Benefits of Painting a Still Life

You’re the Conductor!

What are the benefits of painting a still life? This question came back to mind while preparing paintings for my exhibit at the Winnsboro Art & Wine Festival. The show wouldn’t be complete without having a painting or two featuring the fruit of the vine (grapes) which I show here done by my alter ego Byron. A nice departure from my landscapes. There are several benefits of painting a still life and right off the bat you get to be the conductor of your painting!

still life oil painting with grapes vase candle by Byron

My Little Vase 12×9 oil by Byron copyright 2016

Unlike landscapes you get to have total control over the lighting, color harmony and the subject matter. For landscapes you’re at the mercy of the weather. Many times I’ve wished for sunlight but instead overcast skies with no sign of them leaving anytime soon. Or hoping for brilliant fall foliage only to get dull shades of burnt orange or worse, no leaves on the trees! That brings us to another benefit: Timing!

No Timing Constraints; More Benefits of Painting a Still Life

Another advantage of painting a still life is that there are no time constraints. Unless of course you’re on a deadline to complete a painting or if you’re painting flowers and they’ve started to wilt or the fruit is starting to rot then that’s yucky. In which case you might be painting a little too slow. But, aside from those an artist can orchestrate a simple or complex composition as he or she wishes and study the scene at leisure with all it’s intricacies of color, light and shadow as it describes the various forms.

Since the scene is set and unmovable an artist will have ample time to work on drawing from life, which is an invaluable skill as opposed to seeing a flat image (photo) and drawing from it.

Still life paintings are also beneficial in that the objects form is more readily discernible. These forms are often oval, rectangular, cylindrical, cone shaped or combinations. These same geometric forms underlie objects in the landscape. If you learn to properly shade these forms in a still life with a single source of light, you will better understand how to shade other objects whose structure incorporates these various forms in the landscape.

still life oil painting with raku vase grapes orange by Byron

Raku Vase 9×12 oil by Byron copyright 2016

Communicating a Theme

Another benefit of painting a still life, is being able to communicate a story. But, does that mean that all the objects have to relate to one another? If you wish for a rustic theme, does it mean you have to leave out something elegant or vice versa? No! As long as the theme visually harmonizes and creates interest.  As an example here is a frame style combination that is both rustic and elegant. So they can work together, just as in a still life!

frame corner style of rustic and elegance

Rustic and Elegant frame style

The benefits of painting a still life are valuable both to the newbie artist and a good reminder to someone like me who hasn’t tried their hand at a still life in sometime. I have to say it was a lot of fun! Plus, I was able to render each of these still life paintings in one alla prima painting session. (All at once) Perhaps one day I will do a William Hagerman signature still life painting!

Would love to hear your thoughts about my still life work? As the Winnsboro show approaches I’ll be posting more of the art to be in the exhibit. Thanks for reading!

One last reminder before I go, is my latest eBay auction work going on now until 6PM Pacific Time on Tuesday October 18th. Fall is in the air in this mountain setting. Inspired by a trip near Trinidad, Colorado.

The Call of Autumn 9x12 oil by Byron for eBay auction

The Call of Autumn 9×12 oil by Byron for eBay auction

You can access the auction from my eBay profile page.




6 thoughts on “Benefits of Painting a Still Life

  1. jresquival

    That’s a good point that you can come back to a still life at any time. Your subjects won’t move. This sounds like a great way to work on your ability to re-create light.

    1. William Post author

      If you’re working with a light set up then the light doesn’t change, you just flip on the switch. In working outdoors from life at most you have about two hours to work before the light changes too much and of course there are those lighting situations that last for but a moment.

  2. NIna West

    Hello Bill,

    I looked at both of your still life paintings and have read your blog. I can completely understand the appeal of still life as you’ve described that here. It does give you the opportunity to orchestrate your subject. And it is wonderful to be able to select forms that are more defined than things in a landscape. As to which one I like better… At first I was inclined to say the second one, the one that has a landscape orientation. But there are things about the profile (vertical) combination that are appealing, too.

    I like the color variations in the forms in the second one, also like the denseness of the shapes and the way the pot or vase activates the background. For the vertical arrangement, I like the more restrained or narrow palette of colors.

    It’s good to try to stretch in new ways. I’m glad you enjoyed these two still lifes you’ve shared here.

  3. Debra Wood

    I love them both! They and you are inspirational and motivational to me, still a novice painter after 10+ years of trying to find my way through landscape painting. I am so happy to have stumbled upon your art and blog. ~Debra


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