Still Life Composition Session #1 /Fill Your Life With Creative Arts Workshops No: 9 | 10.01.2020

Updated: Jan 20, 2020

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Aims of the session :

  • What is still life art ?

  • What are gestalt principles and how to use those principles in still life painting?

  • How to arrange a still life composition artwork using figure/ground principle ?

  • How to use colourwheel to design a cohesive still life painting?

Still Life Art Practice:

A still life (also known by its French title, nature morte) painting is a piece that features an arrangement of inanimate objects as its subject. Usually, these items are set on a table and often include organic objects like fruit and flowers and household items like vase, bowl and table textiles.

When the intent is to create a still life work of art, we are concerned with proportion, figure and ground relationships between the objects, light source, depth and space, colour, size, texture and so on. We have to use the fundamental elements of art such as lines, shapes and colours to fool the eye of the viewer and to create a convincing illusion in a drawing or painting.

Gestalt Principles:

“The whole is other than the sum of the parts.” — Kurt Koffka

Gestalt principles are rules that describe how the human eye perceives visual elements. These principles aim to show how complex scenes can be reduced to more simple shapes. They also aim to explain how the eyes perceive the shapes as a single, united form rather than the separate simpler elements involved. It describes our ability to recognise patterns and make associations; group objects that are close together into a larger unit; relate and group objects of similar shape.

There are six main 'Gestalt' principles whish are called similarty, continiuation, closure, proximity, figure/ground, symmetry and order.

The Figure-Ground Relationship

The gestalt principle that applies most to space is that of figure&ground. Everything in a design of an artwork will be seen as one or the other, and the relationship between them is mutually exclusive. Neither can be perceived except in relation to the other, and changing one is impossible without changing the other as well.

Figure and ground can enhance or detract from each other, and organizing the two in relation to each other is one of the more important aspects of design. It sets a context for how your artworks communicates and how it will be interpreted.

We arrange our still life artwork using basic principles of figure & ground relationship describesthe followings:

Foregound: The table / table cloth

Middle ground: The main objects such apple, pineapple,bananas, vase, bowl etc.

Background: The wall or wallpaper patterns to support the middle ground.

How to arrange a still life composition artwork using figure/ ground principle ?

Still life composition is an arrangement of both shapes and space. To work more effectively with space, we must first become aware of it and learn to see the shapes that space forms and how space communicates with the overall artwork.

Composing still life images is always a balance between its organisational structure and overall form of the figures and achieve a cohesive composition with in the picture plane.

The steps are the following:

Step 1 : - The Format - What shape and size will this composition be? The format will square, portrait or panoramic.

Step 2: There should be at least two figures to make a composition, but it could be three, four, five or even more.

Step 3 : What space will the figures occupy? Will the composition have a large upper space and the figures in the lower area sweeping up to the right side towards to top.

Step 4: Use simple geometry, looking for simple geometric shapes such as stright lines, triangles, rhombus and squares of patterns will help to create a depth in your artwork.

Step 5: The principle of emphasis is concerned with the creation of areas of importance for the viewer to focus upon nevertheless colour plays an important role in attracting attention for it is seen before form.

Using Patterns in Still Life Paintings:

Ther are some important things to remember when using pattern. There are scale, unity, balance and sense of depth. The scale of the pattern have a great impact on the overall display. The smaller the size the less visible the pattern will be. Pattern will bring unity and balance in our artwork, pattern also create a sense of depth. Patterns are larger in scale will come forward and smaller, detailed patterns will recede.

Repetition: When several objects with a single shared chracteristics are arrranged in a composition, the object has been repeated, even if other characteristics of the objests are different. When a multitude of objects has one particuakr feature in common, such as form, or size, this repetation is caaled form repetattion or size repetattion, respectively.

When the repeated objects have more than one feature in common, the most dominanat common feature is selected to describe the repetition.


When the distance between repeated objects is identical, the repetetition has an even frequency. When the distance between the objects varies between several given frequencies, the repetition has a rhythm.

Patterns are Everywhere!

Can you notice other types of patterns in your daily lives? Musical, breathing, maths, habits personalities, behaviours ?

Our unique personality is a collection of patterns. These patterns include thoughts, beliefs, world-views, feelings and behaviours. Our life expereinces and the enviornment we are living in condition these patterns into us. Most of these patterns lie between the surface of our self awareness. By getting to know our true perosnality, we bring these patterns inot conciousness increasing our self-awareness. The stronger our observing self becomes, the more space we have between us and our thoughts, feelings and actions.

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