal point? Does it need one? I would hate to take the time to paint it and find out I should have listened to my gut. This would be challenging, to say the least. I would love to hear from all of you with a lot of experience with this sort of thing. Thanks!

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Whether a photo or a painting, there needs to be a center of interest.  You basically have two competing images here.  The top half is a nice vertical composition with three subjects, good contrast, and interesting lighting.  The bottom half has a circular design with rather flat lighting - the strongest contrast is between the table and the linen.

There is an old salesman's acronym: KISS.  It means -" Keep It Simple, Stupid".  Many sales have been lost when the rep did not know when to shut up.  Composition is the same.  A few well placed and lighted items can make for a far more powerful work than a busy canvas or poor lighting.

The eye is naturally drawn to areas of contrast.  Light/dark, muted/vibrant, warm/cool. 

For me, the top half would be a good reference for a composition; the bottom shows little promise without more dramatic lighting and perhaps getting in closer.  Isolating some of the foreground items might be an option, but a simpler photo would save a lot of mental anguish.  You have a trio of subjects in the top half with nice layout, good contrast, interesting lighting, and lots of shapes to play with.  It would make a really nice study in values and the perspective is an added bonus - you are looking down at symmetrical shapes that also have reflective surfaces.

Regardless of what or where you paint, you always have to study the subject and separate the wheat from the chaff.  I think you are correct in giving this photo a good hard look before jumping to the canvas.  Look forward to seeing what you decide and, if you accept the challenge, how it turns out!

This is great feedback. I did not see the photo in parts. I am going to have to look at this with new eyes. Thank you so much! I am in sales and know the acronym well. So simplicity will be what I will look for. If I decide to take it on, I will post the result. I have a few other things that are a priority right now. Thanks so much Charles!

Hi Micki!

I totally agree with Charles. In composing, what you leave out is as important as what you leave in!

Also, in my experience you want to be careful with elements that are hard to identify. The dried apple chips fall into that category! If you were to paint them I think it would be confusing to the viewer.

Also the paper doily has a lot of high contrast and detail. If you painted that all in it would really compete for the center of attention.

Lastly the doily is covering the end of the spoon and part of the saucer. This too creates an awkward area.

Still lifes are fascinating to do, but you are much better off setting up your own. You can control the lighting and change up the elements and the arrangement until it works. Then you can either paint it from life or take photos - which is good for things that wilt or rot! Ha :)

Great topic, thanks for posting!

Great eye. I did not think of the apple chips and the spoon. The only still life that I have ever set up was my peaches, which I feel look life-like but the lighting is not exciting and that is what catches my eye when I see a photo and want to paint it. I will keep looking. I am getting more comfortable with reflections and want to explore this a bit. Maybe a good challenge for you to post?

Reflections are a lot of fun. Like anything else you might want to paint, the key is to not think of it as a thing. A reflection, an apple, a person. Instead just look for the shapes, values and colors. Then you can painting anything!

thanks Micki :) i love learning cool stuff :)


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