One of the methods we use in Tarot is to combine two or three separate symbols to create one idea. This practice has provided me with a structure to approach designing still life painting.
I think the core reason that I enjoy painting from still life is the act of painting from 3 dimensional space for an extended period of time. Because I use photo references commonly I find it very valuable to have the memory of painting from a three dimensions fresh.
The above comment about the method in reading Tarot has infused the practice with another layer of meaning for me. In the following image I have three basic parts- the ribbon, the card and the glass talisman. I am using the purple ribbon now to express connection to the Divine; the glass piece is one that is used for energetic protection and the Two of Wands has a key idea something like ambition. Combining the three symbols into one concept I have called the piece- Courage.
The card in the image is from The Angels Tarot by Robert Place and Rosemary Ellen Guiley. It was published in 1995.