Want to paint 100 stills with me?

by | Feb 27, 2018 | Art, Artistic Endeavors, Oil Painting | 24 comments

Before I lose you altogether, at least hear me out, okay?

Painting is a learned skill, meaning you can learn to do it and get better and better as you practice.  Even just a couple of years ago, if you had asked me to paint an apple on a canvas with oil paints, I would’ve laughed and told you I could never do that.  I’ve never been confident in my drawing abilities and I’ve never thought of myself as a “fine art” sort of person.  You might want me on your team in a game of Pictionary, but the drawing talent stops there.

A large part of the problem was that I was looking at art produced by people who had been painting for years or decades and thinking my first works had to look as good as theirs or I had no talent for it.  That’s just ridiculous!  We know that with music, you need to practice before you can play an identifiable tune and then you need to practice intensely for years before you can be a professional musician.

Yes, there are people with natural leanings towards particular studies.  My brother, for example, has been able to play the piano by ear since he was very young.  Maybe five or so?  And, when it came time for me to take piano lessons, I compared by abilities to his and his talent discouraged me from playing the piano.  I felt like I was stupid because I couldn’t hear a tune and play it.  In fact, I was just normal and he was gifted.  And comparison convinced me that I shouldn’t even try!  In hindsight, I can see how short-sighted and foolish that was.

So, don’t let comparison tell you that you can’t paint or draw or play piano or sing or decorate or whatever it is that has been calling your soul to create.

If one of the artistic endeavors that has been tugging at your soul is oil painting, then I would like to encourage you to join me in painting 100 still lifes.  Or, if that scares you, commit to 10 or 25 or 50.  Just start painting.  Let’s do this together!

Here are some things I would suggest you gather or buy…

(And, remember, I’m just a student myself with only 125 or so oil paintings under my belt, so take it all with a grain of salt!)

These are the colors I’ve been using consistently for my still lifes…

  • Titanium White
  • Foundation Greenish*
  • Cadmium Lemon*
  • Cadmium Yellow Deep*
  • Cadmium Orange*
  • Cadmium Red Medium
  • Alizarin
  • Burnt Umber
  • Veridian*
  • Cobalt Light
  • Ultramarine Deep*
  • Indigo

Most of these are Gamblin, Rembrandt and Windsor & Newton, all artist grade, purchased from Blick Art Supplies.  Foundation Greenish is from Holbein.

I have collected oil paint colors over the past few months, because the artist-grade paints can be expensive!  If you have to drop a few off the list due to budget, I would drop off the ones with star by them and replace Cadmium Lemon and Cadmium Yellow Deep with just plain Cadmium Yellow.

If you need to start even smaller, just get a red, yellow, blue, white, and brown and you can do just about anything with that.  You can also start with student-grade paint, if you have to, but most artists agree it’s better to start with fewer tubes of artist-grade paint than more tubes of student-grade.  (I would also suggest using 40% off coupons at art stores and buy one tube at a time!)

I’m learning that brushes are such a personal taste thing and you’ll discover what you like, but these are the four I have been using for still life paintings…

  • Size 6 Long Flat – I use this for my big, broad strokes.  I like the hog bristles, because they give me less control and help my painting look loose.
  • Size 10 Eclipse Short Filbert – I use this for my underpainting sketch and then tighter strokes and straight lines on the finished painting.
  • 1/4″ Ivory Dagger – This is for detail work
  • Rubber tip brush – I use this for “scratching” my signature in the paint.

Other supplies

  • Paper palette pad (A thrifty option is an old picture frame with a piece of gray paper inserted under the glass.)

  • Gamsol  (Solvent for cleaning brushes.)
  • Solvent container (I really like this palette cup, but you can just use an old jar with a lid.)
  • Paper towels (For wiping your brushes)
  • Baby wipes (For wiping paint off your hands)
  • Baby oil (For washing the paint off your hands)
  • Murphy’s Oil Soap (For an initial wash of your brush)
  • Miss Mustard Seed’s Brush Soap (For a final brush wash and conditioning)
  • Easel (Just get a simple folding table-top easel to start!)
  • Daily Painting by Carol Marine – As I’ve shared before, this book is so practical and helpful!  Carol can get you going much better than I can!

You will also need something to paint on!  I have been using 5 x 7 canvas panels, but you can get canvas panels in all sorts of sizes.  If you’re painting one a day, just keep them on the small-ish size!  I like 5 x 7, because they don’t take too long and I can pop them in a rigid envelope to ship them out.  I have done a tiny 2 x 3″ panel and that would be a nice option if you want to start small.  (I’ve learned that smaller can be harder, though!)

A canvas pad is a nice option as well, so you can cut pieces of canvas to just the size you want and it feels less intimidating (for some odd reason) than a canvas.

A few other tips…

  • Paint things you love and might want to hang on your wall!  I’ve been painting fruit and ironstone/transferware mostly.
  • Set up a scene and take a picture of it with your phone.  Would it make a good painting?  Should you make any changes before you start painting?

  • Draw a sketch of your scene before you start adding color, so you can easily make changes before you get too far into the painting.

  • Just have fun and try to enjoy where you are in your journey.  Tell you inner critic to leave you alone and let you paint.  Drown her out with good music.  She can come back out when you’re done so you don’t put something embarrassingly bad on Instagram.

Even if you’re not considering oil painting, I hope this post encourages you to pursue artistic and creative endeavors that you have always wanted to pursue.  Practice.  Be intentional.  And take the time to nurture your creative soul.

If you want to follow my journey (or share yours), search/use #100oilstills on Instagram.  A couple of artists have joined me and it’s been so fun to follow their paintings and progress.

So, speaking of creativity, I am going on a spur-of-the-moment creative retreat.  Jeff is giving me a few days to go somewhere warm, so I can get away from the house and routine and recharge, think, and get inspired.  I’ve been needing to hit the pause button since before we moved and I am so looking forward to it!

One of my new friends was feeling the need to recharge as well, so we’re going together to save money on the hotel, car rental, etc, but we’ll give each other the alone time we crave.

I’m getting my watercolors, sketch pencils, journals, and think-through lists all ready to go…

Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links.



  1. Pamela

    I have been taking a oil painting course for almost 2 years now and I need to get to painting daily, so I just may join in. It may give me the added incentive to get to painting more regularly and build those skills.

  2. Elizabeth Stein

    What a great idea. You are so generous to find a way to involve your readers actively in your love of painting.
    I hope to join y’all at some point, but I’m on deadline to launch my 1st blog (on Health and fitness) and need to crank out at least 500 words every day. I’m jealous of readers who have the time to do this now!

    • Kim

      Elizabeth. Marian’s Mom here would love to follow your blog. I’m stuck and need to do something. Love health and fitness blogs. Please provide link

  3. Janice

    Well since retiring I’m feeling a little lost. We went to a Monet Exhibit at the Detroit Institute Of Art and I thought I would really like to paint. So I’m in !

  4. Kelly T

    Have not painted with oil since high school…a very long time ago! I think I may invest in a few colors and try it out again. My real love though is watercolor. I picked it up again right after Christmas last year and have rediscovered how much I enjoy the flow of color on paper it gives you. I can loose a whole afternoon with it!

  5. Alice

    that would be great! I’ve been wanting to get back to painting…it’s been soooooo long. But the time has gotten away from me with three jobs to try and please. I can’t afford new oils right now, so will probably use my little student set for starters. Still need to geg brush cleaner and medium. Count me in.

  6. Wendy Y

    I love your advice ?. I’m going on a “retreat” to take Ali Kay’s “Big Rusty Blooms” class in Chattanooga TN in April. It uses products and techniques I’ve used as a decorative artist, but puts it together with things that will stretch me too, and puts it all together into something completely new and wonderful! Thank you for always challenging and encouraging us to learn and grow. (Some of your encouragement today sounded just like this week’s Bible study with our women’s group at church called “Me, Myself and Lies”, by Jennifer Rothschild. Good stuff!) Thanks again!

  7. Chris Moore of Seattle

    As much as I would like to, I will never do this. I gave too many unfinished projects! However, I just wanted to comment on the old world beauty of the paint names, Alizarian, Veridian, Burnt Umber. Beautiful, mysterious, magical!

  8. Joanne

    This sounds fantastic! But I can’t possibly purchase all the ills etc, can I use water colours instead?

    • Miss Mustard Seed

      You can use whatever medium you want! Use crayons if you want! 🙂 Professional watercolors can be almost as expensive, because it’s the pigments that really drive up the price. Use whatever you can, though.

  9. Joan

    I am so inspired to do some painting! Guess I need to get a phone to be on instagram though/yes I do not have a cell phone! LOL
    You are so kind and sweet to invite us/others to paint stills with you, and to share so like you do, in what you’re doing Marian, hope you have a good break/rest and some good alone time, feel so lucky to be able to follow you! Hope you’re not feeling overwhelmed… <3
    You're just SO INSPIRING.
    I think I'll get set up and start some stills! Thanks to you! SO MUCH!

  10. Susan

    You are such a generous person and I had to write to praise your thoughtful, encouraging words. Well done, Marian! I am artistic and people would say to me, well I can’t draw a straight line and I’d say, that’s what rulers are for. One may not become a master, but skills can be learned. I will never have the cooking skills of Jacques Pepin, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t cook or practice my skills. I long for the day I can toss food in a pan like a chief and not use a spatula.
    Now…the true challenge would be for me to take on your challenge and improve MY skills. You have such drive and energy, could I have a transfusion?
    Love your positive, can do attitude. You inspire me.

  11. Kathie

    I use to paint and sell my art. Then I started doing Acrylic pours. Oh that was super fun! I’m a obsessive about everything I do, so I have boxes of them in my basement. I don’t want to sell, that’s the real work part of doing art. I love to do art, crafts, paint and repurpose, restore, and build furniture, etc, but what to do with all of it is the big question and I don’t have the extra money to spend. ?

  12. Alma Sanbern

    This looks like fun. I’ve done a similar challenge in 2008.

  13. Diane

    Would love to try‼️‼️‼️

  14. Vicki

    This sounds like so much fun!! Marian, I am totally loving your blog! I am a new follower, with my own blog, attempting to do just as you suggest- GET CREATIVE!! I do not have insta gram, but I should. I will do my best to attempt some of these as well!

  15. Deborah

    Thank you for this Marion. I can draw but I haven’t done much painting. I’ve been wanting to for a long time but have felt intimidated. I’m going to just go for it. This information will help me get started. An artist told me once the way to learn is to just paint!

  16. Theresa

    I ‘m in!! Just ordered my supplies. I am a watercolor artist, but have been wanting to try oils for a long time. We will see how it goes. Thanks for the invite!

  17. Debbie

    I prefer acrylics and I agree that painting is a learned skill, much like any other.
    My art teacher says that painting is just a new language that you learn. Painting is a joy!

  18. Diane

    Oh I wish you could come to Jeanne Oliver’s class in NC it would be fun to have 2 of my mentors at the same place Creating!

  19. cate

    I’m in!! This is just what I’ve been needing, someone to do this with. Thanks for your great blog!!!

  20. Frances

    Is this going to be an ongoing project we can participate in? I’m booked pretty solid through June with art shows, but I would love to participate. My training is in illustration, but I have been teaching myself to paint over the years with the skills I learned in an intro to painting class at SCAD my senior year. I really want to start working in oils full time and I think this would be a great way to get the ball rolling and offer some low-cost pieces to my followers.
    It also seems like a great way to learn as an artist and maybe make enough money to save up for supplies and things I need for the studio. I have ben following you for several years and feel like I would enjoy my home and studio more if I gave interior decorating a whirl, so I’ve been more intentional about that recently as well.
    I don’t know how you manage to accomplish so much, but it is inspiring and I have been working hard on making my art and home my main focus this year. I love seeing your progress and appreciate the inspiration it gives me.

  21. Jules

    O.K., my first still is done and it looks like an apple. Good thing because I meant for it to look like an apple. It didn’t even take me an hour. I will be ordering Carol Marine’s book. I can’t paint everyday because of that thing called a job but I will paint on my days off. Thanks for the inspiration!

  22. Robyn

    I’m in! Thanks for the challenge Marian!


Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

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