Pastel Gallery: Three Still Life Artists

In the May/June 2009 issue of The Pastel Journal, we challenged three still life artists—Leslie Lillien Levy, Claudia Seymour and Rainie Crawford—to create a pastel painting based on the same still life arrangement. By examining how these representational artists work through various creative problems, we gain a better understanding of how every choice, large and small, contributes to the final effect, turning a single collection of objects on a table into three original visions. Although, the three artists enjoyed the challenge, they each realized how much they depend on being able to make little changes and substitutions in a still life setup, as they work. Here, we’d like to share some additional thoughts by the three artists.

Leslie Lillien Levy: Adding a Little Quirky
“I’m very intuitive about creating setups for my still life paintings. As such, I’m continually collecting items—objects and fabrics—which interest me. I’m particularly attracted to an assemblage of prints, plaids and checks, and like to combine them when possible in a setup. When I see something that I know will work well in a still life, I’ll acquire it and stash it away in my studio for a future still life. Sometimes an object or fabric will sit there for years waiting for its turn.  Often times a setup will come together instantly, but many times it’s a real challenge to assemble a group of objects which work well compositionally and compatibly. Sometimes I like to be quirky in putting things together. For my very first still life painting, I lined up a row of four pears. This looked boring, so I added a small pitcher, just the size of a pear, in the line up. It worked. And it sold.”

Rainie Crawford: A Common Thread
“As a basically intuitive painter, I approach each still life setup as a new problem to solve. I often prefer a limited palette, so I choose from my varied collection of objects found at antique shops and flea markets—items of varied sizes and shapes that may share some common thread, perhaps color and how light and shadows give them form.”

Claudia Seymour: What Gets Me Going
“The way I usually approach my still lifes is to determine one or two objects I wish to use. Sometimes I see especially gorgeous fruit or wonderful flowers, and they provide the inspiration; other times I have a particular theme in mind, or the new purchase of a “prop” will get me going. Once I have a principal object (or two) or a theme/subject I want to portray, I browse through my collection of objects, fabrics, and antiques, looking for additional articles that will seem to go with whatever my focus will be. After I have a collection of materials, I go to my still-life cabinet and start to arrange them, including and rejecting things as they seem to fit or not fit. I always do this with the lighting in mind, as the light determines the way objects interact with each other, as well as the connecting shadows and the highlights that add sparkle.”

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