Satsuma With Leaf - 6"x8" oil on canvas panel
What’s hanging on your kitchen walls? We’ve got three paintings in our kitchen at the moment. One is a still life of strawberries, one a cognac bottle with glasses and the other a floral. All of them are painted by my friends, some of whom were my teachers.
Dinnah - 10"x10" oil on canvas panel
Does kitchen art have to be food themed? Not necessarily. But fruit and vegetables, as well as dishes and dishcloths, are common items used in still life paintings. I enjoy painting still life in the winter, because I can paint from life without going outside. Painting from life is my favorite way to paint. There’s nothing like transferring what you see directly to paint!
Peppers - 6"x8" oil on treated card
Still life is also a great way to improve one’s painting. I spent some years painting still life subjects several mornings a week. That’s when I really learned how to paint. I used to set up a still life on top of a cooler sitting on the bed in our guest room. Then I set up my plein air box on a tripod next to it, and did my best to complete a painting before I went to work.
Three Satsumas - oil on canvas panel, 6"x12"
I know, I’m a morning person, but there are many artists who’ve done the same thing, painting at night. It’s creating a painting from start to finish, in an hour or two, over and over, that imprints the process on the mind and creates muscle memory.
Breakfast of Melons, Early Strawberries - each painting is 5"x5" gouache on paper, painted in 2009
And, I'm not knocking refrigerator art. We have lots of that too, pictures of good times with our friends, our son and the grand dogs, and wonderful paintings made by young artists we love. The refrigerator is an excellent bulletin board!
My Dream of Summer - 20"x24" oil on canvas
There’s a saying in Maine “You can’t get there from here”. It’s a response people give when asked for directions to a location that’s hard to get to.
I know sometimes our painting process feels just like that, Have you ever thought “I don’t think I can get there from here”? I know I have. But it’s NOT TRUE. You can get there. And it doesn’t matter where you start from.
Most of us have learned to paint by a hodgepodge of approaches: some trial and error, some classes and workshops, some online demos by painters whose work we admire, and more trial and error. For some of us, this approach has left some gaps in our knowledge.
Pears in Blue - 6"x6" oil on canvas board
Let's start with this question:
Is it possible that you've missed some of the basics?
There are two basics that will continue to frustrate you if you don’t address them: drawing and values. And just because someone told you weren’t good at drawing doesn’t mean it’s true! There are lots of ways to learn to become comfortable with drawing, and that’s what’s most important. Once you’re comfortable, and you put in a few minutes of practice each day, your drawing will improve quickly.
I’ve got a free class called Confident Drawing for Artists on my website. Feel free to check it out HERE. Use the Register link (top right in blue) rather than the Log in link. Once you register, I’ll quickly approve the registration, and you’ll have access.
Cozy Harbor Inlet - 11"x14" oil on canvas panel - plein air
The other basic is an understanding of how to use value in your painting. Value is simply the light or darkness of each shape in the painting. You can see values in a photo if you use your phone to change it to black and white. It’s the pattern of shapes with different values that creates the composition of a photo or a painting, not the line drawing by itself. Yes, that’s what I’m saying, the combination of the line drawing and the value shapes is the composition. Once you start looking at your work that way, it will be a lot easier to create a compelling painting.
I’ve got a free resource on my website for values as well. It’s a simple PDF that will show you how to see the values, an exercise to drive that home, and a tool to help you as it becomes second nature. Feel free to check it out. Here’s a link.
Bobbi - Painter. Sketcher. Teacher. Boat and Dog Lover.