Steve Whitney, a northwest landscape artist who also enjoys portraits, figurative work, and still life, recently enrolled in Jeff Legg’s workshop to learn how a master of still life approaches his work. Steve found that the workshop delivered everything he was looking for.
After the workshop, Steve wrote down what he had learned. He was gracious enough to share his list us and now you can read it also.
Tips from Jeff Legg’s still life workshop:
- For chiaroscuro effects, it’s usually best to place your light source just above and slightly in front of the setup, so that the subject is spotlighted.
- If you can’t have natural daylight, use a full spectrum bulb at 5500 K.
- Arrange some objects in half light and some in shadow for drama and mystery.
- Using alkyd medium from first to last promotes quick drying, eliminates fat-over-lean problems, provides a nice luster, and makes oil out unnecessary. For slower drying with the other advantages, use another medium. This applies to all paintings, not just still life.
- The still-life boxes should have a top for adjusting lighting.
- Still life can be thematic or purely formal, with objects chosen solely for reasons of color, shape, size, and texture.
- Block in the still life by massing shapes rather than by drawing their outlines.
- Wherever possible, paint objects using horizontal rather than vertical strokes, as this prevents the formation of paint ridges along their boundaries.
- Smooth grounds accommodate all painting styles from realistic to impressionistic. Jeff prefers smoothly gessoed Masonite (even smoother than Ampersand Gessoboard).
- Tone the ground and let it dry before painting. Jeff likes a combination of raw umber and cobalt blue. Avoid making the tone too uniform.
- Consider composing the still life as a vignette, with the borders of the painting less finished. When using this approach, it is still necessary to pay attention to the shapes of the less finished portions of the painting to assure that they complement the composition.
Steve has this to say about Whidbey Island Fine Art Studio workshops, “The atmosphere was casual and friendly, yet the students were all serious and experienced painters dedicated to the ongoing improvement of their work. I'm looking forward to the Liberace workshop this summer! May all your workshops and classes fill to the brim!”
We hope so too, Steve, and thanks for sharing what you learned with us.