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Still Life Painting and Drawing

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Still life is basically the drawing or painting of an inanimate object. When training as an artist, still life is usually where it starts. This popular genre of painting started many centuries ago, with its roots in Ancient Graeco-Roman artworks, as well as art from the Middle Ages where still life artworks often had religious or cultural symbolism. Since those ancient times, still life painting has developed into quite a specialized genre which remains popular with art buyers around the world.

Giving meaning to still life

What makes still life interesting is that the artist has control over the environment by arranging elements to form a composition, changing light, setting, and so forth. Regardless of the setting or composition, a still life is like a photograph — it’s a moment frozen in time, yet unlike a photograph, a still life artwork takes on its own character and meaning through the interpretation of the artist. A great example of this is the art from iconic pop artists Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein whose radical paintings of soup cans and bowls of fruit give seemingly mundane objects completely new meanings.

All of these aspects need to be taken into consideration when creating your own still life artwork. Things like subject matter, meaning, message and theme are all separate elements yet are intertwined with one-another.

Whether you’re sketching your morning coffee cup for fun, or painting a carefully composed ensemble of deeply meaningful objects, check out Arteza’s collection of art supplies that are perfect for any still life artist.

Subject Matter

Deciding what you’re going to sketch or paint is the first step. Are you going to use natural or man-made objects? Is there any symbolism attached to these objects? If you can’t decide on an object, or you’re not sure about composition, take a look at examples of other still life artworks. It doesn’t necessarily have to be from one of the greats, it can be a drawing by your kid brother, whatever gets your creative spark firing.

Themes, Meanings & Messages

When creating a still life, still life can mean many things, or nothing in particular. Do the objects and their composition have  a deeper meaning? Are you trying to communicate a certain message or are you painting it simply because you like how it looks, or just to practice your skills? It doesn’t necessarily have to have a meaning to you when you create the work, but once finished a meaning might well emerge.

Themes apply in the same way. Do you have a specific theme in mind, like spring or war or climate change? Is it a particular shape, texture or color, or perhaps a something like the contents of your car’s glove compartment, or household appliances. Is it just one theme, or many? How does the theme affect the meaning, and vice versa?

Art is very subjective and most of the time it’s difficult to say exactly what an artists was trying to say by painting a certain object, or whether he didn’t really want to say anything at all. Regardless, the message of art often lies within the mind of the beholder. A giant canvas with rows of soup cans can either make you scratch your head, or move you emotionally.

That is what makes art so great.