Tag Archives: still life painting

Colour Relationships 4 – Still Life with Complimentary Colours

Make a colour study of your still life using only a narrow range of colours. This will require great concentration and discipline in observation and interpretation. Make the most of using colour in an inventive way.

Still Life with Complimentary Colours

Still Life with Complimentary Colours

I should have probably used my Chromium green with primary red for this exercise but I decided to mix my own green from primary yellow and primary blue. Some would call that cheating as even though I did make a nice dark green out of the two colours some of the lighter tones looked blueish with others a yellowy green.

I could have been a bit more inventive with the subjects I used for the still life maybe choosing subjects of all different colours and I regret not doing that instead of choosing subjects of similar colour properties like I did but I still feel satisfied with the end result.

Materials used:

  • Oil/Acrylic Paper 24 x 33 cm
  • Acrylic Paint: Primary Yellow, Primary Blue and Primary Red
  • Brushes: Small Filbert, Large Round and Large Flat

This was the first time using  small sheets of paper although it was only a study I still intended to use it not only to develop my understanding of colour relationships but to further develop my brush skills and painting on a small scale I decided, would help me to do that.

I begun with a very light wash of green mixed with white followed by a very light wash of red. As the green was mixed with a lot of white and went on unevenly the red wash settled around it creating a prime coat of light red and green, which reminded me of rhubarb.

Chosen Subjects

  • Mango x 2
  • Rambutan (gno) x 3
  • 2 slices of watermelon
  • Red Apple
  • Plate

Although the subjects I chose were mainly red and green there were other colours as well which were omitted by using only the complimentary colours these were, yellow, orange and light brown. For the grey details such as the bruising on the mangoes, the watermelon seeds and the dark stripes on the skin of the watermelon on the left of the plate I mixed the colours together and and allowed them to cancel each other out. This was also a technique I used for the darker parts of the rambutan, painting wet red over wet green to get the darker strands.

I also allowed the pigments to cancel each other out for the shadows although I made the result of this biased towards red in most places so that the green of the mango would really stand out.

Being Inventive

I find it hard to use my imagination when painting still lifes and to me there wasn’t really much I could do here to make this stand out all I know is that I was bored of using the same old round table with the plain backgrounds and so if I were try and get inventive wouldn’t this be the best place to start. I applied a light coat of white/red to the background with a scrumbling technique followed by fine drip like streaks then painted the shadows with a muddy green applied with the same scrumbling technique. It may not be genius but it makes the still life composition stand out,however it wouldn’t be until the next exercise Still Life with Colour used to Evoke Mood that the background would really come alive.



Still Life 3 – Still Life with Flowers

For this exercise I was to set up a still life with flowers that could remain in place for a day or two, keep the arrangement simple. Notice the outlines between things – Negative shapes – and try to create interesting and varied spaces and interesting intervals between the objects in my arrangement.

Subjects and Composition

Due to the shopping mall where I work being shut down for refurbishing I was a bit stumped on where I could find some flowers for this exercise but while having a stroll around my apartment complex looking for interesting flora to make a flower arrangement I came across a white flower with a yellow centre growing on a tree in the grounds of the next apartment which I know know to be a type of Plumeria called Frangipani so I went out when it was dark with a pair of scissors and clipped a few off.

When I got them back to the room I realised they weren’t enough by themselves so I went out and found another flower, Heliconia that when closed reminded me of a crab claw to add to the arrangement, These in a vase together with my christening silver and placemats that we brought back from England with us were all I needed to make an interesting composition.

Subjects used in the composition:

  • Silver serviette ring
  • Silver egg cup
  • Silver Spoon
  • 2 Simple floral placemats
  • Vase with Flowers
  • 1 Egg

By using the subjects I chose was to set up a fresh and simple narrative of flowers with breakfast.

Working in my small 1 bedroom flat I am limited to where I set up a composition and what I set it up on as I don’t have many shelves or units. I chose to set the objects down on a black chair which gave me a black background. I played with the subjects trying them in different positions and looking at them from different angles but there seemed to be only 1 composition and one angle from which this still life would work from and for me the first charcoal sketch confirmed this for me.

I wanted the silverware to look bold not delicate, and at the angle that I chose with the light illuminating the composition from the right hand side the eggcup looked goblet-like and the serviette ring almost regal. I deliberately placed the eggcup at an egg-cup’s distance away from the vase with the serviette ring between them both to create the most interesting negative shapes.


1 - Charcoal Sketch - Notes

1 – Charcoal Sketch – Notes

1 - Charcoal Sketch

1 – Charcoal Sketch

I had painted my assignment piece in landscape so for this one I really wanted to paint in portrait, adding the Heliconia behind the Frangipani meant that I could paint the eggcup and the vase on a large scale in portrait format while making the best use of the paper in this format.

Because I was using a black background but wanted to paint a fresh-looking still life I placed the light source very close to the composition facing down from the right, this gave me less shadows with light bouncing off everything.

Choice of Colours

There are certain colours that I associate with breakfast, light blue, salmon pink, yellow and light green and this composition seemed to have all of them but I wasn’t sure how the black background would affect the outcome. Thinking about the yellow-orange in the flowers and what I would describe as pink-orange tones of the egg I felt that a primary coat of light blue under the black would bring those colours out, making them a lot brighter. I tried this out in a quick acrylic sketch of the composition and I felt that the result was a positive one.

3 - Drawing in Paint

2 – Drawing in Paint


2 - Acryic Sketch

3  – Acrylic Sketch

From the quick acrylic sketch I managed to put together a list of colours which I used in the quick sketch and I stayed true to this in the finished piece. These were:

  • Primary Blue/White (Light Blue)
  • Titanium white (although I either mixed this with blue or c finished drawing to tone it down)
  • Titanium white buff
  • Orange pearl
  • Payne’s Grey
  • Ivory Black
  • Primary Red/White (pink)
  • Lemon Yellow
  • Orange Cadmium
  • Yellow Ocher
  • Burnt Umber


I thought about painting this on a small scale as that would have probably helped to develop my painting skills more but after working on the acrylic sketch I decided that it would be better to paint a larger than life piece so that I could capture all the detail.

2 - Acryic Sketch - Notes on Colours

4  – Acryic Sketch – Notes on Colours

Like the acrylic sketch I began the final piece by drawing in acrylic paint rather than pencil as I used to do before the Drawing in Paint exercise. It did take a bit of reworking but not much. This final piece took me about four days to complete starting with the flowers as I knew they wouldn’t last me long as they started dying as soon as I removed them from the tree, this was a wise decision as the rest of the painting with the reflected light took the longest time to paint.

I worked mostly with large brushes, painting thick layers this helped me too loosen up as I have so far been too worried about getting my paintings to look exactly like the subjects that I am painting, to me this looks more like an impressionist still life and that was the look that I was going for.


4 - Finished Still Life

4 – Finished Still Life in Acrylic