Acrylic Still Life Painting Tutorial

Are you looking for a new and exciting way to approach your acrylic still life paintings? Well, look no further! In this tutorial, we will be using loose, fun, and easy techniques that will add a whole new level of excitement to your artwork. You will love the results!

In this article we will cover the following topics;

  • Step-by-step tutorial
  • Materials
  • How we will approach the painting
  • Step-by-step tutorial
  • What makes this painting work
  • More fun still life painting examples
  • How to learn more
  • Conclusion

Step-by-step still life tutorial

Below is a material list for this demo. It should help answer any questions you may have about paints and brushes. However, if you are still puzzled, be sure to leave a comment below. I am here to help if you get stuck.

Also, this is a condensed version of the original tutorial which is over 60 minutes long. If you would like to view this and many other abstract style still life painting tutorials, use the link below.

Materials

  • Heavy-body acrylic paint: Cadmium red light, alizarin crimson, Cobalt blue, ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow lemon, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, bone black, and titanium white
  • Brushes – Princeton Catalyst; Round #10, #6, Flats #10 & #12
  • Support: Strathmore 400 series mixed media paper, 24″ x 18″
  • Miscellaneous: Water reservoirs, Gatorfoam board, homemade collage paper
Acrylic still life painting tutorial
– Acrylic still life painting tutorial

How to approach this still life subject

In this still-life acrylic lesson, we will take an unconventional approach to acrylic painting. To do that we will first create homemade collage paper using scrap drawing paper and paint.

Once we have the collage paper we’ll use it in various areas of the still life and other parts will be painted using traditional acrylic techniques.

Looking at the image you can see where we are going with this. So, let’s get started with the next set of instructions.

Making collage paper with crayon marks
– Making collage paper with crayon marks

Step two

Make some collage paper using old drawing paper, newsprint or whatever else you can some up with. That’s the beauty of this project, anything goes. It’s a great way to up-cycle older drawings, and sketchbooks that have been tucked away in the drawer for many years.

Create the collage paper with multiple mediums. I tend to start with applying acrylic paint for the first layer. I allow it to completely dry and then add more layers of paint, and sometime I’ll include crayons, markers, graphite, and whatever else I can get my hands on.

Add the contour drawing
– Add the contour drawing

Step three

Add the contour drawing using 2B pencil. Since this is an expressive, abstract style still life painting I will add minimal information. If too much detail is added at the drawing stage the final painting may become too tight.

When adding the design it’s best to start with the longest line and work your way to the shortest ones. This is the best way to eliminate most drawing errors like running out of room to added certain elements.

Cutting out tablecloth stripes
– Cutting out tablecloth stripes

Step four

Cut strips of collage paper that will become part of the tablecloth. To keep it interesting make the widths slightly different from one another. And don’t feel like the stripes need to be the same colors.

Use a large pair of scissors to avoid jagged cuts. You can even tear strips by hand if you don’t mind the rough edges. You can always go back and paint white stripes over the edges to clean things up.

Cutting collage paper for background
– Cutting collage paper for background

Step five

Add strips to the tablecloth to the support by gluing them with Mod Podge. Since I’m working on a larger scale some stripes had to be pieced together.

Start adding more collage paper to other background elements. I used a warm yellow and a navy blue strip to complete my background.

Again, piecing things together was necessary since most of the shapes are really large.

Redrawing contours
– Redrawing contours

Step six

Allow the background to dry completely! If not, it will get messy and you’re risking ruining everything that’s in place.

Once dry, double back and add any drawing to areas that were collaged over. This will help as we move forward with the remaining still life elements.

Collaging wine bottle and label
– Collaging wine bottle and label

Step seven

Start with the next largest element, which is the wine bottle. I used a similar value as the dark stripes, but it had a touch of light green near the top.

For contrast, add a white label to the wine bottle. My piece had some interesting markings on it which is perfect! It suggests details without me having to add them.

Adding cast shadows
– Adding fruit and cast shadows

Step eight

Start painting the next largest shapes, which are the plates and fruit. To keep in line with the collage paper, it’s best to partially mix the paint. This will give the colors a choppy look, as opposed to blended hues.

Add cast shadows once all the elements are in place. I used cool blue and cool greens for shadows. I’ll go back over the dark stripes later on to add more cast shadows.

Smoothing background
– Smoothing background

Step nine

To get a good feel for what the still life needs at this stage, it’s best to take a few steps back and study it!

Overpainting is a common problem and it’s usually because the artist doesn’t understand what should be done next! We’ve all ruined art and wasted materials painting in circles, so let’s avoid that trap by understanding what overpainting is and how to do it correctly.

I thought the yellow background was too busy with all the crayon scribble, so I used a wet brush to smooth it out.

Painting wine glass highlights
– Painting wine glass highlights

Step ten

Paint the wine glasses using a light burgundy color. Since this painting is more abstract, it’s okay to use arbitrary colors. I could have opted for clear glass but thought that would be too boring for this design.

Add some highlights to dress up the glasses. A liner works best for these thin strokes. Avoid using pure white, that will be too distracting. We want the glasses to be a part of the composition but not become the star.

Painting background
– Painting background

Step eleven

The intense yellow background was still too much. After trying to smooth it out earlier, I felt it was still too busy.

I used a pale, buttery color to fix it. This calmed down the design and allowed the bottle and stripes to come forward, visually speaking.

As the paint was still wet, I took a piece of graphite and scribbled it into it. This added some linear interest and movement to the background without going overboard.

Painting wine bottle highlights
– Painting wine bottle highlights

Step twelve

Reflections and highlights are added to help finish off the still life. Again, step back from the painting often at this stage to see what it needs, as opposed to hammering away at it from a very close distance.

And that’s it! You have just created an amazing abstract acrylic still life using conventional and unconventional techniques.

What makes this painting work

Shapes! Well, the good usage of abstract shapes. The black and white stripes play a huge role as they become the dominant shape. Because the wine bottle is of a similar value, it connects with the dark stripes and adds a strong vertical element. The hard lines are contrasted perfectly with the curved contours for the fruit and plates.

The color palette is harmonious, with muted tones of orange and yellow. The wine bottle is the star of the design, and it’s placed off-center for asymmetrical flow.

How to learn more

Below are suggested online courses for still life painting.

Conclusion

Don’t forget to check out our other still-life painting tutorials for more inspiration! Happy painting!

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