Summer is Here!

Melon & Flowers, oil on canvas, 11×14 in. – available via Michael Ingbar Gallery, 212-334-1100

It’s Memorial Day and that means summer is officially here! For artists who paint outdoors, it’s a great opportunity to get out there and capture the summer light. But that doesn’t mean studio painters can’t join in on the summer fun.

Summer offers a host of flowers and fruits that can be used to create colorful still life arrangements. Instead of relying on photographs, why not push yourself to do some painting from life? Setting up a still life is not difficult, but it does require some thought in order to come up with a balanced and harmonious subject for painting. I start by selecting a color harmony, for example, in the painting above, the complementary colors (green, purple and orange) are predominant. That is because I selected objects that were based on this color scheme in advance–I knew I wanted to paint the purple rhododendron, so I purposely selected the melon, limes and other greenery to come up with a design based on that color scheme.

Next, you have to think about the size and shape of the objects you select. I’ve chosen to work with spherical, organic forms (most fruit and flowers will fall into this category). This creates a repetition of shape and form, which serves to make the composition cohesive and filled with swirling motion. I’ve varied the sizes of the objects, which will keep things interesting and prevent the composition from becoming static. The wedges of the fruits actually help to point the viewer’s eye in the direction of the flowers and at the objects on the table, they also act as an angular balance to all the roundness.

Once you have your objects placed, set up a single light source on the arrangement and you are ready to paint. If you cannot leave your set up standing for an extended period, try working small so that you don’t have to leave it up for that long. This piece is 11×14 and was completed in one session.

So if you are looking for something new to paint this summer, why not give still life a try? It doesn’t have to be traditional or old fashioned in design, be creative and use the bold colors of summer to create something new and exciting!

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