I just began a new painting, and I thought I’d document the process, from conception to finished work.


I bought an old waxed cardboard portfolio at an antique market recently. I thought it might serve well as a background for a still life set-up, or as a base, or both. Here, I’ve placed it on a table, opened up, shone a spotlight on it, and gathered a few objects that might work with it.

Initial Composition

My first guess

The things I chose seem to be fighting each other for attention, so I selected some quieter, smaller ones. I wanted some more contrast in textures, so I decided to use a blue glass bowl and a rough rock. Also, I felt that the setup needed some detail, so I added the gold jewelry. I liked the way the jewelry was reflected in the blue bowl. I rearranged one of the straps of the portfolio to echo the curve of the shadow cast by the blue vase.

Setup with Two Small Cups on Crate

Jewelry Detail

Here, I experimented with a tall vase to replace the small cup sitting on top of the crate, and then with a black cup. I thought that the black cup was more harmonious and didn’t detract from the jewelry and blue bowl, which I decided would be the focal point.

Tall Vase on Crate

Black Cup on top of Crate

Black Cup on top of Crate

The Setup

I’m pleased enough with the composition to proceed to do a detailed drawing.