When I was young and taking art classes, I was always stumped when my teachers would let us decide individually what to paint. There were just too many creative options and I would simply shut down. One time I went home in a funk, stressed out about what to do, and I said to myself, “Well, toss it. I’m just going to paint what’s for dinner.”
|This is a simple but moving still life by Richard Edward Miller,
composed of a simple tea pot and cup.
And that’s what I did. Or at least that is where I started. Still life paintings are a great way to warm up when you feel uncertain or conflicted about what you really want to paint. So when you don’t know, just wait for dinner (if you are lucky, you won’t have to make it first!) and start there.
Still lifes give us permission to just look and react. We don’t have to deal with anyone’s emotions but our own, and we don’t have to manage expectations. It is one of the best painting exercises I could ever recommend.
|Stovetop by Michael de Brito, 2009,
oil painting, 12 x 19.
And what’s even better is that still life painting means you can always change it up to suit your whims. There are always objects around that can spark inspiration—the cup sitting at your elbow right now, the plant on the windowsill, or even your next meal!
If you want to go down memory lane with me and paint still lifes that may not be glamorous but sure are real—and convenient—for any artist at any stage in their career, you may first want to brush up on your still life skills with spot-on resources like Botanical Drawing. There are some great tips on color mixing and how to stay sensitive to the little details that really matter in a still life. Enjoy!
P.S. How do you feel about still life painting? Has it been an art-saver for you the way it has been for me?