Friday, January 20, 2012

Still Life class with Susan Murphy starts next week

Our class Still Life with a Difference starts next week.  You may have been wondering, What is the definition of Still Life?  Well, according to Webster it is "a representation chiefly of inanimate objects".  So to me that would include many possibilities, including the inclusion of flowers in a vase, which are alive but the definition says chiefly of inanimate objects...  Which, by the way, makes it hard to understand why they are called Still Life!!!

Still Life as a genre has had a long history in art.  The still life paintings done prior to the 20th century were mostly very "academic" looking, to my mind.  They are a fascinating view of objects that people felt were important or interesting, and provided insight into those times.  Also, they were usually painted meticulously in oil, and often looked a little stilted or mannered, again in my opinion.  I prefer the fresh, lively still lifes of contemporary art, with often off-beat compositions, bright color, and a semi-abstract feel.  In this course, we are going to emphasize that more modern type of still life painting.

However we still need to learn about rendering the characteristics of objects: their solidity or transparency, their dullness or shininess, their form and texture, and the way light and shadow fall across them.  Trying to capture these characteristics in watercolor can be challenging but very, very rewarding.  The fun of still life is making something look very real, either with a few carefully chosen strokes and an economy of means, or with the painstaking application of many layers.  Whatever is your preferred method of working, we will accomodate you.  In creating art, there are never any absolutely correct ways of showing things, which makes it rather difficult to teach.  Ultimately the question is whether the results work.  What makes a painting "work" will be a constant subject of discussion in this course.

We have 36 people signed up for this course.  By now most of you have signed up to receive the blog by email, which means you get an email copy of each posting, including photos, but not including comments.  To leave a comment you have to go to the blog itself.  At this time, your comment will appear immediately.  If you do not have a Google account and "avatar" (picture that represents you), then you will not show up among the "blog followers", but if you are signed up by email, it doesn't matter.  I will be communicating with you mainly through the blog, so that your fellow students can see your comments and everybody can benefit from any questions and answers.

We have nametags for everyone in the five classes, and will go around and introduce ourselves briefly when we start the first class.  In the first class, we will discuss setting up still lifes and taking photos.  I will have several still life photography stations set up around the room for you to play with, so please bring your camera to the first class!!    That, along with a notebook, is all you need to bring.  Also, I will start a demonstration painting of one of the photos shown below.

If you have any questions, please post them on the blog!

Sue, ARThouse, January 20, 2011


  1. I can hardly wait for classes to start!

  2. It is going to be fun to paint both of these pictures as demonstrations for the class. I think for the gardenia in glass vase I am going to use a simple "clean and clear" approach, separately all the planes into neat, well defined areas, and using just a little color. For the vase with white and yellow flowers, the sunlight is the most striking aspect, and I am going to try to really nail that. Think about the most important aspect of your painting, and be sure to emphasize it!

  3. Hi Sue-- Good luck with the class!

  4. Hi Sue-- I am looking forward to the class! I will be wearing pink!