Food Still Life

Feeding Our Creative Souls

Article by Julie Brown Patton

Originally published in Frisco Life

“The best paintings create a story. My stories have happy endings,“ believes Frisco-area artist Milessa Murphy.

When studying the old Masters' paintings of still life, for as long as Milessa can remember, she remembers seeing some type of food accompanying the main subject. "As a painter, I set up for the best composition, color and the story. Much like a cook does when dressing the plate for a meal or even preparing the meal, you look for ingredients that go together and complement one another. The presentation has to be beautiful," she proclaims. 

Here, Frisco Life celebrates food as an artistic form, and Milessa shares the stories behind her own vibrant, textured happy endings on canvas!



Originally, ginger jars were used for storing and transporting spices in Ancient China. I love to paint them in my still lifes. In this painting, grapes lead the viewer into the painting. One might think I used the grapes as a symbol for sake, but most sakes are made from fermented rice, not grapes like wine is.


A friend's favorite drink is called The Dirty Martini. It's made with blue cheese stuffed olives and either vodka or gin. I DON’T like it dirty…and I DON’T like gin. As I painted this, I used some cute little vintage figurines I collected over the years from McDonalds. Even foodies like a little fast food every now and then! The treats (toys) make for funny, and sometimes silly stories, in my paintings.


My artist byline is “Capturing the Imagination." Use your imagination now as I paint in words the meaning behind this painting. When I think of heaven, my senses smell that of rose. A rose is so pure and clean-smelling. The oranges represent “earth' -- pure in smell, but it’s the sweet nectar that will bring you back down-to-earth where you will want more.


Notice in this painting that the copper pot and the red radishes are next to the greenish background as complimentary colors. I really don’t like the taste of radishes, but I do love the red color they produce; however, I do cook with copper a lot. Expert chefs have known it for a long time -- by using copper cookware, any meal can be prepared in a perfect and gentle way. Did I tell you I’m a gourmet cook? Yes, and cooking is an art, too!


Sometimes a painting is more about technique; this is one of them. The approach being styled in a fashion that has compliments. The purple grapes with the yellow lemons balance each other, like salt and pepper do in a recipe.


Carl Dalio was a watercolor artist who helped me with design when I was a watercolorist; now I paint only in rich “buttery” oils. One might say “I love to cook with real butter” LOL! Painting is just like cooking, in my opinion, you have to know when it’s just the right time to add another layer, or you will end up with a flop. I set up my still lifes like I’m creating a recipe from scratch. You move the pieces all around until you get that “eye-candy” feeling.

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