We recently issued a challenge on social media for you to create your own still life artwork: a work of art that shows inanimate objects from the natural or man-made world. Since this past year has been, well, a lot, we wanted to see which objects helped you get through it—and how you would turn them into a work of art.
We were thoroughly impressed with the thoughtful, imaginative ways you interpreted the challenge and found beauty in the mundane yet stressful year we’ve all had.
Below, check out a roundup of some of the creative artworks you created. If you haven’t done the challenge yet, perhaps they’ll provide some inspiration for your own still life! And be sure to follow us on Instagram and Twitter to catch the next challenge.
Good Cocktails and Good Books
Chloe Annick of California embraced her newly found free time to read, learn how to embroider goldwork, and make fabulous cocktails at home. “Reading was a way to escape my four walls. Learning a new skill, such as goldwork, challenged me,” Annick said. “And a good cocktail was a reward!”
The Labyrinth of Spirits represented all the literature Annick read, since this book and the series is an homage to bibliophiles. The Chivas Regal honored her 97-year-old grandfather. The goldwork fleur-de-lis is from an online Zoom class with San Francisco School of Needlework and Design, and the background is a piece of fabric purchased to make masks.
Treasured Family Pottery
A cherished painting and pottery set provided the inspiration for Anne Ginn’s still life. Ginn’s grandmother (also named Anne Ginn) made both the pottery and the cloth. A cousin, Kath Towsley, created the painting of Anne Sr.’s pottery in 1980.
The daily ritual of teatime was an important source of comfort for Ginn during the pandemic. The challenge gave her an opportunity to layer these objects she uses (or sees, in the case of the painting) every day.
“Being at home all the time, I get to enjoy the art on my walls more than I did pre-pandemic and in a different way. It is no longer just something nice to break up the wall,” said Ginn, who lives in Ontario. “The art I have in my apartment is within view every day. It is there when my mind wanders away from the screen I am always on and is also the background to my meetings. During these past 16 months at home, I am more connected to my things and my art.”
Tea, Books, and a Camera to Capture it All
This watercolor features three things that helped Alicia, from Dusseldorf, Germany, through this past year: daily tea for relaxing, books, and a camera for collecting happy and beautiful memories.
“I was very happy when I saw the challenge on Instagram. It would never have occurred to me to think about objects that made the year more bearable for me,” Alicia said. “It was amazing to think about it and to finally draw it!”
Artifacts of a Day with Family
New Yorker Michael Young created this still life as part of his documentary photo series, Dust to Dust, which chronicles his partner’s family in Greenville, Kentucky. The objects in this photograph are representations of what happened one day when he was visiting the family: a yam from tending the garden, a flower from his partner’s grandmother’s funeral, along with a wrench and homemade potholder used to fix his broken tripod.
Self-Care Must-Haves: Knitting, Skin Care, and Journaling
Many people used their time at home during the pandemic to learn new hobbies, particularly those that help calm anxiety. For Margaret Canfield, who lives in Vermont, one of the positives that came out of the pandemic was her newly found interests in knitting, journaling, and skincare.
Canfield said it was harder than she expected to decide which objects to feature. “Finding objects that complemented each other both visually and conceptually ended up guiding the objects I chose,” she said. Her final photo features yarn, an in-progress knitting project, a journal, and a facial lifting tool.
A Collection of Hands
Los Angeles resident Aline Smithson collects wooden manikin hands, and chose to pair them with this mid-century portrait from classic Hollywood, which also features hands.
“I love the challenge of using objects to animate and unnerve,” Smithson said.
A Cheery Bouquet of Tulips
In this still life, a white vase filled with orange tulips presides over a bowl of oranges and a rabbit sculpture. Nathalie Seaver, who is from Los Angeles but took the photo in Connecticut, was drawn to the two strong shades of orange and the serenity of the white objects.
“It was a perfect way to showcase the color,” Seaver said.
An Homage to Two Passions: Paul Gauguin and Japan
Martina Theis from Heidelberg, Germany, took the challenge in two different directions. The first still life is an homage to Paul Gauguin, Theis’s favorite artist, and his time living in the South Pacific. The photo features a bronze bust of Gauguin and sculpture of a Tahitian woman, both of which Theis created herself; a shell from the South Seas; and a palette similar to the one Gauguin would have used.
“My favorite part is the silhouette of the bronze bust of Gauguin on ‘his’ palette. Makes him look kind of alive,” Theis said.
The second still life is Theis’s homage to Japan, featuring a pot adorned with cherry blossoms; kintsugi pottery, smashed and put back together with golden Japanese varnish; a table painted with a branch of cherry blossoms; and a painting of the Buddha.
Pandemic Hygiene Essentials
In the early days of the pandemic, three items became hot commodities: toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and soap. Jeff Ishikawa, who is from the San Francisco Bay Area, took inspiration from these objects in his still life painting.
“The subject was a little tongue-in-cheek, but I painted it seriously,” Ishikawa said.
Mementos of Online Ordering
Candi Imming was at high risk for COVID, so she did her best to stay safe by remaining at home in Massachusetts while occupying her time with Zoom art classes. She filled her still life with items that defined her pandemic experience: bubble wrap from Amazon orders, takeout containers and plastic silverware, and a mask. She took the photo in color, but made it black and white to unify the look and then applied a Prisma filter to add a bit of color.
“This was my COVID experience in a nutshell,” Imming said. “Art, carry-out, and a mask, along with my iPad for connection to the world.”
Ready to make your own still life? Read up on the history of the still life genre and see some examples to get your creative juices flowing. Here are a few tips to help you get started on your own:
- Pick three objects. Consider size, shape, texture, and contrast between them.
- Arrange them. Will they be stacked, draped, hung, or scattered, and what is the background?
- Capture it. Play with light, shadow, and material before you sketch, paint, or photograph.
Share your still life with us by posting photos of your creations on Instagram and tagging #GettyStillLifeChallenge!