How Unremarkable White Tiles in a Kitchen Spawned Two Decades of Watercolor Paintings
A couple of decades ago, I walked into the kitchen of a house we had just purchased. I turned to my husband and said: “These white tiles will have to go.”
I imagined toothbrush-scrubbing strawberry juice and red wine from the white grout. The white looked so mundane. He agreed – they were pretty blah.
We settled in, and got acquainted with the bones of the place. Our kids started new schools, we sketched landscaping ideas, and taped bright paint colors on walls that might embolden rooms. I planted roses and started bringing them into the kitchen to line the sill in fragrant bud vases.
Kitchen Inspiration Paintings
Early one morning, I was struck by the way the white kitchen tiles reflected the colors above them; the sky and trees outside the window, and a rose I set along the sill in a glass vase.
Sunrise was particularly beautiful, as a beam of light cast rose reflections on the tiles. The mirror images in the tile glazes looked like a frilly-dressed can-can dancer. And the grid of the tiles added fun geometry.
I started photographing the arrangements and colors for future painting ideas.
Painting Small Still Life Art from Your Kitchen
Over the course of two decades, I arranged flowers, figurines and fruit along that window for a treasure trove of inspiration. (Read this post about how to find still life painting subjects with your cell phone camera.)
I snapped thousands of photos to use as watercolor painting and printmaking ideas. In the process, I learned that with one arrangement – a small bouquet next to a bird figurine – I could collect twenty different angles in pictures as painting fodder.
Painting Success Begets More Painting
Another great lesson from that time was related to composition. If I snapped twenty or so photos of a small bouquet – from different angels, and in slightly varied arrangements – I got better at sussing out painting compositions.
When viewing my painting reference photos on my computer as thumbnails (see above), it was much easier to spot the best options. My ability to select compelling compositions improved.
Finding Joy in the Entire Process of Painting Watercolors
Planning watercolor paintings – from subject, arrangements, composition and execution – helped boost my confidence as an artist.
I wasn’t using anyone else’s photos. I planned and snapped my own arrangements. The items in the still life set up were from my own garden. Or they were mementos handed down from family – items that meant something to me. That increased my pleasure to paint them.
Each watercolor painting I finished was wholly mine, and that felt pretty good.
Be a Noticer in Your Own House
Look around your home with an artist’s eye. Carry an artist’s viewfinder if it helps to block out surrounding chaos. Time your painting idea treasure hunt during the brightest part of the day, considering your home’s angle to the sun.
Open blinds and curtains, and make an arrangement out of a few simple items from your kitchen. (Read this post about how to add patterned backgrounds to your still life painting ideas with wrapping paper.)
No Fancy Required
The kitchen that started a whole series of rose paintings on white, reflective tiles was not something out of House Beautiful magazine. But a small patch of space by the window sill became an enormous source of inspiration for two decades, with the simple addition of a bud vase and a rose. And some noticing.
I hope you’ll experiment with items you’re interesting in painting in your own home too. Look for bright sun spilling through a window, and pull out some of your favorite still life objects. Snap some photos with your cell phone and have a painting party.
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you in the next post!
P.S. Each of these paintings were given “subject titles”, because, at that time, I could never think of a more compelling name for my paintings. After a deep dive into learning the best ways to forge more meaningful titles for art, I built a video course to show you how to title your art too. <–Have a look.
Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way, so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.
It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.Ray Bradbury – Fahrenheit 451
P.P.S. A few years into my watercolor painting spree with kitchen window still life arrangements, my husband asked me if it was time to put Corian or granite counters in the kitchen. I had forgotten my dismissal of the white tiles when we moved in! With a grinning finger wag, I replied “No one is allowed to touch my white tiles!!” 😀