Still Life Painting

By: Courtney McCreary

Still lives are extremely popular subject matter for painters and drawers alike. They’re done from direct observation, and are somewhat convenient since your subject matter won’t be moving around on you. Depending on how detailed you are, you can spend hours rendering the same object, perfecting it to your heart’s desire. And literally any inanimate object can be used for a still life, making for some interesting content if you’re feeling creative. It doesn’t always have to be bowls of plastic fruit, if that’s not your cup o’ tea.

Final still life project from Painting I. Oil on Arches paper 22 x 30.

Because still life subjects will stay completely still, it leaves the painter more room to work intensively within each step of the process. Unless you’re working on a commission for a client, there’s really no time limit to how long you can spend on the painting. It’s a good idea to do some practice sketches once you have your composition chosen before laying it out on your final support. In oil painting, the composition is usually drawn out in charcoal before any paint is applied. Just like in drawing, sighting and measuring is a great method to use to get accurate proportions, and it’s one less thing to worry about once you actually start painting.

Work in progress from Painting II. Starting to apply local color.

Afterwards, colors are matched and applied loosely so the painter gets a better idea of what the painting’s color relationships will be. Once the basic colors are determined, values are added, followed by details. It’s basically doing the steps in layers. It’s also a helpful method to work throughout the entire painting on each step, rather than obsessively doing one small section at a time. I usually find myself getting stuck doing this and I have to remind myself to step back.

Good luck in all your artistic endeavors!!!


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