Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lessons from a Still Life


'Impressions of Autumn'            11x14          pastel         ©Karen Margulis
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I hesitated to tell them.  If my students knew we would be painting a still life this week would they come to class?  After all we are landscape painters!  Most of us anyway. But I did warn them and they did show up.  There are lessons to be learned from painting a still life. More importantly there are lessons to be learned from painting any subject that is outside of your comfort zone.

That was the idea behind the focus for this week's class.  Since I am primarily a landscape painter all of my lessons and demos revolve around the landscape.  But if we are never exposed to painting other subjects we might not discover that we actually enjoy them.  As teacher it is my responsibility to make sure we are well rounded painters. So this week I set up the pumpkins and gourds!  What did we learn from painting a still life?

My Block in for the demo

  •  We learned that painting a still life wasn't all that dreadful. In fact I would say that some of us really enjoyed the still life and might even be inspired to paint more of them.
  • We learned that we all have our own unique viewpoint and painting style. This was even more obvious when we painted the same things. Have a look at the bottom photo to see what I mean!
  • We learned that painting a still life can help strengthen our skills of observation. Especially when we had to paint from our sketches and notes. (we had 10 minutes to sketch and 20 minutes to paint...and so on)
  • We brainstormed and decided that painting a still life can help us with important painting skills such as composition, value, seeing color, drawing skills....it is a great way to paint from life in the comfort of the studio.

Are you convinced yet?  Maybe you'd rather ease into the still life. Why not try this simple exercise.  Choose a mini pumpkin and get out a big piece of paper.  Now sit down and come up with a list of ways you could paint the pumpkin. I typed them up and made them into 'Pumpkin Tasks'.  Set a timer and spend 10 minutes on each task. Fill your paper with the little pumpkin paintings. Sample tasks: paint the pumpkin using only 25 strokes, make it into an abstract, use broken color, paint a monochromatic pumpkin, paint it in back and white.  It is a great way to warm up . Have fun!

Pumpkin Tasks warm ups

Student work. I love the different treatment of the same pumpkins!

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