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.


Art Appreciation ~ Cezanne Fruit Still Life

This week we started our study of Cezanne, a famous Post-Impressionist artist.

As this was our introduction lesson,we read Cezanne’s biography.  (During our next lesson we’ll revise his life story and the children write a narration of his biography on our Famous Impressionist Biography pages.)

I found a video showing about 5 minutes of his works with pleasant background music at Ambient Art – Cezanne.

For this week’s art lesson we chose to focus on Cezanne’s fruit still life paintings.  (Next week I think we will study his landscapes …)

Cezanne described the shapes that he found in nature as cubes, cones, cylinders and spheres.

We looked at how to shade a sphere at Learn To Art,  and we found this picture at showing the highlights and shadows very helpful:

Drawing Lesson - Understanding Light

We found this wonderful example of how to draw fruit using coloured pencils at

Plum in the Middle

And there was An Easy Beginner Drawing Lesson showing how to do a pencil sketch of a pear at

Now we were ready to draw.

Miss.L decided to sketch and colour the painting of Glass and Pears which we had in our book Impressionist Painters by Guy Jennings.  She needed a little help with her contour lines, on the first few pears, but quickly got the hang of shading with 3 different shades of each colour.  She started with the lightest colour, then the middle shade and then completed each fruit with the darkest colour at the edges, and created shadows.

Inspiration and Sketch

Glass and Pears by Miss.L (nearly 8 yrs)

Miss.K and I sketched the apple still life I set up to resemble Cezanne’s Apples and Oranges (except I didn’t have any oranges.)  She quickly mastered the shading technique we studied, and her apples turned out very well.  I spent at least an hour longer on my sketch and thoroughly enjoyed my art time.

Still Life and sketch

Apple Still Life by Miss.K (10 yrs)

And this is the sketch I completed:

Nadene's Still Life

I hope to do a few more Cezanne picture studies in the next weeks.  We have our Famous Impressionist Lapbook minibooks printed and we will use the Cezanne’s minibook to conclude our Cezanne study.

What Cezanne activities have you and your children enjoyed?

(PS: I have updated all the references and links as the orignal links no longer worked.)