Assignment 2: Still Life


STILL LIFE in a surrounding context


“At the End of the Day”

For this final assignment piece, I went back to the thoughts I’d had about painting interiors. Rather than ‘setting up’ a still life, I love the ‘happen upon’ – the scenes which show particular moments of our everyday lives – full of the beauty of familiar things.

It was not easy to find just the right image.  However one Sunday evening as I got up to get ready for bed, I looked back at the lounge room and there was the image I had been looking for – the opened Sunday newspaper, the pile of knitting pattern books, the reading books, the crumpled cushions where we had been sitting……all there!


I began with a pencil study to get to know the subject.  It was good to have several areas in the piece where there were folds of fabric and others of paper.  This had been a particular focus for me during this unit of work. However I wasn’t satisfied with the composition in particular the straight line of the table top in the foreground.  I also felt it needed something vertical…  Did another study with the changes to the composition and was happy with this.





The decisions about painting were rather instinctive.  I wanted to continue to work outside of the representational colours, so kept to just two colours – complementary colours as it happens.


I began with a tonal study in ultramarine blue building up the space in terms of dark and light areas. Here was a strong beam of sunlight coming from the right touching the surface of the paper and other areas.  This first painting was in a light wash over a dark blue surface and resulted in a representational image of the subject in blue with some orange areas. I continued to spend two days working out the different areas.  It seems necessary to spend a considerable amount of time just sitting looking at the painting and then making a small adjustment here, knocking back another area, bringing forward other surfaces, continually making decisions.  In this process I found myself instinctively taking out the hard edges of some areas and leaving others in.  I am looking to capture a moment which at any moment may disappear…..

One of the problems that I have is in the size of the images.  I find it almost impossible to draw small. When I go back to study other artists, it always seems that they are able to bring a sense of distance to the image.  I find this difficult.  This needs thinking about…..


  1. In broad terms I feel pleased with this final image particularly when I look back at the first painting I did in this module.  I feel much more confident in the use of the paint – am no longer hesitant about how to use the colour.  I have learnt a huge amount about mixing colours from the study of colour in this module.
  2. Experimenting with the Sofala image has had a powerful effect on how I approach a subject.  I found that once you begin searching for a response outside of the representational image it frees up what happens on the page. Using just two complementary colours in the final piece was an easy decision and I had no hesitation in doing it – big step forward for me since the start of the course.
  3. I am now loving the paint! I really want to explore mixed media as I have enjoyed the freedom it brings but it is a great break-through to feel at ease with paint.
  4. As I look at this final piece, there are parts of it which I really like. I am pleased to see the improvement painting folds of fabric and paper.  There is depth in the picture and I have learnt how to take an area back in terms of tonal value. I feel to have also learnt to look at the image as a whole as I paint and to look for elements of balance.
  5. However somehow the image especially the background image feels too big.  I think I want to cut off the top of the cushions – not sure why?  I need some help with this!  The proportion of the cup -wrong!

About pbfarrar

I am an Australian living permanently in England. I have recently retired from the position of Principal of an independent school and have taken up the study of Fine Art with the OCA.
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