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I made my decision on the objects I wanted to do thinking of the previous two paintings I have done in the still life section.  Trying to continue to keep ringing the changes and attempt different methods, and as my last painting of the flowers was textured and colourful, I chose stones as my natural object, which would be muted colours.  I also wanted to work more on exploring oil paint, this time by using more layers and building up the colour and shapes.  This would mean being patient in between layers (a bit of a personal challenge).

I wanted smooth pebble type stones was was unable to find any of considerable size, but a friend at work had some large rocks in her garden, which she kindly leant me.

Deliberately choosing a neutral background I began by trying different compositions and making some conscious decisions in my sketchbook.


Some of the points I was considering were

  • how much of the table do I want to see….do I go in close?
  • should shadows be a feature – lighting adjustments
  • do I just use the rocks or should I add something for contrast both of colour and form
  • White table and simple background or do I include some of the room behind

Working through these thoughts with the simple sketches I gradually worked toward my chosen layout


I moved the lighting several times to find shadows that would fill the composition.  Then taking a bit of colour into the sketch to get some idea if the colours would work and was pleased with the addition of the apple.

This time I sketched it out very briefly and applied a very thin first layer just so that I didnt have any white canvas, dabble a bit of colour on then reminded my self I was going to be a bit more patient and left it to dry overnight.

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Not happy at this point and sat for a while contemplating why.  I was applying the oils with brushes and not achieving the ruggedness of the rocks.  I decided to try pallet knives. I had not used these yet and felt they might give more texture for the rocks.


The pallet knives seemed to be working and I was beginning to get a better effect.


I had wanted to make this a very modern looking still life and once the apple went in with its smoothness against the ruggedness of the rocks I felt better.  I was aware of the very strong shadows, but I had deliberately lit this boldly. I  tried to get some of the green into the shadow on the left hand rock.

I am pleased with the final outcome as it reflects my keeness to continually experiment with styles and techniques and is related to some of the modern still lifes I looked at in my dip into the genre in research, particularly Wayne Theibald.

The strength of the shadows really makes the objects stand forward.  I have a long way to go to master the pallet knives, but they definitely appeal to my growing love of texture.


I came back to the painting after several days to assess it, as I have found this works well for me.  I seem to need some time and distance to “look again”.

I do feel that I am making progress since my first attempt, this is more interesting both in terms of choice of objects, the colours are more considered and I am finding the preliminary sketches have more purpose now.  I was rather paying lip service to doing them at first, but I can now see why they are useful for layout and that they don’t need to be full on drawings, shapes will do.

The natural objects were tricky, the rocks in particular posed a challenge that I haven’t quite solved here but the rock next to the apple does have the best form of the three and using the reflection against the apple and vica versa really helps that area of the painting have a reality lacking elsewhere in the painting.

I am pleased that I tried to work differently this time and using a plain background and foreground highlights the shapes and textures of the rocks and apple, as  the apple being smooth against the ruggedness of the rocks adds contrast. If I look at the picture without the bottom righthand corner I am quite happy with the attempt, however the rock and its shadow in the left corner are not right, the rock still looks flat and the shadow is not quite at the right angle.