Troubleshooting Still Life Art
- Fiddling with the still life objects in an attempt to avoid an over-perfect and somewhat contrived arrangement or one that looks as though the objects had been slung haphazardly onto the work surface.
- Insisting upon the inclusion of a multitude of objects containing intricate patterns or reflections in the belief that “simple” objects such as an apple or orange will look like a childish endeavour.
- Working on a large surface in the first instance may create a psychological barrier to the first brush mark, often magnified by a white surface which can be even more off-putting.
- Worrying about what people might think if the painting does not work out.
My Youtube clip showing a simple still life painting of a lemon and apple might be helpful. this oil painting demonstration took around 20 minutes to complete but has been sped up.
What to Paint in a First Still Life
Embarking upon a still life study need not entail lots of preparation. In many ways, simplicity is the answer. The following tips may help the beginner view a first still life painting in a less ceremonious manner which will help minimise a feeling of build-up:
An effective still life study can indeed consist of one object. A chilli pepper, a garlic, a candlestick, a vase, a lemon or apple for that matter, can make interesting still life objects.
A first still life study can be executed on a small piece of primed sketching paper rather than stretched canvas, which may feel a little intimidating at first. Using sketching paper may ease the artist into taking the view that the painting is not to be an exhibitions piece, but an oil sketch, akin to a pencil sketch. If the painting does not work out, another sketch can be embarked upon without concern about wasting costly canvases.
Applying a thin under-glaze of acrylic paint will kill the off-putting whiteness of the painting surface. Pale blue, beige or grey will provide a mid-toned glaze to help the artist judge tonal values of colours more accurately when applied.
Tips for Drawing a Still Life
Before laying down the first brush mark, take notice of the light. Is it streaming from a window or a lamp? Is the light bright or subdued? Are there defined shadows pooling from the object or are they blurred? Look out for ways of making better use of the light. The object will exhibit defined shadows if light is coming from one source. A front-lit object will appear more flat; a side-lit object will exhibit more lights and darks. The latter will provide opportunities (and challenges) for shading and smooth blending to give the objects form.
Still Life Painting Made Simple
The artist need not make lengthy preparations or purchase costly art materials when embarking upon a first still life painting. In fact, simplicity is often the key. Using primed sketching paper overlaid with a tinted glaze forms a good ground for a quick oil sketch minus the off putting white surface. Begin with one simple object and get the drawing right before laying down the paint. Notice the light source. Does the artist wish to explore shading techniques, as provided by a side-lit object, or bright colours, as often is the case with brightly-lit objects? Optimum use of the light often forms the basis for still life that possesses form.