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Drawing A Still Life - A Step By Step Pencil Art Instruction For Beginning Artists

Updated on March 26, 2011

Drawing A Still Life

Drawing still life is something you will have done at school or college and drawing still life can be very educational for the art student, it teaches you observational drawing, which comes in handy for seeing and sketching. By still life, we mean anything that is an inanimate object that stays static so you can capture that particular arrangement.

An example of a still life could be a collection of bottles, a cup and saucer, all put together on a table cloth is still life, so it is these things that you can find in your house to draw, so there are no excuses for anyone not having anything to draw.

Also a busy scene full of people captured through a good quality camera, technically the photo could be used to draw a still life from that photo as it is a moment captured in time.

For our little guide on drawing still life, I have chosen an odd arrangement of a salt and pepper shaker set with a toast holder and a red vase ornament which I've arranged on a small table, (Try and make your still life arrangements interesting or at the very least challenging to draw!)

In the photo below, I have tried to make the arrangement of the items interesting so that the toast holder is on an angle that helps to break up the other items and really gives us the central focus of looking at the red letter O colored vase. also I have added a small table cloth around the edge of the table, to give it some visual interest, and plus it adds another texture to the still life scene as I may want to lightly sketch some of the folds later on.

An Unusual Still Life Composition

Arrange your composition to draw.
Arrange your composition to draw. | Source

Still Life Sketch Draft

Sketch lightly.
Sketch lightly. | Source

A Small Beginning Sketch

Still lifes all begin with a rough sketch to find the place of all of your still life elements, in this case the whole shape of the composition must be taken into account and mapped out first, it's usually a good idea to use a light handed approach at first when sketching, as you can figure out the scale and the proprtions of each item as you go along.

To help make the drawing show up on camera I've pressed slightly hard on the pencil to show the prgress for each step of the way.

Draw Darker - Lines Become Clearer

Add minor details and darken those pencil lines more.
Add minor details and darken those pencil lines more. | Source

Thicken Your Pencil Lines

Darkening your pencil lines can help to define and refine your still life drawing and the addition of some shading could help you later on in the colour scheme, just to work out the light and dark sources, but if you are working from a photo, then you would already know what the light source is and where it falls on your subject.

Here I've worked out most of the shading and shadows and we can then prepare for the color....

Add Shading And Color To Still Life

Shading and colors added make iot appear in depth and the red contrasts the grey areas in this odd composition.
Shading and colors added make iot appear in depth and the red contrasts the grey areas in this odd composition. | Source

Adding Details And Colour

The details that I have added here are the fine details on the imitation flowers and the shadows underneath the toast holder colouring it in with my standard but classic medium the Crayola coloured pencils, notice I only use a red as I want to try and convey the chrome metallic contrast against the one red colour.

You'll find that practice does help when setting up varied subjects to draw from life that are still and that you do get better at it as time goes on too. Also don't worry about catching every little bit of detail as no one will know really unless you are doing tutorials like this as you may have noticed the bars on the toast holder, I missed one out, so long as you try and capture the spirit of the arrangement and the composition and some elements of shadow and challenge yourself to draw stuff you don't usually draw, then that's great still life drawing practice.

Still life subjects are all around us and if we take the time to look, then we can find something of worth to draw and paint and capture a moment in time that probably no one else will have the foresight to see.

Still Life Drawings

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    • waynet profile imageAUTHOR

      Wayne Tully 

      8 years ago from Hull City United Kingdom

      Yes that's a great idea! They can try that too! Cheers now! Cubism is a great way of drawing simply....then adding to that would be great with the details....

    • micadeolu profile image

      Michael Adewale Olubode 

      8 years ago from Nigeria. +2347067550237.

      Nice hub you got there.

      How about letting them start their drawing by first drawing in cubism, then upgrade the drawing by adding details to the drawn basics, then colors?

    • June McEwan profile image

      June McEwan 

      8 years ago from The Works 8 Mitchell Street Crieff Scotland PH7 3AG

      I know how you feel!

    • waynet profile imageAUTHOR

      Wayne Tully 

      8 years ago from Hull City United Kingdom

      Thanks June! That's what drawing and sketching is all about, having a go, I used to hate it at college with all the art theory and learning about art history I just wanted to study other artists work and draw and create some cool stuff....ah well! lol!

    • June McEwan profile image

      June McEwan 

      8 years ago from The Works 8 Mitchell Street Crieff Scotland PH7 3AG

      Nice n clear n simple approach. I hope it makes readers have a go!

    • waynet profile imageAUTHOR

      Wayne Tully 

      8 years ago from Hull City United Kingdom

      Hey thanks for that, they may find other hubs helpful in drawing too!

    • Sinea Pies profile image

      Sinea Pies 

      8 years ago from Northeastern United States

      You make it sound so easy. I work in a school and am going to forward this link to our Art teacher. She would love to use this for her middle school art students. Thanks! Voted up!


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