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Is there anything wrong with this reference photo?

Wondering if there's anything glaringly wrong with this reference photo or if I'm good to go. I tried to adjust the level according to Mark's recommendations. It has been posterized and that's how I'd intend to paint it. Maybe I would omit the window.

Does it pass go? Thanks for letting me know.


  • If you omit the window and raise the backdrop fabric up it would be better. If you just crop out the window the idol's head will be too close to the top of the painting. All in all, the objects are fine but you could do some rearranging to enhance shadows and reflections. The most important factor here is the lighting. There are too many light sources and overlapping shadows which kill some interesting reflections.. I suggest arranging the objects on the floor in front of the red wall and have a single light source. You could put the fabric on the floor and the objects on top of it.
  • Thanks Bob. I've got an idea that I will try later tonight. Never would have thought about the light source issue - impressive you could see it in this photo.
  • edited May 19
    What @BOB73 said.  The gold buddha will be great to paint.  :)
  • Definitely an issue with the light from the window. And once that is solved there is a issue with the balance and movement of the eye into the scene. The eye will drift right with the open space unless pulled back in. Define the focal point(s) and the path to them.
  • walko said:
    Definitely an issue with the light from the window. And once that is solved there is a issue with the balance and movement of the eye into the scene. The eye will drift right with the open space unless pulled back in. Define the focal point(s) and the path to them.
    OH that's interesting. I might get rid of the vase then and have a few smaller objects. So the eye looks at the smaller object then is drawn to my buddy, Buddha. Neat! Thanks.
  • @walko or anyone in general,

    I think this is the general layout I will do after dark. The light will come from the left side. Candle will be lit. Do you the perfume bottles should be moved to the other side? Should anything be removed?


  • Try moving things around a bit and see how it feels.  The objects feel like they are crowding the Buddha.  Maybe leave a little space between them.  Also try changing your eye level.  Maybe drop your eye level some.
  • Seems like you are adding things just to add. Get the budda and get it right to your interest. Then add stuff. Maybe add fabric because it has potential to be any color you want and create shapes and eye movement  any way you want. Your main subject and light narration in place then ask what the composition needs. Perfume bottles are lost in image and clutter up things and have no real justisification for being in image. I wpuld keep this at three objects. The budda is focal point but what if it were not the biggest object but mid sized compared to one smaller and one bigger. Objects running off edges are entrance and exit ramps to a painting. Also keep all four corners different from one another.
  • Creating the right composition can be time consuming and sometimes frustrating, but will either make or break the painting.  Take your time with placing objects.  Try to create a story with the setup.  Adjust the lighting multiple times.  Look at other still life paintings and play close attention to their composition.  One time it took me about a month to get a setup like I wanted it.  The time spent now will be worth the wait.
  • I definitely was planning on rushing ahead so I appreciate the advice.  I will try again. Here is what I had but it looks too dark and I agree is too busy. I will choose only three objects and try again tonight. Will probably ask for your feedback again.

  • This last one is good but take Buddha a little left or right of center. I would have kept the potted plant. A little green would help balance the red. Getting your set up objects and placement is crucial and justifies taking a lot of time and forethought. 
  • I'm actually super frustrated because I've now spent two days fiddling with this and it's still seems far from perfect. Now I need to switch rooms because I can't coop the dining room endlessly. So it feels like I have to start over!
  • The lighting in the last one looks nice. The random bowl with fruit doesn't fit though. The composition doesn't work for that one either - too much pull to the left side light.

     I've seen some great paintings with buddha statues in them but couldn't find the ones I was looking for. Here are a few that might give you some ideas for composition and lighting though

  • You are not the first to feel that way. Good luck. It's a good concept, keep trying.
  • I believe your first arrangement was better than your last. Just remove the bright background. Add a similar mass to equal the weight of the white vase and plant.   For veneration, try to use a slight upward shot for the photograph versus looking down at the statue.  Kind of like this, but it is really up to you.  Too many cooks in the kitchen you know.

  • Mark has a video on setting up still lifes on his youtube chamnel.
    Probably the most common template for composition is The GOlden Mean. Look it up. Also lpok up light narration for artist...or anatomy of light. Crucial to this is core shadow aka tangent shadow. 

  • Keep at it.  Once you start painting you can’t go back and change the setup.  This is a good thread for all of us to learn from. When you get it just right you will feel great.
  • mhqoilmhqoil -
    edited May 21
    Ok, here is a series I like. I tentatively call it "What would Buddha think of Santeria?" The difference is the placement of the crystal ball. If you have any thoughts about the three or between the three, please let me know. I would fiddle with the positions to perfect them.

    1)  Ball in hand

    2) Ball in gaze

    3) No ball.

    Which do you prefer and why? Thank you!
  • Still for me the background is still too bright (and painting those shadows may give you some difficulty) and also for me the horizon line too high, but that is a personal preference.

    The first, bhumisparsha mudra with ball-in-hand does not seem proper and I think people who know meaning of the statue would be puzzled.

    The second, with ball in front of the statue, the ball stops the path into the painting and makes the ball the main focus. Unless that is the intent.

    The last one is just okay,  You probably already noticed that all the major objects sit on the same horizontal line and not inviting the viewer to step into the painting. You can see it better by removing the right and left edges of the cloth which gave forced depth.  If it was up to me I would either move the pots back creating the path.

    Harder still will be arranging the Santeria objects in a meaningful way to tie into the The "earth witness" Buddha.

  • edited May 23
    Do you need the candle and all the other knicknacks? Why not just keep it simple? Maybe get rid of the knicknacks all lined up on the horizontal line and put the Buddha in front of just one plant (not centred but a bit to the side) with a dark background with the light coming from one side?  That way you'll get interesting shadows and the gold Buddha will stand out and you'll be able to exploit the lovely reflections in the gold and the lost and found edges that make the best still lifes intetesting. As it is it's way too busy. It should be about the gold Buddha against a subdued background.. Or you could even get rid of the Buddha and just paint the plant with its lovely greens against a dark background. Keep it simple.  The golden ratio or even just the rule of thirds might help with composition. Bilateral symmetry does not always equal interesting. BTW, I still struggle with composition. I think it's the hardest problem in painting when we're trying to create entirely original' work. :)
  • Thanks @tassieguy that is what I'm realizing. I'm totally overwhelmed with this process plus my skill level is pretty low. I realized I don't think I can paint the Buddha right now anyway.  I need to work up to it. I'm doing a shoe now and my next painting will be an apple.

    I didn't really want to paint the Buddha by itself. I am more interested in the voodoo doll to be honest:) Not really feeling like using the big canvas I have. Enjoying smaller pieces and maybe I'll get the confidence to do something bigger someday not too far away :)

    Thanks again for your guidance. It means a lot and I feel very lucky to have it, and those of the others on this forum. Realizing how hard it is, you are masters to me.
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