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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Still Life Painting

Paul Gauguin, Still Life with Apples, 

If you are stuck with what to draw or paint, I would recommend still life for beginners. Still life is an artwork depicting inanimate objects. These are things that do not have a life. Anything around you that's sitting somewhere and does not move is still life.

If you feel you are not ready for something bigger, start painting objects in still life. This is a good way to practice with the art medium you have chosen and learn more in creating different textures. It is like getting the hang of everything. It is also one way of working out those fingers and how you handle your painting materials. Start your painting project with two objects of your choice. You can probably start with one tall object and the other one small, let us say, a fruit. Select something that is simple in shape. After all, you are just starting. It does not have to be rich in detail as this is going to be a lot of effort for starters. Now, the challenge lies in your choice of composition. Why? Because you will not only focus on the two objects but also with the negative space. You may be thinking what a negative space is. A negative space is the space between two objects and around it. The opposite of the negative space is positive space which is the area of your subject itself. So now, you get the picture? Apart from your subject, it is important to also give life to the areas surrounding it. Therefore, you have three main considerations; namely: the negative space, the shadows and the different tones in the background. That's all there is to it.

The great way to set up your still life is, of course, somewhere near you and on the right height of your view point. In this way, you wouldn't have to bend or move every time just to get a good view of your object. It should be very convenient to your sight.

Friday, June 10, 2011


Art work in Pastel by Edgar Degas

Here is one medium you can use if you just want to paint and draw at the same time without having much to spend a lot of money especially if you are just starting. This is a practical choice because it is cheaper and more convenient compared to other mediums. You can easily have your images on a paper with these chalky pigments with no need of brushes and solvents. Moreover, there's no need to wait for the paints to dry. Basically, there are three types of pastels available in the market. Those that are soft or hard are the most commonly available kinds. Pastel pencils are similar to hard pastels.


Draw your subject. Use hard pastels or semi soft pastels for large areas in your drawing. Apply medium pressure. Cover up said areas as much as you can with bold strokes. Deal with the details later. Start from dark tones to middle tones, add the light tones later. It's kind of challenging to get the dark tones really dark. You must apply them solidly at the start and be not afraid to make them too dark because that can always be lightened by applying another color on top. Constantly remove pigments by tapping the surface. This is one way of checking the paper for any surfaces that need more attention. Blend the colors only when necessary as you work building the layers. Use your artistic judgement when to blend or not to blend. The use of a paper stump can be used for blending or your fingers! I personally prefer the latter as it gives me more control. You may apply a fixative to protect your painting from smudging. Please take note though that fixative tends to darken and dull the colors.


Feathering is a frequently used pastel technique. This is similar to hatching or crosss hatching. You apply a series of thin parallel lines of one color drawn diagonally on top of the other. This can be done with both hard and soft pastels. Blending is achieved by the use of the hand or even a brush. Gradation in pastels is blending colors from light tone towrds a darker shade. Glazing by scumbling with pastels is done by lightly dragging the broad side of a soft pastel over the existing layers underneath. This is an application of a light color over dark. Pointillism requires a lot of effort. This can be applied by creating small dots all over the surface. Colors though must be carefully chosen to get the required depth in the painting.

Practice these basic textures and see what works for you. Try to experiment your own techniques. You will find your distinctive style as you become more experienced. You may vary the textures to add some personality to your paintings. Don't be scared to try and experiment. Remember, great artists were not trained formally.


Get your supplies ready before immersing yourself to painting. Have a paper ready at the bottom of your painting to catch those dust. This will keep the pastel dust under control. Cover the floor with a cloth. When done, you can take it outside to shake the dust out.


It is essential to know that using the correct paper can give outstanding effect to your paintings. Given that pastels are of light powdery pigment it is necessary to use a paper with a rough texture or surface because of its ability to grip the dry pigments.

For starters, I recommend the following:

Strathmore papers
Canson Mi-Teintes paper
Fabriano Ingres paper
Sanded pastel papers - my favorite!