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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > October 19 > Still life: not just a vase of flowers

Still life: not just a vase of flowers

Amanda Hyatt shares her top ten tips for adding mood, magic, light and a sense of time to a watercolour still-life painting

The most popular subjects for still lifes still seem to be flowers in vases with the odd ornament placed alongside. Or the bowl of quinces/apples/pears/pomegranates (because they are a nice pink)/onions (because they’re a nice brown) /pumpkins (because they’re a nice orange) with various other kitchen items placed about. Very rarely does anyone paint soap, peas or ice cream.

Then there are paintings of small statues without arms surrounded by cloisonné bowls, copper pots, blue vinegar bottles, ginger jars and the carefully draped cloth. Sometimes we see paintings of dead birds upside down, limp fish on plates or shot rabbits looking very sad, wine bottles and napkins and the very easy to paint grape.

Roses, daisies and irises are popular with the ‘one stroke does all the petals’ approach and, in Australia, the easy to paint gum leaf (two strokes) and yellow wattle (one fluffy yellow dot) feature much too often. And don’t start me on red poppies!!! Argh.

History and mystery

Am I beginning to sound cynical? Perhaps that’s because 17th-century Dutch and Flemish artists painted dead animals and flowers. At least Cézanne roughed his apples up a bit, Van Gogh fluffed his sunflowers and Picasso positively skewed things. The Fauves ramped things up even more. The ‘still lifes’ painted on the walls of Pompeii are as modern and decorative today as they were back then.

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About The Artist

Welcome to the October issue of The Artist, including an additional 16 pages full of ideas and suggestions about art courses and holidays that could help to inspire and develop your creative skills. This issue is also packed with inspirational insights into how professional artists approach their work, including a commissioned portrait in oils, and practical demonstrations in watercolour, oil pastels, oil-based pencils, acrylics, line & wash and mixed media. There's something for everyone, whatever your level or experience, from how to add a little magic to your watercolour still lifes, paint an autumn landscape in five easy stages, capture a sunset in acrylics, sketch people in line & wash, create a vibrant flower composition in mixed media, and more. Plus be inspired by some of this year's The Artist Open Competition prizewinners, who explain how they created their winning artworks. Enjoy your month of drawing and painting with The Artist.