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Artfully Said–Still Life with Stuff

Paul Cezanne, Dish of Apples, ca. 1876-77. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY

Paul Cezanne painted a lot of fruit in his day. Sometimes they were arranged on a dish like this and sometimes they were just scattered about on a cloth or piled on a table. They were usually surrounded by common objects that showed up in his other paintings, too–stuff he had hanging around the house–and set in places where he was living at the time. Nothing special. Yet each of his still life paintings have a beauty of their own. And they illustrate something about the painter–what he liked, where he lived, how he lived, what his times were like. So maybe they were special after all.

Use this idea is a piece of writing. Look around your home. Pull together some items that are significant for you in some way. Arrange them on something you like or something that illustrates who you are or how you live. Then describe the arrangement in a way that allows your reader to experience it–colors, shapes, sizes, shadows, proximities, etc.

Don’t put too many things in at once. Rather than cram a single arrangement with too many things, make several other arrangements and collect a series of vignettes describing them. You’ll be amazed at how much a collection of short, written still lifes, composed over time, will reveal and preserve.