Still Life Tips

Try these pointers for setting up, composing and painting still lifes:

1. When setting up, strive for an assortment of compatible shapes that are varied in size and texture. If your props are too similar, they’ll vie for viewer attention.

2. Create a sense of unity and harmony by overlapping several objects in your setup.

3. Fruit is always a good subject because of its beautiful, natural shapes, rich colors and interesting textures.

4. Always photograph setups that include perishables such as fruit and flowers.

5. Take reference photos when you’re working in natural light, in case the light changes.

6. Include various levels of interest by leading the viewer into your canvas toward your focal point and then around and through your composition.

7. Paint large masses loosely at the block-in stage. Then work toward the finer details. Avoid locking yourself into a tightly rendered drawing, which often leads to filling in the lines.

8. Delight in your subject’s form, color, inadequacies and uniqueness. Learn to look at your subject with fresh eyes, as if for the first time, and paint what you see.

9. Take breaks. Stand back to view your work or, if you find yourself mired down with details or losing enthusiasm, set the canvas aside for a few days and work on something else. When you return, you’ll find it easier to spot areas that need adjustment.

10. Look at your painting upside down or stand with your back to the painting and view your work through a mirror. These unfamiliar views help you assess composition and color more objectively.

At age 12, Louise B. Hafesh immigrated with her family to the United States from Liverpool, England. After earning a bachelor of arts degree from Rowan College, she eventually became the first woman advertising manager in the Harte-Hanks newspaper chain. She is also noted for having published the first woman’s regional magazine, NJ Woman. Hafesh began studying oil painting in 2001 and feels fortunate to have received instruction from David A. Leffel, Steven Assael, Frank Arcuri and John Phillip Osborne. Hafesh has exhibited at the National Arts Club Gallery, New York. In November 2007, her first one-woman show, “To Life!,” appeared at the Bergen Performing Arts Center Intermezzo Gallery in Englewood, New Jersey. Visit her website at

Hafesh’s full-length article "Design for Success," with an illustrated, step-by-step  demonstration, appeared in the June 2008 issue of The Artist’s Magazine.

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