Updated: Apr 7, 2021
My still life paintings are generally small paintings (16 x 20 inches or smaller) and are meant to be fun and intended to capture an essence.
See my following setup:
1. Darken the room. If the room is filled with light the painting will be high key. That is fine if you want softer shadows and lots of fill light.
2. Set up two lights, one on my canvas and one the subject. Type and color of lighting is a whole other topic, but I do not get too caught up in the color of light because I know what my paints can do. Do not use too bright of light or the painting will likely turn out too dark. (Tip: One can always glaze and scumble over the painting later to correct value and color.)
3. Use a small and portable easel, either table or standing, to facilitate moving the canvas in to alignment with the lights and subject. (Tip. I will temporarily pull the painting off the easel if I feel I can get better control by laying it down or holding it on my lap. You can use a mahl stick for detail.)
4. Direct the light on the subject for the best highlights and shadows so to enhance the composition. At this point I adjust my easel and subject for the best view and composition. I may eliminate or add elements.
5. Set out a small portable taboret or table.
6. Cover the taboret or table, and cover the floor under the easel with plastic or a painters’ cloth.
7. Precut several cotton rags and/or shop towels (no lint on these) to approximately 6 x 6 inches.
8. Set out all supplies and tools onto the taboret or table for easy access. (Tip: My supplies and tools include paints, medium, brushes, cotton swabs, and palette knives. I set out a pot with dried beans to place my used brushes, so they do not fall onto each other.)
9. Place a lined trash can next to the easel. (Tip: To avoid fires, at the end of the painting session toss all oiled rags outside properly.)
10. Because I have small hands and cannot find gloves that fit, I use a barrier cream on my hands. Although the mediums and oils in my M. Graham paints are not toxic, some of the pigments are like cobalt blue, Prussian blue, flake white and cadmium colors. I rarely use the last few colors.
The original of this painting is for sale at:
Prints and other products with this image are available at: