I believe that there?s much more to creating a still life than simply representing objects. Objects are themselves representations of line, shape, texture and color, and the artist must be able to see these things first and foremost. The creation of a painting, then, is the arrangement and association of these artistic properties within the bank of impressions in our minds into an effective and striking picture. Approach your still lifes this way, and you?ll see how much is going on inside these simple objects.
As I begin the painting process after resolving as many issues as possible in my mind, I concentrate on arranging the composition. This is crucial because the composition is like the skeleton that supports all the other parts of a still life painting, and a good arrangement is like a building process, brick by brick. With many years of experience, I no longer need to make preliminary sketches; I can envision the final painting and construct the composition from that.
The first areas I paint are usually the darkest, and often these are the shadows of my still life objects. I?ll deliberately paint them darker than they need to be in the final version because they?ll be softened by the lighter areas on the surface of the objects. I usually keep my palette limited to only a handful of colors, and in the early stages I apply them in very thin, liquidy layers. Also, I keep in mind that if I refrain from putting sharp lines around the dark areas, I?ll find it easier to unite them with the lighter spots later on. Along the way, I?ll use a painting knife to remove the extra paint left by the brush so that these irregular traces don?t confuse me later on.
Although there are some subjects I paint repeatedly, I don?t have any favorite objects for portrayal in my still lifes. This is because my subjects follow my ideas, but also because there are so many fascinating objects all around us. Each one can reveal something slightly different, but virtually anything can be used to explore and illuminate your artistic ideas. Keep this in mind as you create your paintings and you?ll be amazed at all the beauty you?ll discover.
Tera Leigh is a writer and artist living near San Francisco. Her passion is creativity and she writes columns for Decorative Artist?s Workbook and PaintWorks magazines. Her design work has been published in such magazines as Romantic Homes, ToleWorld and 101 Decorating Ideas. She?s also a contributor to Artist?s Sketchbook (from the editors of The Artist?s Magazine). Look for her new book, The Complete Guide to Decorative Painting (North Light Books) in October. For more tips on art journaling, check out www.teras-wish.com..