Building Your Backgrounds

Bad backgrounds can squeeze the life from the most carefully rendered still life. Here are some of my favorite ways to create attractive surroundings for my subjects:

  • Paint the background first with a pale wash of the local colors you’ll be using on the subject. You can go back and intensify parts of it later.
  • Paint your subject very large so you have less background to deal with.
  • Divide the background into simple shapes, using variations of your main colors. But soften any hard edges with a wet brush to avoid trouble later.
  • Work into your backgrounds with “negative shapes” for variety. Paint around these extra shapes with a light wash, then carry the paint off the edge of the page.
  • If you add background objects, make them either photorealistic or barely suggested. Poorly painted background objects can also detract from your main subject.

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