While waiting for the canvas to arrive for my sandstone painting, I decided to set up another still life. I thought I’d do a smaller one that wouldn’t take as long to finish as my big works. I love painting books and glass, so looked through my cupboards and shelves and picked out some promising specimens.

When I got everything back to the studio, this rough wood crate caught my eye. I loved the way the texture contrasted to the glass vases and glasses. It also echoed the roughness of the worn edges of the old books. Above is my first attempt. Looking at it through my view-finder, I remembered why this crate was always hard to place in compositions. The strong right vertical of the crate always seems to divide the picture in half. This is a very hard barrier for the eye to cross, so the picture reads as two separate sections, not one unified whole. I tried to think of a way to soften that edge and guide the eye across.

After trying placing a glass in front of the edge, I remembered this ribbon I had used in another painting. I draped it an angle trying to lead the eye across the troublesome barrier. It was an improvement! I still didn’t like the strong vertical so close to the middle of the composition, though.

I changed to a more square view-finder, which placed the vertical much further over to the right and eliminated the blue book and vase. I immediately loved this. The ribbon leads the eye through the composition. The crate is an important part of the whole, not just one half. The angles of the books and ribbon add drama and dynamism. I was worried that the ribbon would lead the eye straight out of the bottom right of the picture, so I added the blue stone to turn the eye back up. I replaced the shot glass on top of the crate with a stone. The glass was too big and shiny and was drawing attention away from the more important objects. I also didn’t like the strongly lit left side of the crate. Fortunately, the cupboard where I set this up has a door on the left. When I opened this door a bit, it cast a shadow on the vertical, darkening it. Also, by eliminating the right side of the composition, I’ll now have a small painting- just what I wanted. I might prefer the yellow crystal turned the way it was in the previous photo. I’ll experiment with it a bit more before I start the drawing.