18 Aug

This is a step by step instructional guide on how beginner level artists can create a professional still life drawing.

A still life is a painting or drawing of an arrangement of still objects. This can include common household objects such as flowers, fruit, or glassware or found objects that contrast in texture. Knowing how to draw a still life setup is important as a fine artist and illustrator, because it aids in observational skills. Before starting your still life, make sure to have good lighting, a background, a flat surface, drawing paper, a pencil, an eraser, and objects to draw. 

Using your own skill set, you can choose the complexity level of the objects you wish to draw. If you are a beginner, you can start off with objects that have simple geometric shapes and a flat color. If you’re more advanced you can challenge yourself with objects that have complex shapes, textures and patterns. In this example, the still life will consist of a vase and a flower.

Now that you’ve found the objects you’d like to use, it’s time to create your composition. Creating a composition requires the objects to be placed on a flat surface and against a background. You can begin creating an interesting composition using the objects you have gathered. Trying different compositions opens you to a range of possibilities. You can play with the color contrasts or size and shape of different objects to achieve an interesting setup. You can also vary the surface you put the objects on and against, as those also affect the composition. 

The most important thing you will need to make your composition come to life is good lighting. When lighting your objects, you can choose to have natural light from the sun or artificial light from a studio light, or lamp. The difference between the two light sources is that natural lighting is variable to change throughout different times of the day, while an artificial light source is fixed and will remain constant. You light your composition from different angles to see which works best. 

Once you’ve set your arrangement to the desired position, you may leave the setup and proceed to your sketchbook. Before starting the final drawing, you should start off by sketching out thumbnails. Thumbnails are mini drawings that help with finding the right composition. Create a frame around the still life your mind and keep your eyes on that vision while drawing. Draw from different positions and angles. The shapes may appear better on one side than another. Light may hit the objects better at one angle than another. Shadows may appear darker or lighter depending on the angle you’re looking from. 

Once you’ve found the zone you can move onto a new page for the next step, which is creating a rough draft. When creating a rough draft, you are making an enlargement of the thumbnail you think best captures your vision and adding value to it. The rough draft sketch you create will act as a value chart and guide you on where to place values in the piece. Once you have your sketch enlarged, you can block in big shapes of value. Any area that is in shadow, you can shade in, while leaving the light areas with the white of the paper.

As you draw, remember that the lightest light is lighter than the lightest dark. If you leave the room and you have not finished your drawing, make sure to leave a note that the setup is in use so no one moves the still life objects. Have fun, and enjoy creating your still life drawing. I hope the three step process work was helpful. From the thumbnail stage, to the rough stage to the final drawing you were just able to create your very own still life sketch!

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