8 Favourite Subjects to Draw and Paint

8 Favourite Subjects to Draw and Paint

I am a storyteller.  I tell them through pictures that I draw or paint.  And, like most people, I take my iPhone (read camera)  everywhere.  I find it much easier to snap a quick pic than to craft a decent sentence. I take pictures of everything; an odd colour combination, a rusty old truck on the roadside, or even the intricate veining in a leaf.  Anything that, in the moment, has the potential to spark curiosity and creativity gets snapped.  You can find poetry in the everyday, and stories are everywhere.

I have about 10,000 photos on my phone while the average person has about 2000, according to stats.  I’m an artist so I’m naturally curious, and I think visually so I take a lot of photos.  Don’t get me wrong, I take a crap-ton of notes too, but you know what they say, “a picture paints a thousand words.”  Every picture tells a story.

As an artist straddling nearly 3 decades of custom art for my clients, I ask a lot of questions.  I work with my clients to uncover their stories so they can come through in my work.  I love this step in the process.  It’s like digging for buried treasure (and believe me, there is gold in them thar hills!)

In all my years of painting I've been drawn to 8 favourite subjects that tell the best stories in my paintings. They come in an endless variety of sizes, shapes and colours and I always find them fascinating. 

  1. Faces: Anything with a face.  Faces are amazing.  Most faces have 2 eyes, 2 ears, a nose and a mouth, yet each one is so different.  Small children and pets are my favourites, but if it has a face I’m in. ( Alternatively, You can put a face on any inanimate object and suddenly you have a story to tell)                         
  2. Vehicles: This one was a surprise to me.  I’ve never been a car buff, but the variety interests me.  I love trying to capture the shiny chrome or a rusted bumper in paint.  Salvador Dali often depicted cars in his work as a commentary on society.  I just like the shapes and textures. 
  3. Buildings: The older the better.  Again, it’s the variety and the accoutrement, (if you will.) Foliage and wires, windows with chipped paint, signage and battered doors are what grab my interest more than any accurate rendering of lines. (Launching soon on my website, a collection of paintings featuring convenience stores of greater Vancouver)
  4. Chairs: I’ve always loved chairs.  I think it started in childhood with the poem “Nursery Chairs" by A. A. Milne about Christopher Robin and his imagination.  Or maybe, it was the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears; each bear had it’s own chair, unique to them.  What stories are conjured by a pair of elegant chairs or even a lone chair in a dark room?  Is it an outdoor chair or an indoor chair?  There are so many situations, styles, colours, and patterns possible with chairs for telling stories.
  5. Teacups: If you try to tell me you have never had your own favourite cup or mug, you are lying.  I find our attachment to cups (plain or fancy) fascinating and love to paint them in their myriad styles and colours. From elegant teacups to modern travel mugs, they have so much to say about who they belong to, and the beverages they hold
  6. Shoes: Are you kidding me?  I may not have the shoe budget of Carrie Bradshaw, but it doesn’t cost anything to dream (or draw).  An old pair of sneakers or an elegant pair of leopard pumps are definitely harbouring a story or two.  After all,  Noel Streatfeild made a career out of writing stories about shoes.  Vincent Van Gogh and Andy Warhol also painted some pretty famous shoes. Shoes, Vincent Van Gogh, Shoe Illustrations, Andy Warhol, circa the 1950s
  7. Flowers: Wedding bouquets, wildflowers, and garden flowers offer the artist endless combinations of colours and textures. Flowers are organic and imperfect, so when in doubt, just make it up. (Unless you’ve been commissioned to paint scientifically accurate botanical drawings, of course.)
  8. Birds: Again, so many colours, shapes, and sizes.  Endless possibilities as well as symbolism and promise.  Depending on the birds depicted, your mind can be carried to far-off places in exotic countries, or to a favourit spot in your own backyard.

    I have shared my list of favourite subjects and hope it inspires you to look at your surroundings with fresh eyes and to ask questions about the people and things you see.  Where do they live or who made them? Most of all, what stories could they tell if we take the time to look and listen? 

    Are you interested in excavating some of your own stories for your amusement?  I have a worksheet for that.  Request the  FREE download here.  Enjoy going through your photos and belongings and making some notes about the meanings and stories behind them.  Do you keep a journal?  This could be a treasure trove of endless subjects to write (or draw) about.

    artist painting at an easle

    We leave our marks on the people and things that we treasure and inturn they become part of us.  What makes a good subject for a commission? Anything that holds meaning for you.  The great thing about custom artwork is the ability to include what is important to you and edit out what isn’t.  Backgrounds can be removed or changed.  Colours can be altered to suit your preferences.  I love working with clients to create something unique and meaningful for them. 

    Interested in working together to create a custom painting to tell your story, or one important to you?  (Contact me at haiketremblayart@gmail.com). If you would like to learn more about me and my art, or receive more tips and resources in your inbox, please sign up for my newsletter on my website.

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