When viewed from a distance, the painting is mostly finished at this point. The composition is complete. The large areas of light and shade as well as the colors are set. All that remains is to refine the details. Many of these will only be discernable up close, but to me, they are a large part of what makes a good still life so interesting to study. The subtleties of reflected lights, lost edges, colors in highlights, colors in the shadows all enhance the feeling of a heightened reality.

Above, I’ve finished the stacked stones. On the red stone, I painted the pattern on its surface, and added a small nick in the front. I muted the reflected light under the shadow on the left side, and added more yellow to the top surface on the right to better represent the light coming from that side. I added some bits of bright yellow and orange to the highlight to make it appear to glow.On the yellow stone, I added some reflected orange light on its bottom from the orange stone below. I softened its edges, and added some bright orange on the edge on the lighted side. I modified the triangular light spot between the stones and the obsidian by softening its edges with yellow to make it appear that light is radiating out from it.

On the stone above, I darkened the shadow side with a glaze. I softened all edges and refined the drawing of the patterns on the surface. I added some blue to the light areas in the highlighted side.

Above, I added some lighter details on the cut side of the geode. I also softened some edges on the blue stone.

Above, I adjusted small details- a bit of light here, a darker shadow there. Sometimes the changes are so subtle that it’s difficult to remember or even see what’s different! It is satisfying, though, to try to get the image closer and closer to reality (up to a point!)

I softened edges on the orange stone, and darkened the light reflected up from the table onto it’s bottom side. I worked on making subtle transitions in color and value in the double shadow that crosses it.

On the orange bowl, I lightened the left upper rim towards the back where it turns into shadow, so that it is lighter than the vase behind it. I added some pure cadmium red to the upper edge of the front rim to show the light bouncing off of it contrasted with the dark interior. I brightened the highlights on the right side of the front of the body of the bowl, and lightened the bottom where it catches reflected light from the tabletop below.

On the vase, I added black outlines to the triangular designs at the top, and corrected some wobbly lines all over. The original vase and mine (mine is obviously a reproduction!), was painted by hand, so the patterns aren’t perfectly even, so I don’t have to be too perfect.

Here’s what the painting looks like now. I think that I’ll put it away for a week to get some distance from it. If I’ve been working very hard on a painting, I can develop blind spots and it can be hard to make judgements. I don’t want to wait too much longer, though. If too much time passes, I lose my connection to the painting process and it’s very difficult to get back in the proper frame of mind to continue. Maybe when I look at it next week, something will strike me that needs changing. I wonder if I need to keep working on the paper. I know that I could keep refining it, but eventually to diminishing effect. I have to reach a point where it looks real and rewards close study, but not where it looks over-labored and focus-pulling. The vase- not the paper- is after all, the focal point!