Still Life Painting Realism
It is such a treat when you see an artist’s work and you like it. Then you talk with the artist and you like him or her. And then, you see them in action as an instructor and you fall for their teaching in a big way because everything they say makes sense.
That’s what happened to me when I first saw Quang Ho at a still life painting workshop. I just stood there like a lump on a log and absorbed everything he was saying–not just to me, but to everyone–because it all made beautiful sense.
His main still life art lesson revolved around a painting of white hydrangeas, a silver pitcher, a few pink roses, and a couple of lemons. Suffice it to say, the scene was lovely. The colors were in harmony, the textures where interesting, and the compositional shapes were dynamic.
But when the students painting the still life got to those dratted hydrangeas, the workshop went on the skids. Those flowers are really hard to capture.
There are so many little petals, but you can’t paint every single one of them; yet, how else are you to capture their shape and form without giving in to all that detail? It was troubling–and it is a challenge that crops up when painting most types of flowers.
When to Leave It Alone
I saw more than one still life painting student in crisis over those lovely flowers. Until Quang Ho stepped in and gave one bit of advice: “Back away from the hydrangeas.”
We all laughed, and I could see everyone loosening up over this challenge. He built on his joke with a great still life art lesson: Put down your brushstroke and then leave it, no matter what you are painting.
Quang pointed out that the problems with many of the still life art being created in the workshop started when the students went back in and started fussing with it. They would lose their shapes and mess with the architecture of the stroke. He told everyone to assess the scene, load the brush, make the stroke and then don’t touch it again.
I’ve turned “back away from the hydrangeas” into an artistic mantra. When it comes to still life painting, I have all the time in the world but I think that I use that as an excuse to keep working and reworking. I have to learn when to leave well enough alone, and so I think of hydrangeas! A little weird, I know, but it works for me.
If you want to enhance and evolve the realism of your still life paintings but with exceptional painterly skills, you can definitely start with Masters of Realism. This is a great resource, especially for those times you hit a snag when it comes to finessing the details in a painting.
I’ve just about worn out the “spine” of my copy because it is such an insightful reference to have when you are in the midst of painting. I hope you enjoy yours like I have mine!