Why paint a still life?

Still life painting was at the height of its popularity in the Netherlands in the 17th century. This period featured a style called vanitas, which was the incorporation of highly symbolic objects in still life paintings, from allegorical representations of death to the passage of time. This still life features the skull, candle and globe. These are subjects often created with the chiaroscuro technique - an effect of light on a shadow background to create relief and depth on the canvas.

What is chiaroscuro?

Chiaroscuro is a technique that consists of recreating the light of a scene, by creating contrasting dark and light parts on your canvas. To work on this technique and place shadows correctly on your canvas, accentuate the shadows in your composition by placing a desk lamp on one side of the subject. This lighting will create cast shadows and reveal chiaroscuro.

Start with shapes

To recreate this scene on canvas, begin by sketching out the simplified shapes of each object. Start with a circle for the globe and a triangle for the foot of the candlestick. Once you’ve placed the shapes, refine the lines to define the subject and replace the geometric shapes with the drawing.

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