Still Life Painting with Pansies


"Still Life with Pansies", Craig Shillam, 12" x 16", oil/canvas

Still Life with Pansies”, Craig Shillam, 12″ x 16″, oil/canvas


If you would have asked me three years ago if I would ever paint a still life painting with pansies as the subject matter, I would have told you that you have been inhaling way to many paint fumes. Thanks for not asking me back then. But the real catalyst for this particular still life painting was not flowers. The reason for this painting is none other than my mother. It was her birthday, and I had not made or painted anything for her in a long, long time. It was time to change that, and she likes pansies.

Still Life Painting with Pansies


In setting up this still life, I purchased some pansies from a friend who has a plant sale every year. She’s one of those people. You know, the type of person whose yard and flowers always look so good it makes you sick. After picking out the flowers, it was time to go on a hunt for a flower-pot. A medium to dark pot with a nice shape that wasn’t too big or too small was what I was looking for. Going around to different places on a bit of a scavenger hunt was quite fun, and I found one at a second-hand store that I felt was just right.

"Still Life with Pansies", detail.

“Still Life with Pansies”, detail.

Not having painted very many flowers, there was one thing I was sure of. I had to paint them quickly before my lack of talent in the gardening department was painfully obvious. A still life painting of dead pansies for my mother was not an ideal outcome. With that in mind, the pansies were planted quickly in the new used pot, combining both the yellow and pink flowers, and watered. I took photos just in case, and painted from both the photos and the actual plant. It was quite enjoyable.

It was important to me to get a really nice pink. I have never been able to get the hot pink I wanted in an oil painting. The pansies were a sweet magenta/hot pink, and I wanted to capture that color. At first I used Quinacridone Violet by Gamblin, but it just wasn’t pink enough. After a scouting trip to the local art store, I was fortunate to find just the color I was looking for in Windsor & Newton’s Quinacridone Permanent Rose. Getting the colors just right on canvas is one thing, trying to get the same colors in the photos for this article is another. The small photo here is as close as I could get to that actual pink color.

Three Take Aways from this Still Life Painting

  • Don’t you hate to settle for something that is less than what you want? I wanted that pink color for this painting and I was going to try whatever I could to find that color. I tried several times without success, and finally the right color by another manufacturer and it was game on. It was a good feeling to get that little victory.
  • Painting flowers is quite fulfilling. Having said that keep in mind I have only painted about three flower paintings, and don’t even know the subject that well. Flowers are beautiful and delicate, and I’m a guy that used to play ice hockey. Not exactly a perfect marriage. I can see where it is easy to make flowers look plastic like, and much more practice will be needed by me to get a fresh, elegant, relaxed feeling to the flowers I do paint.
  • The flowers were arranged in somewhat of a circular composition to keep the eye moving around the still life. I wanted to show smaller and larger flowers, and I liked the idea that some flowers were not looking as good as others. For the sake of variety if nothing else.

Alas, I am not much of a green thumb. The pot below is all I have left of the pansy still life. I tried watering, fertilizing and babying them, to no avail. As with painting, my gardening skills need more fine tuning.

"The Empty Pot" CashArtBlog

“The Empty Pot” CashArtBlog


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  1. […] having painted flowers very much, (the last time was a still life painting of pansies done over a year ago), I was somewhat apprehensive. To combat that, I dove right in and shared the […]

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