Assignment 1: Still life with Buddha

The brief is to not be too ambitious, it has to be at least A3 in size, a still life, landscape or interior is best and it has to be representational.

My initial thoughts were of an interior scene; I recently saw a beautiful photograph of a library and thought of using some book in our study as a background, and to have some interesting objects in front. I was arranging a wooden Buddha in front and trying a few things when I thought maybe of doing a sort of shrine scene, with some related objects by the Buddha. I also felt the books were too fussy and would also be complex to do all the lettering on the spines, if this was to look realistic! I did a quick sketch of the buddha. It is a lovely dark, reddish wood and catches the light very well.



I moved upstairs to find a corner niche and set the Buddha in the centre and chose a leopard shell (that had been given to me in Sir Lanka by a local) and also some sand yin/yan candles from Bali, a necklace given to me by my yoga teacher and I also picked a hibiscus flower from the yard – we have 2 bushes that are flowering at the moment, problem is the blooms only last a day. I looked at the shape of the glass and the way the light shines through

I looked at the objects and planned a few things out. I set a light up to the right of the corner and there is also light coming in through the window behind.


I then made a small colour study to see how the colours would work. I used an orange and yellow mix  as the background colour, as this is the colour of the wall and also I thought would blend well with the wood surface. I made notes of the colours I used so I could reproduce the same, or change if necessary. There is red in the wood and the flower, and part of the necklace and also some of the candle so a crimson worked well with that.


I need to get the wood grain more realistic. Maybe best to work on that first before painting in the other objects! I am reasonably pleased with the glass and the shadows. I think the orangey-yellow ground gives the painting a ‘glow’ and works well. The Buddha also works well, although I need to blend this all much more rigorously. The shell was tricky but I do like it so I’ll leave it in, as I think the objects do work well together. The necklace needs to stand out more. The wall to the right could be grainier. Maybe I could try using a sponge for this? I am still not getting the Buddha head large enough, why is this? I guess the model has a larger than normal head. The flower will be different again when I do this for real. I have prepared an A3 sheet but actually wish I was going for a larger one now. I have got used to larger paintings.

The actual scene.

I started work the next day on the A3 sheet I had prepared with the ground colour. I drew in the basic shapes using charcoal, as per the previous exercise had recommended, however this got very messy and I couldn’t dust it off very well. When I started to paint it got messier still. I decided to abandon this sheet, and keep it to to one side. I had been thinking I wanted larger than A3 and I found an acrylic block canvas and decided to work on that, it is actually only a little larger than A3 and squarer in shape. I thought when finished and dry I could release it from the wood to send to my tutor (will have to ask about this).

I mixed up some more ground colour and painted the block. I tried using a sponge on the A3 sheet to see how the right side wall would look and thought it worked well, the block was dry by now so I made a start. I used a pencil to very lightly mark out the shapes. I painted the walls and the wooden surface in, the brown and red mix for the Buddha and used white to block in the shell, candles and the glass. Because I am working in my bedroom, I was sometimes on the bed, which gave the right view of the scene, and sometimes at the easel if I was doing a large area. I painted the shell first and added the reflection and some shadows.


The wood grain is coming on better than before and I am glad to have got the shell looking ok. In the end I spent 2 afternoons on this, not sure how many hours. It seemed like a lot 🙂




To be self critical: the Buddha’s head is still actually smaller than it really is. The shell ended up larger than it is actual size, I think maybe I was worried about the shell and made, literally, too big a thing of it. But it does look like the shell. The yellow-orange ground more orange than I planned; on the A3 sheet I had it the same but when I switched to the canvas block I mixed too much orange into it and didn’t see it at the time, but I think it looks ok like that, just not as planned out. I am pleased with the glass – no, not perfect but this is first time I have ever tried to paint glass with acrylics. I did try very hard to paint what I could see and not what I expected to see. I think the sand candles work well. But overall, maybe I have put too many objects in, and it looks this way because the shape of the board is more square than the landscape, and so there is not so much room in front of the Buddha.


Author: Wendy Kate

Happily sharing my life in Spain with a tall bearded man from Dorset.

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