Painting from Life
For the first few years of learning to paint, I mostly worked from photos. I struggled to understand values, color & wanted to paint every little nuance. Photos compress values, color shifts and capture everything.
For the next 3 years, I painted tons of still life. I came to see values better, temperature & plane shifts. The photo of a lemon doesn't compare to an actual lemon. It was like apples & oranges (sorry, bad pun). It was easier to see the temperature shifts as well as the values of the objects that brought them form & dimension. My paintings came to life. In other words, painting from life taught me to "see" as artist.
I have always had my students paint still life. It's usually a split of 1/4 are excited & 3/4's were looking for something to hit me with or were shouting that they hated painting flowers/fruit as they tried to escape out the door. I set up a still life and have students stand over it, look into the shadows & have them describe the colors within. I'd then take a photo of the still life. In the photo, they no longer saw colorful shadows or temperature shifts in the objects. EYE OPENING MOMENT!
Still life can be anything. Gardening tools, your daughter's red boots, your decorative soap dispenser or a piece of lingerie. All you need is something that you find interesting to paint & a good light source. So go grab a couple of colorful spools of thread, a piece of fabric & go paint. You'll be a better artist for it. I promise!