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Inventing a Still Life with Susan Abbott

Continuing education is an important part of any job and art is no different!  I try to take at least one workshop a year to make sure I am constantly learning, especially from artists that I greatly admire.  This year I had the privilege of taking “Inventing the Still Life” with Susan Abbott, a fabulous Vermont based artist known for her bold, colorful landscapes and inventive still live paintings.  For those who want to learn more about Susan’s work, click here.

Susan came down from snowy Vermont to a snowy March in Washington, DC to teach the workshop at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA.  Susan’s approach to the workshop was filled with fabulous art history lessons and useful exercises.  These teachings helped everyone better understand the placing of objects in the still life space, in order to create a continuous webbing throughout the picture plane.  Focusing on opposing forces: lights and darks, negative spaces, and complimentary colors are intricate to Susan’s work and the exercises she had us do, really drilled that into us.  The exercises included limited palette compositions on a flat, black picture plane and taking a photo of a simple geometric objects and using 9 colors from an art postcard to insert into image, along with a pattern.  I definitely gained a new appreciation for the famous Italian artist Giorgio Morandi, as Susan used his works as some prime examples of the concepts she wanted us to learn.

The last two days of the 4 day workshop were focused around creating our own unique still life.  I could not resist once again painting my favorite sweets from my childhood.  This time instead of French Macarons I decided on Salt Water Taffy!  The bright colorful candy with the the quirky wrapping was so fun to paint (and yes to eat – I just had to ingest my subject).

Below is my finished painting from the workshop, “Oceans of Salt Water Taffy,” 12×16.