The typical Painting a Day picture will be a still life. If it is, you can be more or less certain that it will be painted “from life,” as opposed to from the mind. Are the members of the Painting a Day movement inherently unimaginative, or is working from the real objects a fundamental aspect of the genre of still-life painting?

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A successful contemporary Dutch still-life painter once told me, “I have no imagination, I’m only a pair of eyeballs.” Indeed, still-life and painting “from life” are so closely linked, it is reasonable to ask, why would you even want to make a still-life from your mind?

Hanneke van Oosterhout recently drew this imaginary still-life while in a smoky cafe. She was dreaming of her studio. Later she tried to construct a real still-life like it (see Follow the Painting.) Hanneke found that her imaginary still-life had aspects that were difficult to recreate with a real still-life. I find this not at all surprising.

Drawing from imagination is a great way to study your feelings about a topic. It makes sense that the still-life of the mind would be something special, something difficult to recreate in the world. Have you ever made an imaginary still-life? Did you find it had something that made it different from any real-world still-life?