An ode to a French child who prefers San Pellegrino to tap and has already embraced the finer things in life.
Before you can tell a story with objects, you have to learn how to paint them first. In my latest Skillshare course Watercolor for Breakfast: A 7-Day Editorial Food Illustration Daily Practice, I challenge students to use their own breakfast to jump-start a week of editorial food illustrations.
But what if you’re not there yet? Drawing from primary references (AKA the real object itself) is the best way to train your eye to be in synch with your brushstrokes.
Here are a few tips on getting better at painting a still life:
–Take 1-2 minutes where you stare at the still life. This will seem loooooong at the beginning, but it’s the best way to gather information before you begin. Ask yourself a few questions. How do all the objects connect? What are the lightest and darkest spots? Do you think it’s important to include the background?
-Do a gestural sketch. If you’re new to drawing or still can’t seem to get started, give yourself a few drawing challenges à la art school. Draw the still life in 5 seconds. Then 10, then 15. Draw with your opposite hand. Draw it with a continuous line. Draw it with two complimentary colors. The more you loosen up, the easier it will be to synch your hand with your eye.
–Study the light source. Is your light coming from the right side? Then all the objects will reflect light on the right side and have shadows on the left. It’s as simple as that, but it’s the best way to capture and communicate volume and give sense to your overall composition.
-Style your still life. As a former food stylist, I recommend lots of micro tips in Watercolor for Breakfast about how to take a brute ingredient and turn it into something very special. Your final drawing is only as interesting as the still life that inspires it. Cut a fruit and vegetable in half or in slices. Add a cooking utensil or a step from the process of cooking a recipe. Add a branch from outside. Make sure everything isn’t all the same height. And always add something transparent (Alas, I’m now the art teacher I used to hate).
-Feeling courageous? Add a touch of whimsy. Once you get the hang of drawing a still life, flip it on it’s head. Quickly draw the firsts 3 ideas off the top of your head. Imagine throwing it all in the air and draw how you think it will land. Create a fashion illustration using all the elements. How would this look in movement?
-Inspiration. Study the Dutch still life masters. Follow and participate in @stillherestilllife on Instagram, a weekly drawing challenge. That’s what generated all the still life illustrations above.
Take care! Happy drawing. And don’t drink the watercolor water.
Because Paris isn’t just a stuffy old monument of a city, here’s an illustrated write-up of some newer additions to spruce up your Summer visit, an excerpt from a piece I wrote and illustrated for Eurostar’s Metropolitan Magazine.
This Les Halles institution is now in the talented hands of Michelin-starred chef Jean-François Piège. It revisits la cuisine bourgeoise, cooked with fine-dining precision, while the brass fittings and banquettes have a sweetly 1930s feel. 9 Rue Vauvilliers, 75001 Paris
Easier than running away with the circus, this is a temple of 19th- and 20th- century paraphernalia from the shows and funfairs of La Belle Époque. Be prepared to be swept into a moving cabinet of curiosities with merry-go-rounds, 100-year-old bikes and other antique attractions. 53, av. Terroirs de France, 75012 Paris
Reflecting the diversity of the 12e arrondisement, this bustling market seems untouched by time. Barter at the mini flea market and grab a quick bite at Le Baron Rouge, a packed-out, affordable wine bar with oysters at the weekend. Rue d’Aligre et, Place d’Aligre, 75012 Paris
The world’s biggest startup incubator in Halle Freyssinet is now home to Europe’s biggest restaurant, a 4500m² Italian joint from buzz-worthy restaurant group Big Mamma Group, with cool concerts Wednesday-Friday nights. 5 Parvis Alan Turing, 75013 Paris
The original High Line, the Promenade Plantée connects bustling Bastille to the Vincennes forest in a 4km green walk. The abandoned train track is now an urban mashup of floral and fauna amid Haussmanian rooftops. 1 Coulée verte René-Dumont, 75012 Paris
This former SNCF depot has been magicked into a sprawling playground of performance spaces, galleries, shops and food truck dining; its 1500m² terrace is the coolest summer spot for a beer. Vintage train relics are cleverly repurposed throughout. 81 Rue du Charolais, 75012 Paris
This interdisciplinary art centre from the foundation behind Galeries Lafayette is a temple of exhibition spaces, creative labs and research into contemporary art and design, all in a 19th-century building restored by Rem Koolhaas. 9 Rue du Plâtre, 75004 Paris
Already exhausted the Eiffel Tower, wax museums and Planet Hollywoods of Paris? Pick up a copy of my book “Paris in Stride: An Insider’s Walking Guide” (Rizzoli) which USA Today hails “Weiner’s charming watercolor of the city (and its food and wine) are the next best thing to hopping on a plane”. Available wherever books are sold, but preferably your local indie bookstore.
Happy autumnal gourd season, to you!