Still Life Painting or How to Paint a Still Life

Painting a still life painting can be a motivating experience. With this type of painting you have an excellent opportunity for self expression. You will be selecting the various objects and placing them into a suitable arrangement. You are only limited by your own inventive agility. you can create a bright and gay composition or one that is quite somber.

With still life painting, you have more control of the subject matter than in any other form of painting. You control the number and types of objects. You also, control the light that falls on the whole composition. You control the various shapes and sizes of the objects. And don’t forget the textures. Quite often still life that you setup can be made to tell a story. In fact many still lives do tell a story; that’s what makes them interesting.

Setting Up The Still Life

You should set up your still life arrangement in a place where you can leave it setup from the start of the painting to it’s finish. This should include your light source. In the beginning it is wise to limit yourself to just a few objects. The simpler the better. Sometimes a fairly simple arrangement with one to three objects can be very appealing. Whereas, an arrangement with many objects can become quite cluttered and busy. And, if you can, try to tell a story.

Take some time in setting up for your still life painting; moving the objects around until you get an arrangement that suits you. Pay attention to the sizes and shapes of these objects and how they relate to each other. Notice the shapes around them, (the negative spaces). The objects that you are putting into the composition should relate to one another.

Leaving spaces between the different objects breaks up the continuity and makes for a poor composition: See figure 1. It is best to arrange the objects so that they overlap some. This adds depth and makes for a better composition. However, this is not all cast in stone. As you will note in figure 2, I have set one object apart from the rest. This can be done but you should use your better judgment and have the arrangement make sense. Seek out and observe still life paintings of other artist to stimulate ideas.

On To The Canvas

We need to observe the whole arrangement and sketch it out to it’s periphery. By doing this we can easily note note the sizes and shapes of the individual  elements and they’re relationship to one another within the arrangement. this also helps us to define the size of the composition to the overall size of the canvas. See figure 3 and note the dotted lines.

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