Written by Sophie Wyatt
In the wake of having to turn to social media to get your creative content fix, creators are trying to find unique ways of not only grabbing people’s attention, but also engaging their audience. ‘Still Here Still Life‘ is the weekly drawing challenge set up by budding artists Zena Kay and (past Haste interviewee) Tess Smith-Roberts to try and encourage artistic inspiration with their love for creating still life images. The pair choose a prompt picture to share with their rapidly growing audience every week and then go on to share the many different interpretations by their followers. The project that started out as a small idea between friends has become a hit over lockdowns, and invited people of all levels of artistic skills to recreate the prompt in whatever material they like. From to oil painted oranges to pink pasta made of polymer clay, the pieces are all as diverse as the artists behind them.
With the creative industry taking a huge hit over the past 12 months, creatives have not only had to turn to a different medium in which to exhibit their work, but also inspiration has been limited. With most countries being put into at least one lockdown (some more than others) finding prompts for inspiration has been pretty difficult. However, ‘Still Here Still Life‘ is allowing people to find inspiration in what is right in front of them (or on their screens of course). Friends and artists Zena and Tess explained to us that they started the page back in the first UK lockdown.
Zena: ‘We were having our annual zoom & wine evening, discussing how we felt like we were loosing our creativity. That’s when we decided to start drawing objects around each others homes, which would soon turn into creating the Instagram page and what we thought was going to be just our friends. Little did we know just how popular it would become, we are still amazed each week with all the submissions and so thankful for everyone who has created the community.’
At the time of writing, ‘Still Life Still Here‘ is on it’s 43rd week of different still life prompts. Each week the artistic pair choose a different still life scene for their followers to recreate, or they collaborate with companies, designers and photographers to do so. The two explained to us that going about choosing their prompts changes each time as they are constantly being approached by new and exciting opportunities.
Zena: ‘Um, it varies we sometimes have people approach us for a collaboration or we we just find prompts through endless Instagram scrolls! We tend to use photos which have lots of colour and objects (Table setting being our favourite!) because this gives people the chance to pick & choose what they see from the image.’
Tess: ‘A lot of Instagram scrolling – I always get into Instagram holes where I find photographer after photographer. I love it! My explore page is now always filled with food/still life scenes, it’s great.’
Starting as a small, fun activity between friends, the two creators did not expect the page to blow up as big as it has. Continuing to grow every day, Zena and Tess explained to us that they are delighted by how popular their concept has become. We asked the pair if they had any prospects for the page when they first created it.
Zena: ‘No way! Bloody Hell! We are so amazed, happy and really appreciative everyone so much for building the platform.’
Tess: ‘No it’s actually insane, still can’t believe it. It’s a bit overwhelming at times because we get so many comments and messages! But so so happy and appreciative at the same time.’
We then asked the pair the ever unanswerable, and probably most thought-provoking question for near enough everyone… What is your favourite food? And in this case, to both eat and draw.
Zena: ‘Ooo, I love to cook Indian food, nothing is more comforting than a big bowl of dhal in my eyes. However I find it really hard to draw Indian food, I guess I just want to eat it. My favourite food to draw/paint is a big table setting full of lots of different plates, lots of colours & always a lobster in their somewhere.’
Tess: ‘I love cooking pasta dishes – spag Bol, carbonara, lasagne, cacio e pepe etc. Always with lots of cheese! To draw – I love illustrating fruit mostly! I just like their bright colours and simple shapes. But I also really enjoy drawing breakfast foods too. Love a big colourful dish of eggs, sausage & beans etc.’
At first glance you may think there is only so many ways these colourful, scrumptious looking prompts could be interpreted, but boy would you be wrong. And with no materials too far a reach for the challenge, artists far and wide have been trying out materials or mediums that they wouldn’t usually use. From online graphics to clay, oil pastels to wood work the pieces each week get more and more adventurous, so that the final results from each artist are so beautifully bold and unique. So for our final question, we asked Zena and Tess if they had stepped outside of their comfort zone much for the challenges, and if they plan on exploring different art styles in the next year.
Zena: ‘For myself, it’s encouraged me to find my love of painting again working away from the iPad. It’s so inspiring seeing people creating clay models and Lino’s and animations, I would love to experiment more maybe in 2021 I will!’
Tess: ‘I actually only really draw with my iPad and haven’t changed haha… but maybe this year I’ll give painting by hand a go!’
Head over to ‘Still Here Still Life”s Instagram page to see some of the amazing pieces that have been created as well as to keep up with the weekly prompts. And also head over to Zena and Tess’s pages to check out some of their own fabulous artwork!