4 Clever Ways to Change Up Your Still Life Painting Compositions

By Brandi Bowman in Art Tutorials > Painting Tutorials

Artist block—we all get it. Even though I love to paint still lifes, they can get boring, and there are times when I just need something to excite me and get me motivated to paint.

If that happens to you too, here are 4 things I do to switch up my still lifes and get back into the painting mindset:

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1. Make it weird

One way to spice up a still life is to add an object that doesn’t really belong. These kinds of compositions are fun to dream up, and also make for intriguing and playful paintings. I have painted darts in apples, strange stuffed animals, and my daughter’s plastic toy dinosaurs, just to name a few examples.

What does a green dinosaur and a glass of wine have in common? Nothing, unless you’re a mom. . . then you may understand.

2. Incorporate natural elements

Another way to add some color, texture, or interesting shapes to your composition is to use elements from your own back yard. If your still life needs a “pop!” of red to liven it up, try to find a red flower or a sprig from a burning bush (if it’s in season of course).

When you’re done, don’t throw them away, either. I found a great bunch of leaves from an oak tree with the acorn tops still attached, which I use over and over again to add great shapes and colors to any of my “overly-simple” composition.

3. Raid your fridge

For another good selection of subjects to paint, just look in your refrigerator. Food and drinks are always appealing, colorful subjects and have been used in still life paintings throughout history.

Eggs, fruit, and cheese make wonderful studies for paintings—or, grab a handful of berries, pour an extra cup of coffee, and you are well on your way to a delicious piece of artwork.

4. Add solid colors for impact

Color is a wonderful way to play around with composition and change things up. All you need is a variety of colored paper to get started.

Simply layer your papers behind, under or around your subject to create contrast, depth, and division of space. The combinations are endless and fun!

These are just a few examples of what I do to mix things up when I get into a still life painting rut. Give one (or all!) of them a try the next time you feel stuck, and hopefully they will help you too.

Happy painting!

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