What is a Still Life?
A still life (plural still lifes) is a work of art depicting mostly inanimate subject matter, typically commonplace objects which may be either natural (food, flowers, dead animals, plants, rocks, or shells) or man-made (drinking glasses, books, vases, jewelry, coins, pipes, and so on). With origins in the Middle Ages and Ancient Graeco-Roman art, still-life painting emerged as a distinct genre and professional specialization in Western painting by the late 16th century, and has remained significant since then. Still life gives the artist more freedom in the arrangement of elements within a composition than do paintings of other types of subjects such as landscape or portraiture. Early still-life paintings, particularly before 1700, often contained religious and allegorical symbolism relating to the objects depicted.
Still-life paintings often adorn the interior of ancient Egyptian tombs.
Artists Take Control
Do you paint still lifes too? A subject that has remained significant since the late 16th century!? How about that for long-lived history!? I’m working on a few of them for upcoming Fall exhibits (there’s a video of the process for the Pen & Ink painting in this post below), and I’m enjoying every brush stroke. Maybe in part because – as The Wiki points out – the artist has control over the choice of objects and their arrangement.
I’ve got a hankerin’ to paint fruit on patterned cloth. Totally ordinary, yes m’am/sir, but I do require a little ordinariness these days. I’m plotting & coveting time for habitual, routine, simple hours in the studio. Our move into this house is just about complete, and now – insert a big sigh with a zen-face smile – I crave quiet hours, and making stuff with my hands, and letting my eyes meander the shape & colors of objects around me so I can paint something still and small while listening to an audio book.
At the end of the day, there’s a skip in my step from progress – on two counts: I’m finishing a painting, and finishing a book – both very enjoyable activities, at the same time. If I can’t quiet my jitterbug mind to get something done in the studio, listening to a book is the perfect antidote for me. It works every time, and keeps me in the studio for longer painting time. (There is no urge to empty the dishwasher or fold laundry when I’m listening to a book – imagine that! ????) This week, I’m enjoying Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible. And it makes me want to paint Congolese plants and feathers, but I’ll stick with fruit for now. 🙂 What’re you listening to?
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The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.