How Important Are Backgrounds for Paintings? | Gallery of Still Life Paintings

How Important Are Backgrounds for Paintings?


When it comes to perfecting a setup for still life paintings, don’t neglect the background. Here, four pastel artists—Karen Budan, Barbara S. Groff, Nicora Gangi and Isabelle V. Lim—discuss their backdrop choices and how they contribute to the whole. For the full article, check out the October 2012 issue of Pastel Journal.


Karen Budan

The most demanding part of the painting process for artist Karen Budan is the still life setup. “I spend more energy and time ruminating and playing with ideas, collecting objects, setting them up, moving them around, adding and deleting things, moving lighting and the angle than I actually spend painting,” she says. “Once I’m happy with the setup, it’s just a matter of using my technical skills to create the concept on paper.”


"Reflections of Red" by Karen Budan | Still Life Paintings

“Reflections of Red” (pastel) by Karen Budan


"Festive Fruit" by Karen Budan | Still Life Paintings

“Festive Fruit” (pastel) by Karen Budan


Barbara S. Groff

One of the joys of completing still life paintings for Barbara S. Groff is the telling of a story, and the artist has drawn inspiration from many places, including well-loved tales from classical literature. Other times, her concept has arisen from a particular selection of objects that she carefully orchestrated to suggest a story—while always leaving something to the viewer’s imagination. “It’s about being able to create something that is unique and personal,” Groff says.


"Blue, Green and Gold" by Barbara Groff | Pastel Paintings

“Blue, Green and Gold” (pastel) by Barbara S. Groff


"Bittersweet with Bronze" by Barbara Groff | Pastel Paintings

“Bittersweet with Bronze” (pastel) by Barbara S. Groff


Nicora Gangi

Artist Nicora Gangi takes a variety of approaches to the backgrounds of her still life paintings. In some works, the background is scenic, complex and allegorical; other times,
the setting is a blanket of darkness with an almost imperceptible transition from foreground to background.


"Sound of Their Wings V" by Nicora Gangi | Still Life Paintings

“Sound of Their Wings V” (pastel) by Nicora Gangi


"Until Now II" by Nicora Gangi | Still Life Paintings

“Until Now II” (pastel) by Nicora Gangi


Isabelle V. Lim


Isabelle V. Lim finds ready-made still life arrangements around the neighborhoods of Hong Kong and South China for her still life paintings. “There’s a bursting of life on the crowded streets,“ she says. “The people, objects, activities, sounds and colors in every nook and around every corner offer a cultural buffet.”

"The Nesters" by Isabelle Lim | Pastel Paintings

“The Nesters” (pastel) by Isabelle Lim


"A Journey West II" by Isabelle Lim | Pastel Paintings

“A Journey West II” (pastel) by Isabelle Lim


To see more pastel paintings from these artists, check out the October 2012 issue of Pastel Journal.


Read here for an art tip on painting from back to front in still life paintings from Ted Polomis.


Interested in adding packaging to your backdrops? Then check out this tutorial by Jaye Schlesinger on painting packages.



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