Still Life Painting Design Ideas
Still life painting in watercolor – especially interiors – is loaded with design opportunities to embellish. You can change the color palette of the room completely. Go ahead and edit the scene by removing objects, or adding others that weren’t really there. It’s like magic and you are the wizard!
With a little imagination, you can assemble parts of separate reference photos to create a scene much like a set-designer would on a stage. Look at other paintings you love by your favorite artists. Can you find a local equivalent in your design idea that would pay homage to their painting without copying anything directly? Pattern on pattern? Geometry of a room? Do you play with imaginary design elements when planning a still life or interior painting?
Assembling Different Photos to Create Imaginary Scenes
Still life in watercolor is one of my favorite genres to look for and be inspired by on social media. When assembling a still life in my studio, I like to increase interest in the arrangement by incorporating imagined backgrounds.
My studio is a small spare bedroom that also houses my etching press, so there isn’t enough floor space to stage a compelling background, other than the studio itself.
Fortunately for us artists, it doesn’t take a lot of equipment to print photo-copies of other rooms, windows, walls and hallways to incorporate as a faux background to compliment a focal point. have you walked through your house, or the vintage photos of your family’s rooms, to find an interesting background idea?
Playing with Contrast and Color
If cutting and taping composite photos to create a whole new environment to paint seems like a lot of work, you can narrow your alterations for painting design ideas. Instead of painting your subject or reference photo as it appears, change the colors. If the room was primarily red and violet, use a gold wheat and gray slate colored palette instead.
Or if the objects around your subject were so lost in shadow, they disappeared in the composition, bring them into a focus a little bit, and brighten their shadowy hues – just a tad – to give empty corners some interest. If there’s nothing interesting outside a window in your reference photo, add something fun, like in this watercolor. Know what I mean?
A Watercolor’s Journey
My friend LG sent me a photo of her newly build bedroom drenched in squinty winter light about a decade ago. Her cats’ unanimous feline approval-sprawl confirmed that this room was an excellent addition to their home. I asked to use the photo as a reference, with a few little changes here and there. (You ask permission to paint from other folks’ photos, right?) Lucky for me, she said yes. (Thanks, LG. 💜)
Later, when I exhibited that interior watercolor (above), two couples attending the show together split the purchase of the painting as a gift for another couple who just lost their cat. We’ve all grieved for animals before, and the heartbreak is profound.
Unanticipated Artist Benefits
A watercolor that bridged the miles to my far away friend (and her cats), and was so fun to paint, has now traveled with a new purpose as a gestural salve for grief between friends. That experience, from start to finish, was an artist’s torte cake of goodness.
What sort of lovely exchanges have you had recently because of your artwork? And how have you altered your source material to make watercolor paintings that felt more akin to your personal vision? Tell us a story in the comments.
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you in the next post –
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P.S. Under normal, non-pandemic circumstances, I’d be loading my car today, to drive a road case full of watercolors and printmaking to a series of art events. All my Spring art festivals are cancelled, so this season’s painting, printmaking and framing was for naught. Instead, I’m hosting a Virtual Art Festival sale in my Etsy Shop. For a limited time, everything will be 20% off with Free Shipping. I’ll relay the date and time of the sale in the next post.
P.P.S. Watercolor Painter extraordinaire Shari Blaukopf posted a free video demonstration of her five favorite brushes. It’s an excellent overview of how each of them can be used for specific areas in your watercolor paintings. Check it out here.
P.P.P.S. Do you take advantage of the free classes offered each week over at Creative Live? There is a Simple Email Marketing course for Makers coming up, as well as another one called The Art of Selling What You Make. They may both be very timely for folks who make art, but have no shows coming up in the foreseeable future. (I have my hand up.)
The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.Randy Pausch