How do you get better at drawing a still 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.
-jkw

New Skillshare course & a Stuck-at-home romp

I’ve heard it said that creativity and child rearing have a tendency to cross-cancel each other. The outcome may lack a little polish, but it’s hilarious indeed. Here is an illustrated recap of a day spent with a freshly walking tot.

As our worlds close around us and we are stuck at home more than usual, it’s easy to think that inspiration is divine lightening that strikes from the outside world. When I was a young aspiring artist, I loved to draw but didn’t know “what” to draw. Observing my insular world gave me the greatest primary reference and fast tracked me to find my voice and style. (Don’t even ask about motherhood!)

I delve into all this in my new Skillshare course “Stuck at home self-portrait: capturing a moment in time with watercolor”. I walk you through how to reacquaint yourself with your surroundings, conceptualise an evocative drawing and how to use watercolor to efficiently execute it. If you’re new to watercolor, you can watch me make all the micro decisions that go into creating an illustration (where to start, when to stop, how to tame your watercolor!). And if you want to think more editorially about your work, I give you a clear prompt how to push yourself to take your work to the next level. Check it out. And I hope it can be a telling artefact for your grandkids all about how you were stuck inside for as long as you were.

Click here to get 2 free weeks of inspiring courses, including my own for free.

How to support artists this holiday season!

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The holidays aren’t just about generosity, but also graciously supporting those who have created their own small businesses outside of flash sale capitalism. Here are a few tips on how to lend a hand this holiday season, some don’t even require spending money….

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In the same spirit, my Etsy shop is freshly updated just in time to pick the ideal gift for the Francophile in your life, including lots of new mix-and-match Paris prints, postcards and sticker packs. And of course, my book “Paris in Stride: An Insider’s Walking Guide” (Rizzoli) can easily be tucked under your arm on your next trip to Paris or snugly into a stocking, purchased *preferably* at your favorite independent bookstore or on Amazon. If you have the book already, be a pal and leave a glowing Amazon review here. It really helps out a young author like myself.

Looking for a signed copy of “Paris in Stride” in Paris? I went on a Sharpie bender at Gagliani Bookstore 224 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris. Pick up a signed copy there.