3 Still Lifes – Grunged – with peonies & blue bells, Chinese artifacts plus Thatcheria shell


This image is of light pink and dark pink peonies arranged
in a Chinese blue ginger jar with white prunus trees which
came from my Grandparents time in the Orient. The white
water buffalo with flute player belonged to my Grandparents
as well. I arranged them on a vintage cloth against the
black felt background in ambient light.

In photoshop the image was subjected to the oil paint filter,
lighting adjusted to my liking with two different background
layers. One for color and a painterly feel with some blues
and reds. One I pulled in for fun and ended up liking it.
That one is a rusted metal with a seam with nail heads. 
Those were layered in, I think using 'divide' for the 
blending mode, and adjusting opacity and light.

It is quite possible that I took three nice normal images and wrecked them with grungy background elements or worse, not so background and more up front and personal-at least in the case of the Thatcheria! When I saw that Whole Foods had peonies again just before Thanksgiving, I couldn’t resist setting up a few shots.  I really have become fond of peonies and their voluptuous full blossoms. These three images were just what I started with and I am pretty sure I will show a few more of the arrangements as I did drag out some of my favourite objects in the process.  I do enjoy the low key compositions so far and the possibilities for a painterly look and so often when doing so feel that the solid black background just has no depth. Although perhaps the depth created just by the light on the flower should be just enough. This only really means that I need to work on a proper stage with more than the black felt I have been using on the wall.

In hopes you might enjoy these, I’ve described the elements beneath each picture. Critique is always welcome especially in the areas of whether the scene works as a composition and if the color looks pretty on different monitors, and what general merit the ideas have. When I do these each time I am convinced I am NOT a flower arranger.


This arrangement is placed in a ruffly edged vintage, 
Fenton Glass most likely, pink vase with white glass
 lining with peonies, blue bells,some fill flowers
 and the porcelain flamingo.

As with the top image shot in available light, with grunge
layer added in with divide for blend mode on the 
background. I'd conceived of a lighter look on this one
with all the pink and the flamingo, but it had a mind
of its own and went to the dark side.


The Thatcheria shell I've utilized before as I am always
fascinated with its form, just so elegant and
architectural. For this, big use of blending modes in
Photoshop. I just had one grunge layer that looks a
bit like an old tin type with greens and golds.
With this I went away completely from the natural
color of the shell and used blend modes just to reveal its
shape and shadows with the green/gold tones of the 
grungy layer. Looks kind of ancient.

It seems that if you are engaged in any way in artistic endeavors, that our inner child wants to play perhaps for better, perhaps for worse, but always for fun!


Have fun!


~ by Judy on November 30, 2017.

21 Responses to “3 Still Lifes – Grunged – with peonies & blue bells, Chinese artifacts plus Thatcheria shell”

  1. If I had to chose between these photos (which I’d hate to have to do) I would pick the last one, the monochromatic shell. You’ve captured its shell-essence exactly. But also my eyes are drawn to the flamingo above it. Maybe it wasn’t intended to be the focus, but for me the rest of composition seems there just to support it. 🙂

    • Oh that is good information. That shell can sell anything, they are such beautiful ones. I did a couple of other shells that day as just a shell image, maybe I’ll see if one of them can be treated as a mate for this one. Glad you liked that one.

      I did just like that Flamingo and am glad it contributes to the image. I was going for a lighter treatment with all the soft colors, pinks and the blues, but the background didn’t really enhance that idea. I have never bought blue bells before; they are rather elegant I think. I guess when I include flowers in a still life I want to emulate an oil painting but perhaps leaving them to be what they are….a photo in hopefully favorable light….is a better goal.

      • I guess the problem I have with the blue bells is I’m so used to the fragile and fragrant bluebells that grow in old English woods. So my eyes went to the flamingo instead.

      • That is interesting as a point that our minds might dismiss the common or over familiar thing in favor of something not usual or exotic, like the little flamingo figurine. Blue bells I’d notice since I don’t really see them around. Common I guess but pretty. Many common flowers are wonderful photo subjects though.

      • Hey, and you tell me that. I’m the one who gets down on the ground for close ups of common wayfaring flowers.

      • True!

  2. The good news is that “still life” does not mean dead. The photos are alive.

  3. Judy, I love the colors and the Ginger Jar.  Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks for commenting!! I love that Ginger Jar too. Peonies seem good to go with it as so many oriental designs seem to have large pink flowers even though I don’t know if they are peonies on the china pieces.

  4. Well, on a scale of one to ten, I’d rate the shell as a twenty. It’s fabulous. And there endeth my comment on that — there really is nothing more to say.

    I’m really not fond of pink, so the middle photo isn’t so immediately appealing to me. But there was something else about it I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I finally decided it’s the background. The red tones seem to me to completely overpower the arrangement. It looks rather like cut velvet, and the only establishments I know of that have flocked red velvet on the walls wouldn’t have such high-class decor!

    And that just helped me see something else. The flowers have (to me) a bit of an artificial look to them. I suspect it’s the background that’s causing that. It’s interesting that the grayish background in the first photo appeals so much more than the red background on the left. Do you see those backgrounds as red? I’m wondering if it’s a monitor thing.

    • I truly appreciate the critique. One thing about working on something can be that you get very vested in all the different trials you did and did you just get used to the look after awhile. First glad I struck home on the shell and ironically it was a much more straightforward effort than the other two.

      Image one I like very much just as a composition. I like the full flowers and the contrast of the pinks and lively blues. So it was interesting to me. It is in the area of thinking that it ought to be more painterly than one (that is me) can run amuck. There are two distinct backgrounds pulled into image one. The reds on the left side are mainly from the mixture of blues and reds of one layer and the silver/gray part is mainly from the metal layer with the rust. I liked the way that looked more than I expected and it is such a deviation from the kind of composition it is. Oriental artifacts with the flowers. Thanks for the opinion on the grays working better than the reds though and the amount of red will depend on the monitor. But still red. The think I did like about the color on that side was the bit of blush it gave the light pink peonies. And, this for me is one tricky thing about compositing and that that you love part of what it does a lot but not all. So when to dispense with the whole thing and how to work it in for the part you like best. And, this is an area I have not instinctively mastered. I know what I like when I see it but making it so has many missteps.

      And, the comment on image 2 in the series. That was one I liked enough to work on but using the color contrast filter might be what gave a slightly artificial look possibly, and I used the red/blue grunge background on that one too only a little differently.

      I will keep working on getting the perfect light and look and hopefully arrangement…nothing works if the arrangement isn’t ok. And get some better background without importing it if I can figure out place to stage whatever the idea is.

      • What you say reminds me of a bit of advice Annie Dillard offers re: writing. She says, roughly, that if something doesn’t work, get rid of it. There will be a place for it down the line, in another context. Or, as the doyen of housekeeping (Peg Bracken) used to say, “When in doubt, throw it out.” I would add, just don’t throw it too far!

      • Right, guess that means if you are trying too hard to make it work, don’t!! Sort of like that idea floating around from somewhere that if you like favourite written thing too much, paragraph, line in a poem, etc you must throw it out, it will mess up the creative flow of the rest. That has been more than one time I’ve had a great line and never was able to get a poem to revolve around it. A forced thing is a forced thing…????

      • I’ve got a draft file full of sentences, paragraphs, great analogies. I think of them as my foster sentences. I’ll take care of them, but someday they’ll need to find a real home! 🙂

      • Yeah I think of it that way too. Just simmers in the back, comes to a boil sometimes, then cools back down til next time. I have titles too.

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