Photorealism still life art
Sangita Phadke, "Golden Delicious," 2014, pastel, 20 x 20 in., private collection

There is a lot of superb contemporary realism being made these days; this article by Allison Malafronte shines light on a gifted individual who paints in the style of photorealism.

If photorealism is evolving to reflect the visual experience of our digitized times, then the paintings of SANGITA PHADKE (b. 1982) are a poster for the kind of clarity, definition, and detail that are possible. In her pastel works, she focuses on a solitary piece of fruit, a flower, or a face to offer a reflection of both Old World traditional technique and the immediacy of the contemporary graphic image.

Dramatic light and shadow, or chiaroscuro, recur in Phadke’s paintings. Often her subjects sit in the dark illuminated by a strong spotlight, almost as if they are on stage. This direct and singular light source creates dramatic contrasts of value, which Phadke builds up in multiple layers of pastel. “Overall, my paintings generally have about 10 layers of pastel underneath the finishing touches,” she says. “All the detail work, such as the texture of the skin, is completed in the final stage of my process.” Phadke also notes that viewers who look closely will see a tear, dent, or scratch incorporated in just about every one of her paintings.

As one might imagine, Phadke’s approach to setting up and painting her subjects is methodical. She mentions that her favorite stage of the process is the beginning, when she takes at least an hour to look intently at her subject and carefully plan how she will paint it. This initial phase also involves deciding which pastels to use. “I choose the fewest number of pastels I will need to complete the painting,” the artist says. “I then put away all my pastel boxes and work with a limited palette. If I am missing a color, I will use the pastels I originally chose to create the new color. I find that by layering and mixing colors from a limited palette, my paintings have more unity.”

Phadke learned to paint in pastel primarily by teaching herself. Currently residing in Colts Neck, New Jersey, she grew up in the Chicago suburbs and graduated with a degree in finance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Phadke soon realized that her true calling is telling stories through art, and so she embarked on a journey of research into artists and techniques past and present. She followed this with a commitment to a consistent studio practice. Winning several awards and distinctions for her early work confirmed that she was on the right path, and Phadke has pursued the profession of full-time pastelist ever since.

Sangita Phadke is self-represented.

How to paint a still lifeLearn how to paint still life, including how to find the right color palette, the step-by-step process of creating a composition, and much more with the art video workshop “Daniela Astone: Creating an Elegant Still Life.”

Though Daniela Astone started her art education on a typical track, her passion eventually landed her acceptance into the Florence Academy. She went through the entire program, but, unlike those who graduated and moved on, she wanted to carry that program on to future generations. So she was trained personally by the instructors at the school, including Daniel Graves.

Preview her art video workshop, “Creating an Elegant Still Life,” below: