There’s 1 thing that contributes to the best quality to my art

No, it’s not going to art school or using the best art supplies. Although those can help too.

But the one thing that I do that contributes the most quality to my artwork is that 

I paint from life. 

I’ll tell you why that contributes the most quality to my artwork so you can understand what I mean. 

A photo of an original oil painting on panel of landscape of Colorado Aspen trees by Kelli Folsom.

When I started painting I took several different classes across the country. Most of them taught me how to work from photos or how to do abstract paintings from imagination. I was happy to be painting, but something always felt off. I felt something was missing. I would paint from the photos, enlarging them or changing colors, only to feel disconnected from the subject. 

 That continued for a couple of years until finally one day I took a class where the teacher had set up a still life.   At the same time, I was in a class where we had a model come in and we painted from the live model. Even in my very raw stage as an artist I immediately felt that spark of connection when working with real-life things, not a photo. 

My satisfaction level went through the roof and so did the quality of my work. Now I’m not saying working from a photo is bad or that it leads to lower quality work. I’m saying for me it didn’t work and led to disconnection which led to lower quality. Because if you can’t feel connected or inspired then you can’t paint well. 

This led me to my next step to find an art college that taught artists to work from life. That was a challenge! Finally, I found one, Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts. This is where I first painted en Plein air (a landscape outdoors) and that experience was euphoric! Even with the difficulties that Plein air presented like the weather, bugs, and confusing scenes I felt so connected and energized. 

I have from time to time painted from photos of some of my favorite trips, but it does nothing for me. I’ve also painted studio landscapes from my smaller Plein air sketches and I get the same disconnected feeling. it’s because I’m no longer having the real experience with that scene so it doesn’t feel the same to me. At any rate, I’ve learned over the last decade not to fight who I am as an artist, but to appreciate it. I’ve seen that my best works are always painted from life and my weaker works from memory, imagination, or photo. 

 Another reason painting from life improves my paintings is that I can get a more real sense of space, textures, and weight.   A photo is already a two-dimensional image and it’s difficult for me to get a sense of the true depth of space, weight, texture, atmosphere. The quality of even the color that I can see with my eyes is so different from a photo. 

That’s why I set up every still life in my natural light studio. As I’m touching the fruit my body and mind record the weight, shape, and textures. This informs me on how to paint it to get the truest feeling into the painting. When arranging petals, leaves, and fabric I sense their weight and movement. Because of that, I’m able to get that feeling into my painting. 

We wake up every day with different energy levels, moods, and even perspective on life. That’s why even if I paint a subject more than once there’s always something new that gets into the painting. It’s also why I don’t like working with fake fruit or fake flowers. They’re not real. They’re not alive. I can paint a red pear six times a year and every time it’s a new experience! This is what’s so exciting about working from life. That’s why working from life makes my paintings so much better than working from photographs.  That connection, excitement, energy, mood, and believability of space, weight, and texture get passed on to you as a viewer. 

On that note, I have to say that looking at artwork in a photo can have the same disconnected feeling for you as the viewer. No matter how much the technology improves you can’t get the true connection to a photo of a painting as you can with the real live thing.  The main comment I get from everyone who collects my work is ALWAYS that they couldn’t believe how much more beautiful it was in person.  The paint quality, brushwork, and impasto come alive in person. The colors and textures are so much more nuanced in person. Bear in mind that if you love one of my paintings online you can be sure that you’re going to LOVE it ten times more in person!

You should always have real art in your home and see the real thing in person. It’s the best gift you can give to yourself and all who enter your home. Thank you so much for your support. 

P.S.  Keep an eye out for the AMAZING holiday sales on my artwork coming up. You won’t want to miss out on them. They’ll be my biggest deals for the whole year. 

P.S.S. If you’re not in my free Collector’s Circle please join here: You’ll get first dibs on new works and sales + a special 20% off welcome discount.

A photo of an original oil painting on panel of a still life painting of a Japanese bottle and mandarins by Kelli Folsom.
Shop the Still Life Collection
A photo of an original oil painting on panel of a landscape painting of gold trees in the blue mountains by Kelli Folsom.
Shop the Plein Air Collection
A photo of an original oil painting on panel of a landscape painting of a old shed in the mountains.
Shop the Plein Air Collection
A photo of an original oil painting on panel of a floral still life of fall mums in a green ginger jar.
Shop the Still Life Collection

Love in Light, Kelli

3 thoughts on “There’s 1 thing that contributes to the best quality to my art

  1. Your still life paintings are awesome I’ve watched you on u tube and and have been inspired to try one. Pretty much a landscape painter.

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