Select Page

Still Life with Apples

by Paul Cézanne

Paul Cézanne painted the same objects – the green vase, the rum bottle, the ginger pot, and the apples – over and over again. His interest was not in the objects themselves but in using them to experiment with shape, color, and lighting. He arranged his still lifes so that everything locked together. 

Rotate screen for a best experience

Discover more with ARTiSTiC-i

Click on the tabs below to reveal the principles of art and design in the image.



Use this image to compare.

Click the buttons to discover the elements and principles of design hidden in the art. You can click back to this image to compare at any time.


What is the goal, message, or intent of this image?
Can you state it in a few words, say, five or fewer?
Does the use of Value, Key, Color Intensity, Hues, Edges, and Composition each effectively support this intent?

ARTiSTiC-ideas for your art

Establish a purpose for your image; what you want it to “say”. Keep it short, but descriptive. Then check to see if all qualities of your design suggest and support your intended message. Determine if there are elements or properties that detract from your goal and consider eliminating or reducing them.


The relative lightness or darkness of the colors in the image

Value is the most defining art element. Images with a full range of value, including black to white, have a greater potential impact and visual clarity than images using a smaller range of value.

Does this image include a full range of values? Are there areas at or near black and white?

ARTiSTiC-ideas for your art

Determine the range of value for the medium you are using. What is the darkest and lightest color you can make? Utilize the full range of value for more visual impact and clarity. (See Key for proportional use on values to create or enhance a desired mood) Why? Images that use a limited range of value will often appear overexposed, underexposed, poorly printed, and may misrepresent your intent.

9 Values

The image reduced to 9 values

Study the values and compare the values of adjacent shapes. You can measure them in steps. The differences in value are called Value Contrast.


Does this image include all 9 values?
Does the focal point use contrasting values (light against dark)?
What is the difference in values? (count the steps)
Are there distracting areas in your image with high contrasts in value?
How do they compare to value contrasts in your intended focal point?

ARTiSTiC-ideas for your art

Increase overall image contrast by making dark values darker and light areas lighter. Reduce contrast by making values more similar. Enhance a focal point by increasing value contrasts at or around the focal point, and by reducing value contrasts in other areas. You can also diminish distracting elements by reducing value contrast.

5 Values

The image reduced to 5 values

This image groups the values into black, white, and middle gray, as well as split dark and light values at 25% and 75%.

Famous illustrators and painters often planned and designed their work in five values for a strong, legible composition.


Are key areas of interest reading well?
Do important details appear flattened to one value?
Is the composition of value shapes pleasing?

ARTiSTiC-ideas for your art

Try designing your image with small ranges of value and large shapes of similar value for simplicity and legibility. Save small shapes with high contrasts for important detail areas or focal points.

You can also try Value Staging where you use small value ranges in the foreground, mid-ground, and background areas grouped as dark, medium, and light to enhance visual clarity.


The proportional use of value in the image

Darker images are called Low-key — More black ⬛ with less gray ◻️ and even less white ▫️. Mid-key images use mostly medium tones ▪️ ⬜ ▫️, and high-key ▪️ ◻️ [ ] use mostly light tints.


Compare the amounts of dark, medium, and light in this image.

Does the image include a full range of values?
Is the image low-key, mid-key, or high-key?
Does the proportional use of values enhance your image's mood, feel, or intent?

ARTiSTiC-ideas for your art

It is essential to use a full range of values in your image (including colors near white and near black), however, more significant amounts of dark, medium, or light can help create different moods.


Wavelengths of the visible color spectrum

Hue is one of the three attributes of color (Value, Hue, and Intensity) associated with a specific wavelength of light. Hue is often used to describe or name a color.

This image shows the dominant hues used in the colors in the image. The intensity is exaggerated to show difficult-to-discern areas such as dark, pale, or subtle gray areas. (Note: Grays areas shown may lack sufficient intensity to belong to any hue.)


Does your image contain too many hues for the desired mood or emotion?
Does your image contain too few...?
Is one hue more frequent or dominant than the others?
Does the dominant hue convey the feeling or emotion that you intend?

ARTiSTiC-ideas for your art

Hue is the strongest tool for creating and enhancing emotion. It is often easier to create visual unity and convey more specific emotions with a limited pallet of colors. Allow one hue to be more dominant in quantity and/or intensity and then balance it with a second or third hue. The use of hue can be very complex and subjective because of it’s relation to emotion and because of the range of possibilities compared to other art elements.

Warm & Cool

Warm and Cool are terms used to describe a division of the color spectrum into two categories associated with their psychosomatic properties.

In objective works, look for a relation between Warm & Cool and the lights and shadow areas.

(Note: Darker shades of pure grays and black are shown as “warm”, and grays closer to white are categorized as “cool”. This image does not demonstrate relative warm or cool.)


Is the image mostly warm or cool?
Do you think this is this consistent with the intended mood or feel?
Does this image follow a “cool light with warm shadows” or “warm light with cool shadows” convention?

ARTiSTiC-ideas for your art

try using a dominantly warm or dominantly cool color scheme to support your intended mood or feel. Include some opposing warm or cool in the image, even in a very small amount, to increase the effectiveness and to provide a visual comparison.


Also of interest, is the notion that “warm colors advance and cool colors recede” is more likely dominated by the interplay of value and intensity.

Color Intensity

The relative purity of a hue (also called Chroma, Saturation, or more accurately Chromaticity). Colors furthest from grayscale are the most “intense” and attract more visual attention.

This layer is not intended to demonstrate value. Instead, lighter areas represent higher Color Intensity.

(Note: For black & white or grayscale images this layer will appear all black. Such images contain no color intensity.)


Does your focal point use vibrant colors?
Are there distracting areas in your image with too much intensity?
Is the overall Color Intensity appropriate for the mood or emotion you are trying to convey?
Is one hue more intense than the others?
Does that hue convey the feeling or emotion that you intend?

ARTiSTiC-ideas for your art

Use Color Intensity to enhance an area of preferred interest. Reduce color intensity to subordinate an area or reduce distractions.


At the fullest intensity, hues vary in value but are generally light. You can further enhance the effect of a color’s intensity by darkening the value in its surrounding shapes.

Edge Quality

The transitions from one shape of value or color to an adjacent shape.

Edges are often described as being “hard, sharp, strong, crisp, in-focus...” or conversely, “soft, feathered, blurred, lost, etc." This variety of edges is also called Edge Quality.


Does the focal point use strong/sharp edges?
Are there distracting areas in your image that can be softened?
For representational realism, is the edge quality consistent for a depth of field or focus and uniform on similar distance objects and surfaces?

ARTiSTiC-ideas for your art

The careful treatment of edges is often underestimated and can dramatically improve and refine the look of any image. Use sharper edges to improve clarity and enhance interest. Soften distracting edges to help them recede in visual importance. Be careful not to over soften or sharpen edges inconsistent with an established depth of field or focus.

For graphic image styles containing only sharp edges, use value, hue, or intensity changes between shapes to increase or reduce edge strength.

In graphic line art, where edges are represented by lines, use value and thickness to alter their visual importance.

(see also: Line)


Lines express direction, movement, rhythm, and texture, and help define a shape. Lines are often used in art to represent edges (see Edges) and have visual weight and need to be balanced in an image just as shapes of color and/or value.

Use this view to study the most dominant edges, or to visualize the image as a simple line drawing.


Are the important elements of your image visible?
Are key edges too subtle or missing in this view?
Do the lines support, point to, or frame your focal point?
Do other lines direct your eye to where you would like?

ARTiSTiC-ideas for your art

Try using lines/edges to direct your eye toward a focal point, help connect a series of focal points, or frame the focal point. Use lines to enhance the illusion of depth by intersecting with a shape – appearing to go behind another shape. Consider that lines and edges also need to be balanced just as shapes of value and color, especially horizontally.

In drawing and sketching, use value, thickness, and the edge quality of the line to establish focal points and alter the look for visual interest.

Simplified Color

Simplified color shapes with reduced texture

Study the basic shapes of value and color. Images that remain legible in this view, have better visual clarity. Images that appear deteriorated or flat may be relying upon subtle edges, textures, or hue changes to communicate.


Are important parts of your image still legible?
Is the image improved, in whole, or in part?
Are there textures and details that are distracting?
Does the image rely on subtle edges or textures to communicate?

ARTiSTiC-ideas for your art

Reduce unnecessary high-contrast textures and patterns. If a texture is distracting, first reduce contrast in the values of the texture. Use hue, color intensity, or edge quality to convey textures effectively without the distraction of high-value changes. Where possible, use the silhouette edge of a shape to convey the texture. (For instance, a leafy tree silhouette can communicate the contained texture in spite of not rendering all the leaves in the shape. This can be more efficient and less distracting than the texture rendered in the shape.)

Simplified Color & Line

Combined effects of Line and Simplified Color

This image demonstrates the basic color shapes and adds a line composition overlay in white or black.


Are key areas of this image still legible?
Do the lines direct your eye where it should?
Does this image rely on subtle edges or textures to communicate?

ARTiSTiC-ideas for your art

See Line and Simplified Color for suggestions

Composition 3rds

A compositional division of the image in thirds

Study the balance of various elements including shape, value, or line, and the placement of shapes or focal points based on thirds.


Where is the focal point in relation to the intersection of lines?
Is the focal point balanced with a visual secondary point of interest in an opposing area?
Does each section contain a pleasing composition?

ARTiSTiC-ideas for your art

The “rule of thirds”, as it is sometimes called, is a practice of placing focal points, large shape separations, or dominant lines near a division of the image in thirds. It is a helpful reminder to not create too predictable a composition (such as placing the focal point in the exact center of the image). Generally, placing a focal point near an upper third will help it be visually supported. Placing it left or right of the center with a balancing visual weight or point of interest on the other side can enhance visual interest.

It is not necessary to place focal points on exact intersections of these lines or to create exacting balance. Instead, use these as a general guide for consideration.

Composition 4ths

A compositional division of the image in halves and fourths

Use this image to study the balance of values, line/edge weights, and the placement of shapes or focal points based on halves and fourths.


Does your image feel balanced, left to right and top to bottom?
Where is your focal point in relation to the intersection of lines?
Does each section have a pleasing composition?

ARTiSTiC-ideas for your art

“Visual Weight” is a consideration of all properties of visual interest, but commonly refers to shapes or masses of value. Generally, a balanced composition will make a viewer feel more comfortable. Use visual weight to complementarily balance (not symmetrically balance) a composition, both left to right and top to bottom. It is not uncommon to balance an image with slightly more visual weight in the upper half.

Focal Points

Areas receiving the most visual attention

A Focal Point is an area with initial or particular interest. Discover which area may be receiving the most visual attention and have the most prominent and initial impact.


Is this consistent with the way you perceive the focal points?
Are there any detracting focal points?
Is there a balance between the focal points?
Do the secondary or tertiary focal points direct your eye back to the main focal point?

ARTiSTiC-ideas for your art

Try using Value Contrast, Color Intensity, Edge Strength, and other compositional tools to direct the viewer’s eye, create visual impact, and balance focal points of interest. See the ARTiSTiC-i Seeing System for more information! (needs link or reference…)


Focal Points do not take into account subject matter or other psychological interests initially, however, after visual processing and or other cognitive reasoning, certain areas or subjects of interest in an image can develop strong visual attractions as focal points.



Cézanne spent hours arranged his still lifes so that everything tied together. Notice how each object is slightly overlapping the other, creating a flow of the eye from one object to the next. 

Also, notice how overlapping shapes can create a sense of depth by portraying one shape in front of the other.  In spite of a painting being basically 2 dimensions these visual cues help convince us that the objects have mass and depth in the space portrayed. 




A focal point is any area of the image that draws your attention.

Focal Point

What would you consider is the strongest focal point in the image?

What would be the next strongest? And, the next?

What art principles do you think might contribute a focal point attracting your eyes?


Still Life with Apples by Paul Cézanne

Focal Point


Secondary Focal Point


Focal Point


Focal Point

Notice the high contrast between the white cloth and the shadows of the apples.

Also notice that the apples have some of the strongest color intensity.

Finally, the flow and direction of the edges (lines) in the composition tend to flow toward and point to the apples. 

Discover more great ARTiSTiC-insights

Enjoy enhanced learning with ARTiSTiC-i

Still Life with Apples

Still Life with Applesby Paul Cézanne Paul Cézanne painted the same objects - the green vase, the rum bottle, the ginger pot, and the apples - over and over again. His interest was not in the objects themselves but in using them to experiment with shape, color, and lighting. He…


WheatstacksBy Claude Monét Stacks of Wheat (also known as End of Summer) by Claude Monet is part of a series of stacks of harvested wheat. The impressionist Haystack series is famous for how Monet repeated the same theme to show the different light and atmosphere at different times of day, across the…

Mona Lisa

Mona LisaBy Leonardo da Vinci The Mona Lisa is a half-length portrait painting by Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci. Considered an archetypal masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance, it has been described as "the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work…

Starry Night

Starry NightBy Vincent van Gogh The Starry Night is an oil-on-canvas painting by the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh. Painted in June 1889, it depicts the view from the east-facing window of his asylum room at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, just before sunrise, with the addition of an imaginary village. Rotate screen…


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *