I remember when I’d had a particularly stressful day. When I got home I was really upset. I just couldn’t get over it. My wife suggested I get my oil paints out and paint something. I told her I didn’t know what to paint. She grabbed one of her mason jars, put my brushes in it, set some of my paint tubes next to it and said, “Okay, there you go.” At first I thought it was kind of stupid, but once I got started, I was having fun. I finished it in a half hour. I felt really happy.
The first thing I did was draw a quick outline of the objects. Then I looked for shapes and values and painted them in, one by one. Instead of being intimidated by the glass, I stared at it and saw shapes of color showing through from the wall behind it and from the table below it. Next I found the highlights and put them in. There were reflections of the light blue venitian blinds, so I determined the shapes, mixed the color and painted them in. The brushes had a shadow on their left sides. I did a quick dark line for each of them, then on the right side I painted a single color on each to represent the non-shadow parts. I didn’t get detailed. You will see I did the same thing with the paint tubes – there are different shapes of white – some with a blue tint, others kind of yellow, etc. The diagonal is the edge of the table. I just painted it brown, like the color of the wood, then I did a quick representation of the wall in the background.
Artists often try too hard when doing a still life. If they simplify, they’ll have much better results.