Curated Collections - Learning From Still Life

Curated Collections, learning from Still Life - Kendra Castillo

Guest Post by Taylor Adams

When I was in art school, for painting and drawing courses we’d set up our easels in a circle around the room and within that circle an assortment of objects was arranged and lighted on a table draped with sheets. Sometimes the items were things we brought from home, and sometimes they were pulled from the collection of still life props in the studio closet, usually it was an assortment of both. A roll of duck tape, a bike helmet, a vase with human faces… anything and everything could be placed on that table for us to train our eyes and hands on drawing and painting with realism. 

It’s funny because I used to love painting with realism. In my early schooling years it was my jam. And while I still enjoy drawing realistically from time to time, over the years my paintings have evolved to pure abstraction. Now, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I absolutely love the freedom of expression and exploration that comes with it. 

Curated Collections, learning from Still Life - Kendra Castillo
Curated Collections, learning from Still Life - Kendra Castillo

Recently I spent a couple weeks working from my family’s home on Lake Keowee, South Carolina. I took daily walks for fresh air and inspiration, and with spring in full swing there was always plenty to be found. I found myself coming home with handfuls of plucked items - vibrant greens, crisp whites, pops of brilliant raspberry and soft violets. I was surrounded by blooming color and form that I just couldn’t resist taking with me. 

As I was laying out my finds after a rainy filled day, it got me thinking. This handful of items that I’ve carefully plucked and gathered is essentially a curated collection of my visual interests. So what if I take that method of learning from an arrangement of objects from my schooling, and reinterpret it into my current practice? Throughout my stay, as I returned from walks with my little bundles of inspiration, I arranged them in different compositions, scattered them around my panels, and painted. Surrounded by these sweet smells and fresh colors, with all their little bends and shadows and textures you can’t always get from a photograph, I was learning from a still life in a different way. This time, I wasn't worried about perfecting my scale and perspective, just enjoying the freedom to interpret this curated collection as I pleased, exploring my surface with each new mark.  

In an effort to preserve my little collections, I photographed my arrangements so I could bring them back to my studio and use them as color studies and sources of inspiration long after they have wilted. What a perfect souvenir. The next time you're taking a walk, I encourage you to pay attention to what catches your eye. There's a reason for it, and whatever the find may be, my advice - gather it up and make what you love.

More about Taylor:

Taylor Adams is a Florida based artist exploring the world of abstraction with thread and ink in hand. Fueled by a love of the outdoors, she is largely inspired by beauty found in nature. See more of Taylor’s work at and follow along on Instagram/Twitter @tayloradamsart to get a closer look at her process, current work, and daily explorations.