Still Life Definition

A still life can be defined as “A work of art depicting inanimate objects”. The inanimate objects can be whatever you choose: flowers, botanicals, food, wine, decorative objects, musical instruments, etc.

Choosing The Objects To Include In Your Still Life Art:

As an artist, any work of art that you create will express your own vision and style. A still life is a versatile vehicle for expressing this vision. A still life can convey much more meaning than is obvious at first glance. It all depends on the objects you choose to represent, and the manner in which you choose to represent them. The art of still life paintings can be leant from the site Painting Kits with the recognition of the objects. The mental strength and memory of the brain will be increased through visit to the site. 

If your goal is to create a pretty picture, your choice of objects might include flowers in a vase, ripe fruit, sumptuous textiles, etc. Think of what objects you consider “beautiful”, (even if they are not ordinarily regarded as beautiful), and how you might best present them as “beautiful” in a still life. Remember that even ugly items can be presented in a beautiful or imaginative way.

If your goal is to create a gift for a friend, you might want to incorporate objects of significance to your friend. You could create a themed still life with memorobilia from his favorite sports team, or a composition including his favorite foods and wines, or a still life featuring the musical instrument that he plays. Think of some of your closest family members or friends, and what kinds of things you might incorporate into a still life just for each of them.

If your goal is to convey a message through your still life, you can choose objects that reflect the message. This can be challenging but rewarding; it is especially rewarding if your end result becomes a thought-provoking work of art. Some examples of messages that could be conveyed through still life: “Reduce Reuse Recycle”. “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”. “I love you.” “Party on, dude!” Think of a message that is personally significant to you, and brainstorm some objects that you could use to convey this message through a still life.

Along the same lines, you can use still life to convey a theme such as “A Quilter’s Stash”, “The Arts and Crafts Bungalow”, “Tropical Paradise” or “Mementos From Chinatown”. Think of some themes that interest you and objects that would fit well with the theme.

Please view photo #1 at left; the arrangement of objects in photo #1 conveys the theme “The Arts and Crafts Bungalow”.

Keep in mind also that you don’t have to have a goal, theme or message in order to create an interesting still life. It is perfectly acceptable to assemble a grouping of mismatched, unrelated objects to use in your still life. Try gathering random objects from your studio, kitchen, closet or garden.

Arranging Your Still Life

Balance, proportion and symmetry are all important concepts to keep in mind when you are arranging your still life. You want to arrange each object in such a way that it enhances the others, to achieve a harmonious overall effect. Consider varying the height and thickness of the objects you choose in order to add visual interest.

It is also advisable to be sure that your finished still life will have a clearly defined focal point. It is advantageous to arrange your still life with this in mind. It is entirely possible for you to create a focal point in your artwork where none exists in the actual arrangement of objects, but it’s certainly easier to start with an arrangement that has a focal point in the first place. (Why work harder than you have to?)

Can you identify the focal point in the arrangement in photo # 2? Is there anything that could be done to enhance this arrangement?

Keep in mind that you may use your artistic license at any time you choose when you are actually painting or drawing. You do not have to be a slave to the composition in front of you. You can change or enhance whatever you like! The art police will not arrest you for leaving something out or adding something in!

Also keep in mind that you do not have to draw or paint the entire arrangement of objects. You can pick and choose what you want to focus on drawing or painting. This might not matter so much if you are creating the arrangement of objects, but it might matter a great deal if you are trying to work from a still life that someone else has arranged.

If you find yourself faced with a still life as an assignment in your art class, you probably won’t have any control over what the teacher asks you to draw or paint. What you DO have control over, is the portion of the still life that you choose to draw, and which parts of the composition that you choose to emphasize.

Take a look at the example shown in photo # 3 . This is a photograph that I took during one of my college-level drawing classes. The professor arranged this still life for us. This was a particularly fun class; our entire class actually went to the grocery store as a group and spent an insane amount of money buying vegetables to draw. Although there are some really fantastic things about this arrangement, the entire grouping is rather large and has quite a few un-interesting places. Creating a successful drawing from such a grouping requires a narrowed focus; drawing the whole thing would not give the best results.

Photo #4 shows a still life drawings that I did using this arrangement as my inspiration. You can see how I used artistic license in selecting which areas to draw, and which to leave out of the drawing.

Choosing Colors For Your Still Life Art:

The most obvious thing to do is reproduce the colors as you see them in the actual objects you are working from. However this is not the only approach. Again, you are free to use your artistic license and be creative with the colors. You can brighten them at will, or soften them, or deepen them. You can add contrast where none exists in the real-life arrangement. Or you can totally ignore the colors that are there and use the color palette of your choosing. For example, it might be interesting to render your still life completely in shades of red, or working only with warm colors.

In photo #5, all of the objects are blue except for the stained glass lampshade and the pottery at the very far right. When painting this still life, you could choose to reproduce the colors exactly as shown in the photo. Or, you could use your artistic license to render the lampshade and pottery all in shades of blue. Or, you could leave them out of the artwork all together. There is no rule saying you have to paint them all blue, either. You could make them all pink in your painting if you feel like it!

To at least a certain degree, the colors you use for your still life will be affected by your choice of art supplies. If you’re drawing with pencil, your drawing will obviously be shades of gray and you will be more concerned with the use of contrast than you are with the use of color.

I hope you have enjoyed this guide to still life art, and that you will be inspired to create some new still lifes of your own. As my drawing professor was fond of saying, “You learn to draw by drawing”, so get busy and practice, practice, practice!