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help please

As a complete beginner, I am having trouble composing this still life for my first try at DMP. I have spent over an hour with this and can't seem to decide what to do. Too cluttered? Too bleh? I have tried it without muffin, without napkin, without background. I would welcome any help you might have for me. I can scrap it all and start again, but I also want to paint !


  • I think it's far as the composition goes.Lighting..A few more interesting shadows would be nice.(Or darker darks and lighter lights).
    Anyways..that is my opinion..go for it.It shouldn't matter as it your first DMP.Unless you are extremely particular about creating a masterpiece.If you look at it in a ''i Just Want To Learn"..It won't matter much then.
    To your creative success,
  • I am a beginner as well, but I might make a couple suggestions. Place the spoon on the saucer with the bowl forward and the stem extending back. Move the napkin forward, maybe with the muffin on it. You look to have a couple light sources coming in as there is a double shadow on the tabletop by the muffin. You might get a better effect with one offset light source.
  • Also, move in on your subject, or crop your picture. There is quite a bit of dead space above your subject.
  • I think that the tabletop is very busy and it will be difficult to paint for a first try. If you get a white cloth and put the cup on it and put the muffin on the white cloth. Plain against patterned.The spoon could sit at an angle to the muffin on the white cloth, to provide direction. I like to paint still life, unfortunately I only see my composition mistakes when I have dismantled the composition. Check photos on laptop/pc before you eat the muffin =) Good Luck
  • Can you send what you have so far? For complex detailed patterns in backgrounds like the counter, you should use abbreviated techniques. Match the colors and values, but use some kind of impressionistic swishing around pattern. Don't copy it exactly. It's too much. The napkin I think should be your major study. Look at how Mark handles fur for example.
  • Thanks for your feedback everyone. One of my setups had no napkin and no backdrop, seemed like too much white and too plain. Now that I have taken it down I can clearly see what you all mean about the spoon position. I have a smaller canvas so definitely will crop out the dead space. Thanks again all
  • some ideas. place the cup off center. get in a little tighter. too many elements: simplify. remove stuff in red and move the spoon (in blue). Also, the shadows under the cup are odd, looks like the cup is hovering. It needs to be grounded. And maybe try more dramatic classical lighting, like Mark C uses.
  • You got some really good suggestions. Good luck with your painting. Don't over stress about it. After all it will be a learning experience. I'm sure you will be surprised with the outcome.
  • Good composition, I prefer more contrast between the support (table) and the background. Maybe changing the lights adding shadows making it darker ?
  • I like your composition. I agree that a little more contrast could add some more atmosphere. Have fun painting!
  • When I first look at the photo I'm struck by how much wood and background there is. I think the other points made tells you what you need to do. For me, it's lets simplify and organize the elements. Think about what it is you want to convey. Could be warmth, or painterliness, it will be good!
  • These are absolutely my own opinion, worth price paid, as they say.

    Simplify. Play. Be sure to move (yourself) around and test out different viewpoints, what looks bleh from one view may be rockin' for another.

    Be aware of your composition - your cup, which I assume is the focal point (because it's the biggest element), is smack in the middle of your composition. That can work if you are experimenting with brushwork, but in general, this layout can be static and uninteresting.

    Next to your forum-mates, google is your friend:

    I'm not claiming any special sauce, but include a few of my own compositions to provide inspiration. I like to shoot a wide frame to allow me to re-frame the composition when it's time to paint.
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