How to Paint a Still Life with Gamblin Artist’s Oil Colors

Artist Christina Kent breaks down how to paint a still life—a great exercise for beginning and experienced artists alike. After toning her canvas and arranging her still life composition, Christina demonstrates how to sketch out the design before adding vibrancy and depth with Gamblin Artist’s Oil C...


  1. Tone painting panel using a mixture of Gamsol Odorless Mineral Spirits and Burnt Sienna. Apply in a thin layer and wipe off any excess with a paper towel. Let panel dry for at least 24 hours.

  2. Set up a still life and decide on a composition for the painting. Use a light source and a viewfinder to determine how best to crop your composition to show off the shapes, shadows, and colors.

  3. Sketch the overall design of the painting with a thin layer of paint, using a combination of Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson, and Cadmium Yellow Light to create a deep brownish purple. Sketch the basic shapes lightly at first with a small amount of paint. Paint darker lines as you become more confident with your design.

  4. Next is the block-in stage, where you’ll fill in the shapes with big blocks of strong color. At this stage, focus less on getting the details right and more on making sure the color relationships are correct. Begin with the darkest shadows, using a combination of Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Red, Ultramarine Blue, and Cadmium Yellow Light to create a dark orange. Mix a lighter shade to fill in the areas of the oranges being hit with direct light. Then paint the shadows cast by the oranges with a slightly dull purple color, adjusting your mixture to account for the light and dark areas.

  5. Add highlights but err on the side of going darker with your colors; it’s easier to layer on lighter colors with the wet-on-wet technique.

  6. Fill in the background, making sure to follow the subtle shifts of color caused by the location of your light source.

  7. Add finishing touches, such as adding details and layering on lighter colors to brighten up your painting.