Folded Paper Still Life


This exercise is about looking at color and value as light moves over planes in a still life.

Choose three colors of 12 x 18 paper: Two complementary colors and one other (this can be a color or black or white)
  1. Cut one of the papers into a piece that measures approx. 4" x 14". Fold this piece in fours. This is the "object" in your still life.
  2. Fold another piece in fours; this will be the background piece.
  3. The third piece will sit as the base color under your two other pieces. (see below)

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Put a strong light source on your still life. You should be able to see some greatly contrasting shadows. Look through a viewfinder, close one eye, and draw desired composition on board/canvas. Try to include all of the smaller folded paper.

First Pass:

1. Use approximately 8-10 hues
  • two for background color
  • two for floor
  • one for shadow
  • two-three for folded paper object
2. Name each hue and value as you use it. Check values against a value scale.
3. Be direct and cover entire board with color. Worry more about covering your board than mixing the exact colors you see.

Second Pass:
1. Look for more detailed and refined color changes.
2. Check each area where you think there's a change and compare with hues around it. (check through viewfinder, one eye closed)
3. Mix by adding white or black to change value, or by adding the complement to change intensity.
4. Continue until you are happy with your subtle changes.

Third Pass:
1. Double check all hues and overall image, adjust hues if necessary.
2. Check for "out of harmony" hues and be sure each is "anchored" by use of a similar hue somewhere else; adjust if necessary.
3. Check values and intensities and adjust if necessary with a glaze (thin white or black or color with water or medium)