Behind the Scenes: Still Life with Paint

Behind the Scenes: Still Life with Paint

A chat with Ottawa Magazine Art Director Jane Corbett about the creation of the Still Life photos, featured in the 2016 Interiors print issue, on newsstands now

Photos by — Christian Lalonde

Special projects editor Sarah Brown and I had been discussing a photo-essay featuring the latest trends in paint colours for some time. We also wanted to feature beautiful arrangements by local florists. When we came across an article in Vogue Living that combined both of these ideas into one beautiful mashup of blossoms and paint, we were duly inspired to do our own take on the idea for our Interiors issue.

The plan: Sarah would interview five local businesswomen who work in the paint and decorating field and ask them for their three favourite trending paint colours. She would source the paint from local suppliers, then visit five floral designers and ask them to create a floral arrangement inspired by the chosen paint colours. We put no restrictions on size or type of arrangement, giving the floral designers carte blanche.

Photographer Christian Lalonde from Photolux Studio stopped by to fine-tune the plan. We talked about the propping, the backgrounds, the settings, and the shots. The tricky part? We were planning all of this without knowing what the final arrangements would look like! We had to be ready for whatever showed up at the studio on the day of the shoot.

We chose a painter’s studio theme, using canvas, wallpaper, and chalkboard as backgrounds. These materials were perfect because we knew we could paint on them. We borrowed a few pieces of furniture, some recently painted and others waiting to be stripped and repainted, from Malenka Originals. I brought in my father’s old wooden painting ladder, already authentically paint-splattered and distressed. We also had various used paintbrushes, some empty paint cans, and plenty of old towels for cleanup.   

pedestalThe first arrangement to arrive was from Trillium Floral Designs’ Mandy Drew, inspired by the three Benjamin Moore paints suggested by Jane Parkhouse from The Decorators Choice. The flowers were an orangey-red, a deep violet, and a white, along with a variety of greens, including kale leaves. We found it to be explosive, and it reminded us of fireworks. Chris and I used bold strokes to create an abstract background of white paint, painted over with red and purple flowers. Fine red lines echoed the curly willow and referenced the trails left behind by fireworks. As a final addition, we dripped blobs of paint over some of the leaves and flowers. Our first finished shot — and the fun was just beginning.


Machiko Iwakiri of Ottawa Blooms created a large arrangement suitable for the foyer of a home. It featured orchids, anthurium, tulips and berries, in warm shades to match the C2 paint colours suggested by Cindy Dejardins from Randall’s. The background was an airy fabric in a rust colour. We applied the Buckaroo shade to the fabric with a large brush, creating a warm, mottled background with a painterly feel. We kept the background simple, concentrating our creative efforts on the vase and the canvas-covered side table. We tore the labels off the paint cans to reveal matte black cans — all the better to showcase the exaggerated drips. We finger-painted on the vase, then spilled the extra paint on the canvas and allowed it to intermix and drip down. Finally, the almost-white Sandcastle shade was dribbled over the orchids. Things were definitely getting messier in the studio.

foundchairA smaller, pastel-coloured arrangement arrived next. Elizabeth Young from Flowers Talk Tivoli said the pastel shades made her imagine a classic sitting room with a feminine ambience. Her creation featured soft pink roses, white hydrangea, and large blowsy peonies. The flowers were chosen to complement the Dulux paints chosen by Misty Yeomans, in colours that are very similar to the colours that Pantone announced as the Colours of the Year for 2016.


We were happy to switch gears from the two larger vertical arrangements, and focus on this smaller-scale creation. We started with a white background and rolled on the three pastel colours, overlapping them randomly and leaving the sky-blue at the top. Then we set the flowers on a child-sized chair, thick with paint, chipped and cracking in some spots. We sloppily painted the chair using the same three colours. Because the blue wasn’t represented in the flowers, we dribbled some of it over a pink rose. Metallic paint cans contributed a soft touch under the chair.


A stunning, horizontal arrangement from Erin Carmichael of The Design Co. was the next to arrive. It featured a multitude of orange flowers and berries, complemented by grey-green foliage. It was about three feet wide, and drooped down elegantly at each end. She pictured it popping against the Feather Grass wallpaper from Farrow & Ball (courtesy of Uproar Design), and the paint colours chosen by Janise Saikaley.


Chris set up the wallpaper background, and added some flowers of his own design to the wallpaper in orange and green. We chose to showcase this arrangement on the painting ladder. The paint was spilled on the ladder’s shelf and we swirled in around, creating an effect like marbleized paper. We also added paint to the brass pedestal vase, and dabbed a few of the eucalyptus leaves. Another beautiful image was captured.

The final arrangement was by Mill Street Florist’s Joanne Plummer. It was an organic landscape of unusual florals in pinks and purples, contained in a shallow turquoise vase. A bold statement to match the bold colours of Annie Sloan chalk paint mixed by Malenka Original’s Katrina Barclay.


We began with a black chalk-painted background and added swirls of colour in pink and purple to represent the various shapes in the arrangement. Then we highlighted a few of the blossoms by adding turquoise paint behind them. The flowers were set on a side table that was painted in two shades of turquoise chalk paint and black. We dotted pink paint onto the black tabletop to echo the pink pepper berries. The final photo was both elegant and colourful.


Two full days in the studio, many hours of preparation, and the ability to “go with the flow” resulted in a series of beautiful photos that recently won an Applied Arts Magazine photography award, and will be featured in an upcoming issue. As Chris Lalonde said, “The completed project is playful and fun, which is exactly how it felt as we were creating the images for the story.” Sometimes you really do get to have fun while you work!