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The Problem of What to Paint.

So, you want to draw or paint but you don’t know what to draw or paint? This problem happens to all artists.

Some artists paint outside. Some artists work from photographs. Some artists draw purely from imagination. What do you do if it’s rainy, you’re out of photographs, and you’ve got brain freeze? It helps to have props so you can draw from life, indoors.

Isn’t that still life, you ask? If it’s not a naked person, yes, although a model has to sit still like a bowl of peaches. Traditional still life is pitchers, flowers, jugs and bowls. Fruit, clocks, freshly shot game (think Renaissance.) Soup cans, shoes, candy. Anything really. It’s whatever you can arrange on your table to get inspiration from.

Today I went to one of my favorite thrift stores to scavenge interesting and weird objects to paint. I'm also thinking ahead to my next series of watercolor classes and what I can bring in for my students to work on. Part of my commitment to offering what I think are the best watercolor painting classes is developing projects around themes that also give an opportunity to work on technique. At the thrift store, I searched for objects with sensual and serious shapes, or great vivid and soothing neutral colors, or intriguing texture or whimsy. I looked for objects of various sizes—short and fat, and tall and thin, and the in between. Ceramic jugs with painted details, carved wooden animals, and realistic fake flowers (I know they should be against the law, but) ended up in my cart. Blue and white china (always a fan), a wax swan with a sweet turn of the neck, a loosely woven orange and gold textile purse added to the pile. My favorite find is a tall bronzy metal vase with ancient Greek shape and details, one little historical moment to fill the background. The Greek urn is so large I realize I will have to photograph it for my Zoom art classes because it won't fit into the shot when I am teaching my online art class.

I would have been pleased to go home with just these items, but my legs carried me across the store to the purse section where two little Coach bags in perfect condition begged me to take them home. One is never too maxed on out thrifting to drift over to the shoes and purses to find a treasure. If only there had been a pair of children’s cowboy boots to add to the still life.

So, this is how I solved my problem of what to paint. I went shopping with a mission to get props to arrange in a grouping on my table as a starting point to spark my imagination and suggest composition. This is a great place to start. In the end, the objects I paint may not look like they do in real life as I found them from the store, or maybe they will. It doesn’t matter. My brain has some to work with and creativity will follow.

What objects do you have that could become the basis for your next artwork?

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