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Drawing still life in colour

Still life is in many respects the foundation of drawing practice because it is the one discipline where you can control your drawing set-up, and are able to return to it again and again, as long as you need to.

The great thing is to learn to love your subject matter. Don't choose objects that don't arouse your interest in some way. Consider carefully before you choose your subject, especially as we are dealing in colour; the combination of colour values should be a strong part of your composition's attraction.

Alternatively, you could set up several still-life compositions that consist of one colour only; for example, a red vase on a red cloth with some strawberries or cherries and a glass of red wine.

These experiments will not only be interesting, but will also teach you the qualities that colours can give a picture. It is a good way to understand the symbolism of colour, and also the way colours work together - notice how the colours contrast or harmonize with each other and how they look against their background.

The actual material of the objects can produce interesting results too, so that you might show five objects, all similar in size or shape, but made of different substances. Also, the contrast between soft and hard edges is always a good point to work on; try placing a soft, draped cloth against a shiny, metallic object or a clean-cut piece of glassware.

When composing a still life, always bear in mind whether one object placed against another gives an interesting dynamic to the picture. Try moving the objects around until you create the maximum aesthetic interest between them - and that includes the spaces between them. Sometimes, simply tipping an item on its side gives a whole new set of shapes and a movement to the setting. Note the reflections in the surfaces of glass, pottery or metal things, or introduce a mirror into the arrangement, because these change the feeling of the composition significantly.

Having a theme is always a good idea, so for a picture that might hang in a kitchen or dining room, you could show a collection of food, cutlery and dishes, which are effectively the preparations for a meal. Alternatively, you could arrange luggage, clothing and travel items that suggest a trip to an exotic destination; or a whole set of tools, to denote interest in woodwork and other practical tasks. There are many ways to work at still life, and your sole limit is the bounds of your own imagination.

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Freehand Sketching An Introduction

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