Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday's Art Smarts: Creating a Still Life Painting

I love the stage that Natalie is in right now. I've talked before about how she is just now able to make recognizable drawings, drawings which actually look like what they're supposed to be. It's so exciting to watch that skill develop and grow, and it opens up a whole new world of possibilities as far as art education. 

I've been thinking about helping the kids paint a still life. Is there any better way to help develop that skill? The kids completed a similar project when they tried painting in the style of Monet and it was such a success. So this week, we went for it again.

What surprised me - in a good way - was how well Daniel was able to complete this project. Sometimes I don't think I give him enough art credit, so to speak. I was impressed with his own growing ability to recreate a still life on paper.

With that said, I'd say that this project is appropriate starting at about age 3, or whenever your child is beginning to make recognizable drawings, however simplistic. 


computer to access the internet, or still life paintings at home to look at
still life objects
painting paper
Sharpie marker
watercolors (or whichever paint you prefer) and water
paint brush
sheet and art mat (to protect your work space!)


I started by sitting the kids down to look at several examples of still life paintings. We talked about what "still life" means and observed that most of the paintings were pictures of still objects and that it was all real-life stuff (no fantasy or pretend pictures). We also observed that most of them were pictures of fruit, bowls, vases, and other small objects that would fit on a table. Then we brainstormed other objects that one could include in a still life painting.

Time to try it ourselves! I set up a couple of objects on a table in our reading room. At first, I was going to have both children paint a picture of this plant:

But Natalie really wanted to paint these jars of shells:

 Who am I to stand in the way of artistic inspiration? So they each painted something different.

The drawing part of this process was the most difficult for the children (as I expected).

I guided Natalie with questions like, "Which bottle is the tallest?" "Look how small that bowl is in comparison with the glass bottles." "Is the bowl clear like the bottles?"

And for Daniel, I asked things like, "Which direction are the lines of the leaves going - side to side or up and down?" "Are there a lot of leaves or just a few leaves?" "What about the lines on the pot - which direction are those going?"

As I mentioned above, I was so impressed with how well they did! I really think that since I've been working with them on an art project every week, their skills are growing by leaps and bounds. I'm not sure that - a year ago - Natalie could have done as well as Daniel did today. Not because she's less talented, but because he's had more practice than she had at that age. I guess practice really does make perfect ;)

Here are their finished pencil drawings:

Then I outlined them in Sharpie (older kids could complete this step themselves). I love how Natalie really captured the size and shape of the different containers and that Daniel's is filled with lines, much like the real life objects they were looking at.

Then we broke out the watercolors and went to town.

This is where things became less life-like. I really encouraged them to look at the colors of the objects and use those colors in their paintings. But, let's face it, brown is boring when you're 4 years old. Purple is much more exciting.

So I gave up after a few minutes and just sat back and watched them fill in their pictures.

Here they are, all finished:

Daniel, age 3

Natalie, age 4

All in all, a pretty simple project! 

I'd love to hear from you if you try this yourself - and as always, if you blog about it, send me a link! It's so nice to know that the things we do in this house inspire creativity in another house!

Happy Friday, everyone - have a safe weekend :)

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  1. What a lovely still life drawing activity. I always find it so cool to see how children represent the things they see!

    1. Yes - the older my kids get, the more exciting art education is getting. It IS so much fun to watch them be able to reperesent an object on paper :)

  2. I think the plant looked easier to paint. I plan to try this with my kids once we get back to school and I'm featuring it tomorrow on Hobbies and Handicrafts. Thanks for linking.

    1. Yeah, I was def planning on having them both paint the plant because I thought it would be a nice simple object to start with...all those lines, which they're both so comfortable with now, anyway. But I love the way BOTH of them turned out and I'm so glad I let Natalie draw and paint those shells! And thank you for featuring me!!


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