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Subject matter

It's hard to choose subject to paint for a still life, in part because objects seem to be uninteresting and so we look for something beautiful or "picturesque" to paint, which might exclude 95% of what is around us. Here Michael Craig Martin seems to be celebrating the mundane in a style that makes objects beautiful as icons.

On the course we will be grappling with traditional techniques of rendering form but also being aware that we live in a time of slick photoshop images. The task of updating a 500 year old technique, or making it relevant, is the holy grail of many painters.

By choosing subject matter from our everyday surroundings, like this stapler, we are giving ourselves the challenge of making the mundane interesting. More importantly perhaps, it will make us concentrate and enjoy the forms we paint in themselves, like if we were painting abstract shapes.

My first idea was to use a very limited palette to apply flat shapes to create a simple but powerful effect.

However, as tends to happen, I became seduced by the object and tried to reproduce what I was looking at more closely before I began to play with the "wet on wet" application of paint. Maybe next time I'll stick to the idea more closely!

We could say that painting a still life is a convenient excuse to delve into the possibilities of paint while still having a self imposed parameter to keep us focused . In many ways beautiful subject matter is more of a hinderance, if it means we are concentrating on trying to "capture" its beauty rather than on creating something beautiful in itself.

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