Still life portraits and paintings defined earlier art periods and provided us with an invaluable glimpse at historical life, as well as the psychology of its people at the time. However, the advancement of technology led to the widespread adaption of cameras, and as photography grew, people began to forgo the canvas in preference of film. This has led to a perceived lack of modern-day inspiration for today’s painters, who strive to capture their world through brushstrokes instead of a lens.
However, medium is not the source of inspiration-life itself is, and there’s plenty of it in every painting. Every captured image tells a story, whether it’s a photograph or a painting. And to tell the story, painters have the advantage of creation and interpretation.
When it comes to modern still life paintings, you must ask yourself what message you’re trying to convey. The secret to a successful piece doesn’t lie in what you’re painting, but the underlying subtext that viewers will take away from it.
Technique and Subject Go Hand-in-Hand
While selecting the right approach for your modern still life is important, the actual subject matter of your project is equally so. Without a clear idea in mind, even the best painting will fail to elicit the type of emotion that an artist strives for.
The best practice is to select your subject first, then go about deciding on the technique that you feel will best capture its essence.
The ultimate goal is to strike an equilibrium between style, technique and subject that allows you to convey a message through your brush strokes and color palette that strike your audience right away and leaves a lingering impression.
Consider the Story
Ask yourself why you chose your subject. Upon first consideration, you may have simply chosen it because of its natural beauty. They key, however, is to delve beyond your initial impression and unearth the secret of your subject’s appeal.
If you find it beautiful, seek to identify the reasons why. Once you understand why you are drawn to a subject, you will be in a much better position to know how to capture it fully.
Light and Mood
Every artists knows that light has one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) impact on a painting’s final impression. When you choose a lighting, you’re deciding the type of message that you wish to present to your audience.
Don’t feel constricted to simply bright and dark; light is versatile and can be used in myriad fashions. A dark painting with a bold and bright focus on a single point can convey hope, while heavy shadows and highlights in an otherwise luminous scene can hint toward masked darkness and hidden meanings.
Ultimately, your modern still life is not just a moment frozen in time, but a story captured through color. You should aim to create a piece that is as eye-catching as it is thought-provoking, and this all begins by unwrapping the message that the subject is sending you.