When it’s time to begin a new painting, often I wander around my studio and house, looking for something to paint, feeling like I’ll never have another idea again. Other times, I see some object and I think “That’ll be the start of a new painting!” Last week I was sitting in my herb garden drinking my coffee and looked down and saw this piece of sandstone lying on top of the bricks of the patio. I’m not sure why it was there, or why I hadn’t noticed it before! Immediately, I thought that I wanted to paint it. I liked the shape, and the textures were unusual and beautiful. I set it it the area that I had used for my last Japanese basket painting, which was still set up in my studio. I could use it as a tabletop or as a vertical backdrop. I thought that it would be more visible as a vertical.

I liked the way it looked with the rice paper behind it, so I left that up. Also, the colors were harmonious with the brown board I had used as the tabletop, so that stayed too. Glass would be a nice contrast with the rough stone, so I selected a green bottle, whose color also complemented the stone. Two objects do not a still life make, though!

I gathered some other objects in subdued colors. This set-up didn’t call for any bright colors. The bottle was more visible on the right, so I moved it. It cast an interesting shadow. I added the glass vase. Though it looked nice, I thought that it was competing with the bottle.

I moved the dish with the pinecone to the left and added the driftwood for some more textural interest. The whole set-up was looking very dark. It’s usually a good idea to have a full range of values from white to black in a composition, so I put in the white stone and shell.

To add even more light tones, I took out the yellow crystal and substituted the geode with the white center. I arranged all of the objects in the front in a shallow curve bending downwards.

The curve drew too much attention away from the top of the composition, so I re-arranged the objects in front in more of an upward curve. I substituted some fool’s gold for the white stone. I didn’t like that the geode was almost dead center. That can be very distracting in a composition. I switched it with the brown dish. I prefer this.

I wasn’t fully satisfied with the driftwood. I rotated it to find a more pleasing angle. I also raised the geode so that it intersected the sandstone.

Above, I tried yet another angle with the driftwood.

And another! I think that maybe in this position, the driftwood attracts the eye too much. I prefer the version two photos up.

I’ll let it sit for a while before I decide.