A Positively Festive Way to Paint

27 Dec 2011

Orange and Holly by Alan Bateman, acrylic painting. Alan also won our Move Over Hallmark! Holiday Card contest.
Orange and Holly by Alan Bateman, acrylic painting. Alan also won
our Move Over Hallmark! Holiday Card contest.
It's the time of year for decorated garlands, ribbons and bows, and cheery lights, all of which have me in a festive mood to create a few seasonal still life paintings incorporating objects that really communicate a holiday sensibility.

I could start with pulling off a few of my favorite ornaments from the Christmas tree. I have two in particular--a little red tricycle and a kangaroo in a knitted "pouch"--that were handed down to me from my great-grandmother. I think it would be a great homage to put those objects together with a photograph of her for a still life painting because the objects have significant meaning to me and mine.

Gleaming and glinting surfaces are also a really big part of any holiday decoration still life painting set-up. Glass, gilt, and metallic objects all give off a shimmer and shine, but be careful to use them sparingly. Every object in a still life artwork doesn't have to grab attention. There should definitely be a hierarchy of visual "pull," so start with your "bling" object and add subtle touches to balance out and build character into your composition.

And when I find myself trying to cram too much into a composition, I take a lesson from a childhood holiday classic--A Charlie Brown Christmas--and I recall how Charlie Brown's hunched over Christmas tree looked adorable with one bright and colorful Christmas ball handing from it. Still life artists, we don't have to jam-pack our compositions with objects to justify painting them. Edit yourself and you'll be far happier with the results.

For more still life painting ideas, I go to C.W.Mundy's Mastering the Dramatic Still Life DVD, plus Still Life Painting Highlights--it has been heaven sent because of its in-depth articles on arranging and creating visual movement in still lifes. Now's a great time to pick and choose a few great resources for yourself because the Artist Daily Store is offering a storewide 30% off coupon, plus an additional 20% of back issues and another 10% off on CDs and eBooks. Yep, do the math--that is tons of good savings. Enjoy!

How would you add a bit of festivity to a still life composition? Leave a comment and let me know.


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Julman wrote
on 28 Dec 2011 4:31 PM

Develop more colors from light to dark on the orange, possible peeling a section of the orange to develop more color changes. This may give the viewer more to look at and to move there eye. Also anding a knife and spoon.

on 29 Dec 2011 4:44 PM

Hi Courtney - from Oz. Love the idea of a stuffed kangaroo christmas ornament. In a previous post you talked about what you think is coming up in contemporary art - would love to hear your observations on that... cheers, Laura llawenyth