6 Tips for Painting Still Life Art

A still life is an art representing mostly dormant subject matter, typically everyday objects which are either natural (flowers, food, dead animals, rocks, shells, plants, etc.) or human-made (books, drinking glasses, jewelry, pipes, coins, etc.)

Painting a still life portrait seems simple sometimes, that is until you do it! Disappointment can appear if you aren’t following a few techniques.

Here are six tips that should help you when painting still life no matter what medium you use

  1. Take photos. If you are painting color-changing objects such as flowers or fruits, you should take photos of the still life. (here, i mean the ‘color-changing objects’ in a physical and outer sense, your ‘ex’ too changed her color, I know, but that’s on the inside) The images will be a lifesaver if the still life wrinkles or decays before you complete the work.
  2. Set a platform for your work. Use a big cardboard box turned on its side for the stage of setup. Drape a cloth along the sides, back, and bottom of the box. Place your items on the scene, and your still life is set. For even more effect, cast a square window out of the side of the box. The light can penetrate through this window, creating a realistic lighting effect.
  3. When picking items to use for your painting, choose pieces that belong together (not your ex and you). For instance, a pile of old books and an old ceramic coffee cup symbolise a peaceful old-time library painting. You could go out into the parking and find some tools or garden gloves and a watering can. Try wandering in the kitchen in search of similar items.
  4. Add excitement by using texture, opposing colors, and shapes. If your painting involves a metal watering can, an opposing surface would be garden gloves. Picking metal garden tools/cans do not offer a lot of diversity. Experiment with a variety of colors, shapes, and textures until your still life is satisfying.
  5. Keep an even balance. Don’t put your primary object directly in the center of the setup. The primary object should be placed kept off-center with other items in front of, and next to it. Experiment until your eyes savor what they see.
  6. Start your painting by drawing the broad shapes of the objects. After the forms are in, fill the shapes with the initial layer of under-paint. Compute the background, then complete the details of the still life. Add shadows while you are at it. Shadows always add depth to a painting. It’s easy to design shadows. Just direct the light to one side or the other of the still life. Wait, you are not done yet. Don’t forget to add highlights! Where the brightest highlights are, add white! Your painting will pop and shine with effect with the tiniest detail of highlights.

Thank you.

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