Painting a still life painting seems easy sometimes, that is until you actually do it! Frustration can build, if you aren’t following a few Still Life Painting Techniques. Here are 10 tips that should aid you when painting still life no matter what medium you are using.
1. Take photos. If you are painting perishable items such as fruit or flowers, you should take photos of the still life. The photos will be a life saver if the still life wilts or wrinkles before you are finished with the work.
2. Set a stage for your work. Use a large cardboard box turned on its side for the set up or stage. Drape a cloth along the back, sides and bottom of the box. Place your items in the stage and your still life is ready. For even more effect, cut a square window out of the side of the box. The light can enter through this window creating a realistic lighting effect.
3. Keep the background simple or subdued. If the background is busy, you will have competing focus in the painting. A draped cloth or other gentle background works well.
4. Choosing still life items. When choosing items to use for your painting, choose items that belong together. For example, a stack of old books and an old ceramic coffee cup indicate a peaceful old time library painting. You could go out into the garage and gather some tools or garden gloves and a watering can. Try looking around in the kitchen for similar items.
5. Add drama by using opposing colors, textures and or shapes. If your painting includes a metal watering can, an opposing texture would be the cotton garden gloves. Choosing a metal can and metal garden tools does not offer a lot of variety. Experiment with a variety of shapes colors and textures until your still life is satisfying to you.
6. Keep the balance. When setting up items on the stage be wary of balance. Don’t just place items randomly. Keep an even balance. Don’t put your main object directly in the center of the set up. The main object should be placed slightly off center with other items beside of, in front of, and next to it. Experiment until your eyes enjoy what they see
7. Begin your painting by outlining in the general shapes of the objects. After the shapes are in, fill the shapes with the first layer of under-paint or filler. Add the background, then finish the details of the still life.
8. Create shadows. Shadows always add dimension to a painting. It’s easy to create shadows. Just aim a light to one side or the other of the still life. Western society people tend to read from left to right, therefore the light entering from the left will draw the viewers eyes in a normal right reading position.
9. Periodically stand back and view the painting. Remember that normal viewing is 6 feet away from a painting! Do this often throughout the process.
10. Add highlights. Just when you think your painting is almost finished, add highlights! Where the brightest highlights are, add pure white! Your painting will pop with effect with the smallest detail of highlights.
Painting still life should be fun. Following these simple tips should get you going on your way to accomplishing a successful still life painting.
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