I began this still life by building up layers of mixed media to establish a textured surface which invites marking and scoring. I then marked in the table top quickly and gouged the heavy line spanning the wall and turning upwards at the right.
I next determined the shape of the table cloth to provide an entry from the bottom edge of the painting. Then, once on the table, changing it’s direction to harmonize with both ends of the table top. I decided to have this direction emphasized with a series of parallel edges and lines, and these in turn determined the placement of the sketches and soaking pan. The rhythm continues with a spatial plane (see detail one) to the right of the table finishing with the edge of the wall.
I used the same considerations horizontally as well, but with some “shifting” to convey the feeling of occupying space, especially along the top edge of the table. I’m very pleased with the downward shift of the stripes adjacent to the soaking pan and the angle just above (see detail two). I feel a sense of energy there.
The wall above invited the two rectangles and the circle. I played with their placements until I was satisfied with how they supported the items on the table. I especially like how the delicate circle offers a gentle place to pause away from the focus of the weights and soaking pan.
The top of the painting felt a little vacant, and this prompted the arrow, which introduced the finishing touch for the rhythmic parallels below.
The black edge of the soaking pan then needed rhythmic support, resulting in the appearance of the black weights. I readjusted their placements until they felt right. The triangular feel of the lower weight in the pan was determined to relate to the shape in the sketch at the left providing the finishing touch for the composition.
I’m always open to where the composition will guide my considerations.
William Scott – Still Life – 1955 – 61 x 91 cm (24 x 36 in) – oil on canvas
William Scott paintings resonate with me and I often visit his work.
This wonderful still life is a splendid example of how sophisticated the reductive process can be.. Any other markings or additional subject matter would be superfluous.
The composition is an exquisite orchestration of rectangles which provide the rhythmic structure. Their arrangement is splendidly supported by a sub-motif of ovals, which include the pears and the two “Cezanne-like” ovals in the glass.
The rectangles are energized by three slightly leaning vertical lines, as well as the left edge of the warm rectangle at the right, and the right edges of both the plate and glass. These “oblique parallels” rhythmically connect the background with the subject matter. The vertical edges of the table and the warm shape at the left support the upright stems and the glass beautifully.
The connection of the glass with the warm shape above is matched with the integration of the pear at the left with the other warm shape. This is a great example of rhythmic integration
Another beautiful consideration is the relationship of the curved side of the glass with the curved edge of the right most pear. Also note how the horizontal stem at the left provides lateral movement supporting the curves of the plate, the glass and the other pears. The structural impact of the angled edge of the left pear magnificently ensures the connection with the glass.
I feel how Scott avoided overlapping the pears is fantastic, as this would have disrupted the rhythm of their placement, which brings me to another wonderful consideration of not indicating cast shadows on three of the pears. This is a superb example of not permitting literal information to interfere with the composition. Yet another wonderful consideration is the Cezanne-like shifting of the table top, which enhances the feeling of space.
I would like to finish with Scott’s sensitively assessed focus of the painting with the beautiful green oval embracing the stem of the vertical pear at the right. When your perusal arrives, you find yourself gracefully being held, which is a fantastic example of orchestrating composition.