Still-life Paintings

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Still Life - The Artist's Web
Artwork used with permission
by artist Dave Beckett
Much attention was drawn to still life paintings in the 17th Century by the Dutch and Flemish masters. Those artists who are closely associated with still life art of apples, grapes, and bowls are Vermeer, Chardin, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Monet, Matisse, and Braque. Many artists include still life forms in their paintings of other subject matter, such as people, places and animals.

Beginning artists may feel that in order to paint 'more important' pieces, one must start out with still life, and master it before moving on, almost as if still life is some sort of punishment. This is not the case at all. These studies are works of art!

The objects in a still life are generally secondary to the approach the artist takes when painting them. The artists approach to any still life should capture the true feeling the artists has for the subject, and create a mood that will captivate the audience. All of the energy and feeling the artist has for the subject should be captured, and created in such a way that the viewer will be able to focus all of their attention on the object, and capture the feeling the artist intended.

To choose a subject, the artist should select something that has meaning to them, hobbies, general interest. That way, the artist already has 'feelings' for the subject, and will be able to create a more passionate piece of art. An example would be, if the artist has a love for gardening, an appropriate picture for them might be to arrange flowers, and gardening tools in an outdoor setting. The passion they have for gardening will come through to the viewer when they study the art. Artists should resist the temptation to include non-related objects in the arrangement they create. It would be like adding a book arrangement to your gardening would break the feeling your were trying to capture.

Still life material should be kept simple, and to the point. Shapes, sizes and values should be different to keep it interesting. The artist must plan their still life picture in order to create a mood, or tell a story.

Varying the forms shape, color and texture are enhanced by the lighting the artist will choose. Lighting is an extremely important consideration with a still life picture. Objects must not be tossed in haphazardly, and the variety of objects must be related. The artist should experiment with different placements, and light effects before they begin, choosing the one that creates the most feeling and generates the most mood. Apply the principles of area, depth, line and value to each arrangement.

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