Photorealism still life and portrait paintings
Above: Detail of "Colleen in Blue" by Narelle Zeller

Inspired by the women in her life, Narelle Zeller is creating a series titled “In Bloom,” which is also a collaboration with a talented florist who creates custom pieces for the portrait paintings. Discover Zeller’s process in this exclusive article.


“In Bloom” is an ongoing series of portraits and still lifes inspired by the women around me. It is a collaborative project with friend and florist Amy Clement (@floralsbythewildside), who creates an individual and personalized floral feature for each sitter, as well as a series of corresponding floral arrangements. This series explores individual identity and the connections between people, nature, and objects.

The portraits contain personal stories between the sitter and myself as well universal themes around the human condition. Painting significant women in my life is not only a window into each sitter’s world but also into my own, and it allows me time for a special reflection on the bond we have together. Adorning these women with flowers not only adds an ornamental quality to the portraits but it also depicts their importance to me and celebrates the beauty and strength of their femininity.

The still lifes offer an expansion to each portrait; a chance to further capture the ephemeral beauty of the botanical features in their individual arrangements and allow new elements to be introduced in connection with the sitter.

I was particularly drawn to Amy’s use of unusual foraged elements and her unique compositions. In the process I am enjoying exploring and conveying the beauty that can be found in familiar and unremarkable natural materials as well as the more traditional floral components.

Photorealism art
Narelle Zeller, “Colleen in Blue,” 2019, oil on ACM panel, 24 x 16 in.

“Colleen in Blue” (above) is a portrait of my younger sister Colleen Stapleton (@colleen_stapleton), a very talented Australian figurative artist who is a constant source of inspiration and support. My intent with this piece was to portray Colleen’s love and academic pursuit of classical art, drawing inspiration from 17th Century Dutch influences after we saw a Dutch master exhibition together at the Art Gallery of NSW.

Colleen has been such a positive influence on me. I truly admire her work and her tireless dedication towards her growth and practice as an artist. I hope with this portrait to communicate the special bond we have together as sisters and artists.

Photorealism still life art
Narelle Zeller, “Colleen, Still Life No.1,” 2020, oil on ACM panel, 16 x 10.5 in.
This painting is the first still life painting of the Colleen series.

Watch >>> Process – The painting of “Colleen, Still Life No.1” by Narelle Zeller:


How to Paint a Photorealistic Still Life

“Colleen, Still Life No.1” Step by Step:

How-To Photorealism Still Life

How-To Photorealism Still Life

How-To Photorealism Still Life

How-To Photorealism Still Life

How-To Photorealism Still Life

How-To Photorealism Still Life

Additional Portrait and Floral Paintings:

Photorealism art
Narelle Zeller, “Carma,” 2019, oil on ACM panel, 39.3 x 24.4 in.

“Carma” (above) is the first portrait in the “In Bloom” series. Carma and I have a longstanding history from childhood, where we grew up on neighboring properties in rural NSW.

The portrait is a celebration of our continuing close relationship, shaped by our shared history and emotional connections. Carma is a strong advocate for animal rights and the environment and one of the kindest and most generous women I know. I was particularly inspired to incorporate flora and fauna into Carma’s portrait to add a bohemian tone and represent her love of nature and animals. The blue tongue lizard, “Fezzik,” is one of Carma’s many animal friends.

This portrait sparked the initial idea for the collaborative project with the florist Amy Clement.

Photorealism still life art
Narelle Zeller, “Carma, Still Life No.5,” 2020, oil on ACM panel, 10 x 10 in.
This painting is the fifth and final painting in the Carma series.

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