Starting a Still Life

Last week I wrote about our success with Mona Brooke’s warm up lessons using ideas in her book Drawing with Children

This week I want to share a great tip for drawing a still life ~


Most people struggle with “where to start”.

A blank page is frightening.

My tip is to first start by making a “frame and name“. Just draw a frame around the page freehand and write your name, date and title at the bottom.

There! No more blank page.

Now where to start?

We used Mona’s warm up on pg.86 – drawings with objects overlapping each other.  (In a still life some thing in front often overlaps some object behind it.)

Quick and fun!

Mona Brookes says that most objects have a central focus or basic function that leads you to a good starting place, e.g.:

  • most flowers have a center
  • most plants have a central stem
  • most still life containers have a hole
  • most living creatures have eyes
  • most buildings have a central door or archway.

This is a KEY!

Simply find a central starting point.

Work from the starting point and develop the object, then go on to the object next to or behind it.

On to Lesson 3 Drawing from a Still LifeThe Teapot and the Vase

We used her photo and step-by-step instructions. It was fairly simple and everyone managed very well.

To complete the still life, add shading, texture, colour and the background.

I often tell my kids to do the background first.  This way they don’t mess up details they spent ages working on coloring in between small spaces.

I apply a starting point to our Sketch Tuesday assignments:

My kids both sketched these lovely pictures from memory/ their imagination.  But you’ll notice that there are no objects overlapping.

In the picture above you can see that there is overlapping  – this was drawn from a still life!

Look at other Sketch Tuesday sketches drawn from a still life ~

Bike by Miss. L9

Starting point was: “Begin in the middle of your page with the center of a circle/ nut/ wheel”

“Start with a bottle top in the middle of your page.  Remember to look at how objects overlap”

“Begin with a large vegetable that touches the sides of your page.”

When you set up your still life, think about which central object you should focus on in your sketch.  It is not necessary to include everything in the sketch, nor do you have to focus on the object in the middle of the still life.  You can choose any object and place that as your starting point.  It is easier to begin with something in front and add objects behind it.

I hope these tips help.

Try it in your next Sketch Tuesday assignment or art lesson.

Have you any tips to share?  Please comment.


4 thoughts on “Starting a Still Life

  1. I usually have the kids find the largest shape and draw it. It gets something on that “scary” blank page, challenges them to create the focal point and to add the items around it. I find that overlapping is super difficult, though, and I love the overlapping exercise.
    THANK YOU! Your blog is very inspirational! I am a specialist in learning disabilities and teach art, as well, at a small private Christian school on the coast of North Carolina, USA. I am able to teach my children and others.
    God Bless and keep it up!


  2. Pingback: From Line to Mass « Soul Child Studio

  3. Thanks for sharing what you’re doing with Mona Brooks book I haven’t really done any *arty* things with the DC this year, so far, you’ve inspired me to do so.


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