Your next painting idea could be closer than you think
After following along with painting tutorials, learning new skills and getting excited to develop your own painting practice, it can feel like a step into the unknown when trying to choose what subjects to paint next.
Should you paint landscapes, still lifes or work towards portraits? With so many choices, it can quickly lead to indecision and procrastination.
I’d like to share with you some of the photos I use as my own visual diary that inspire my sketches, paintings and palette choices. It could be from museum trips or travels to new cities, new paint experimentation in my studio or simply a fall of light through a window that has a great quality to it.
Just as a painter’s palette can give you a glimpse into the painter’s approach, your camera roll can reveal what really interests you. The compositions you naturally create, the repeated colours that keep on cropping up and the patterns of the negative spaces you’ve observed all contribute to your own personal style.
Below are a selection of photos with a brief description of what inspired me at the time, and this first collection comes from my trips around National Trust properties, focusing on historical kitchens. Hopefully, they’ll inspire you to start your own visual diary. Then you’ll have a camera roll full of painting ideas!
New @willkempartschool Instagram Collection #1
Also, I’ll be regularly posting the photo collections to my new Instagram account, really hope you enjoy them.
This pestle & mortar really reminded me of grinding paint pigments with the ground spice being such a fantastic intense colour. It would suit a Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber with a little Transparent Red Iron Oxide glaze to finish. The same family of oranges, just with a change in intensity. Also, the cooler, muted blues surrounding the stone mortar acts as nice balance to the piece.
I absolutely loved how vibrant this copper pan was surrounded by the dark range. Notice how, even though the background is a dark subject, there is still a lighter tone on either side of the pan to bring it forward.
I took this photo in diffused natural light coming through a large window behind and to the left of the onions. I loved how they had been positioned in the bowl so all the negative spaces in-between the onions, add this really nice silhouette to the top edge of the bowl. This would make a great painting using a really limited palette.
Notice also how there is a space around the bowl on the left to guide the viewer into the background. The clue to the hardness/softness of the light is in the edge of the cast shadow.
I liked how the taps weren’t on the same level, they had this visual ‘step-down’ between them. This is the sort of subject that would really entice me to do a quick sketch as there’s a variety of shapes inherent in the subject matter and strong lighting that would work great in black and white.
The window light was coming in from the top left-hand side and was just catching on the front of the ladles, bringing them to life out from the dark of the wall. It’s amazing how compressed in tonal range the black on black utensils are, but you can still make out the subject.
The really nice thing was the strong geometric shape of the white edge of the fireplace that crops our viewing position. Notice how all of the spoon handles are giving us these hanging vertical lines, in contrast to the pots on the bottom right that have got a slight angle to them so they separated into visual grouping by the angle of the handles.
I liked the dialogue between the repeated patterns of the small jugs all facing the same way, being ‘kept in line’ by the larger jug hanging on the row above facing the opposite direction it’s like a little family.
The contrast of this one broken egg within the compartments and confines of its sturdy wooden box caught my eye. There was also a nice textural similarity between the marble work surface and the speckled pattern on the eggs.
I loved how the cool blues of the work surface and then the lovely warm oranges in the copper, married perfectly with the warm wooden boards on the left-hand side. It’s a nice mix between warm and cool throughout the whole of the room.
Simple circular and rectangular shapes create this composition.The circular shape of the plate is echoed by the edge of the coffee can on the top right hand-side, as is the back of the wooden paddle to the butter. The diagonal lines of the grease proof paper lead us into the frame and then is continued with the edge of the butter paddles. Notice how it’s darker on the top left corner to bring the viewer back into the scene. Varying sizes yet repeating shapes is often something I look for in a still life composition.