What Is Still Life Drawing?
Updated: May 27, 2020
Still Life Art is a term that has been used multiple times in middle school if I remember correctly. Well, if you haven't been paying attention in class as well, I will summarize the results after having researched it today. The usefulness of this practice will surprise you!
What is still life drawing or still life art?
Still Life is an art style used by many famous artists during the past centuries already. The technique is about recreating a motionless scene often using multiple objects from everyday surroundings. Still Life Art is the opposite of another art style, which is called figure drawing.
Well, that's great to know, right? I'm not satisfied with this answer alone, too. Don't worry, I'll explain why this style is being used so often and how you can learn it in the following sections and paragraphs.
I. Why Do Artists Create Still Life?
The reasons for any artist to create still life art are multifarious. Whether the artist prefers painting or drawing doesn't matter. The reasons for creating still life artworks remain the same.
The ability to observe objects correctly is mandatory for still life drawing or painting. Therefore you definitely need to already have mastered the five basic perception skills, that are mandatory to know for every artist!
The perception skills I'm talking about are quickly summarized. We're talking about the perception of edges, spaces, relationships, light and shadow, and the perception of the whole or the gestalt.
Understanding these 5 perception methods is very important to getting still life drawing and painting right. Primarily, Still Life is all about observing the proportions of your objects correctly and understanding the relationships and distances.
During the observation process you always have to pay attention to a few things, let me explain them to you. When you're about to fabricate still life art, one of the most important things to pay attention to is to properly recreate the specific scene correctly.
To achieve that, you have to be able to show in your artwork that you understand in what relation the different objects stand to each other. When you're always additionally considering the use of light and dark as you see it you are likely to do it right.
Use lights and shadows on purpose in your drawing or painting to make the depth clearly visible. Remember, the viewer has to have the feeling of looking at a real scenery of regular objects when examining your art. The art style is not at all about being able to freely swing your pencil or brush however you want to swing it or create whatever you like to create.
Recreating the seen subject as accurately as possible is your goal exerting still life practice.
It is also a great opportunity for you to study or improve your perception skills.
The more often you draw still life art, the better you become at perceiving the world as an artist does.
Returning to the observation procedure again, you will always have to depict the objects in front of you in their original correct position. I know, I've already said this a couple of times now but I genuinely want you to always keep this goal in your head.
The sizes of the objects obviously also play an important role in your overall still life art progress. I'm not talking about their dimensions if you would compare them if they'd be standing right next to each other but you have to perceive the heights and widths exactly as you see them from your point of view, which you want to recreate.
It takes more effort and time to learn to perceive the size of objects on different levels of depth than you probably think right now. This is due to the fact, that our left brain apparently is in charge of detecting, processing and comparing sizes in most cases.
To change that quickly, to train your right brain to take over in the right moments you don't have to draw or paint anything.
My recommendation would be to go outside from time to time just to sit somewhere in a park or in the city and look at your surroundings.
While doing this, you want to genuinely try to perceive relationships, spaces, and distances within one object and between different objects as you see them. Tell your left brain to shut up for a minute and let the right side in your head train to perceive.
When drawing or painting still life pieces you can focus on different things to learn and improve. Taking a messy bed for example as main subject for your artwork will enable you to create wrinkles or folds faster.
Another example you could focus on would be a bottle consisting of glass or glasses themselves. Including these everyday objects can improve your understanding of light reflections and what possibilities you have of putting it on your paper or canvas.
II. How To Learn Still Life Art As I've already mentioned the basis on which you have to build your still life skills on is your grasp of the five general perception skills. Once you've done this you are ready to continue with the actual still life drawing or painting process.
What most artists do at first is the background and the surface on which your objects will be located when you're starting your artistic session. Cover it in any kind of fabric you want to. Examples are duvet covers, ordinary t-shirts or blankets just to name a few to get you going.
Choosing your objects will now be the next step in your set up process. You can literally choose any kind of object you're keen on recreating or learning about. I know, I've mentioned somewhere at the top of today's article, that often objects are being used from a regular household.
Of course, this doesn't at all apply to your selection of objects. You are not even slightly limited in your choice so you could take really anything. The only really important thing is for the object to not move during the whole session.
Please don't use your hamster...
The third important thing you need is a source of light. Any lamp you normally have standing right next to your bed and use to read before going to bed. Take that one and experiment a little with the positioning.
Let it shine on your objects from above will make your scenery look natural because the light source obviously imitates the sun. You could also put it directly next to your objects but turned away from them. The list goes on and on and the effects are varying a lot.
I don't want to take it all away now because I want you to take action yourself and look at the different effects the light position can have on the look of your objects. You could also very well use this opportunity directly to train your skill regarding the perception of lights and shadows.
You can further experiment with multiple sources of light and with repositioning your objects in various ways. The number of possibilities is almost indefinitely high. If you find the light to be too bright, take a plastic bag (preferably in white) and wrap it around the light source of your choice.
When you've completely set up everything to this point there is only one optional step left for you to do. Taking reference pictures of your complete set-up isn't really necessary. Nevertheless, it is quite useful to have such images on your own phone in case you want to repeat one exact still life set-up from past sessions.
This is a good opportunity to improve specific types of objects. We all know that only through repetition we really learn stuff. It's definitely not mandatory but I highly recommend it for study purposes.
Finally, you're ready to start your still life project. Have fun with it and be sure to share it with the Mac H. - Creative community on Facebook.
III. Who Are The Most Famous Still Life Artists?
Here is a list of very famous still life artists from different art epochs who have been using completely different styles.
1. Tom Wesselmann
2. Pieter Claesz
4. Giorgio Morandi
5. Paul Cezanne
6. Francisco de Zurbaran
7. Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin
8. Georges Braque
9. Paul Cezanne
10. Vincent van Gogh
Do you want to see examples of their work? Check it out on this amazing list:
IV. Related Questions
1. What Are The Three Basic Ingredients In Paint?
There are three basic ingredients in paint. The ingredients are pigment, binder, and solvent. These are responsible for the color and texture of the paint.
2. What Is Observational Drawing?
Observational drawing includes simply drawing from life in general. Still life drawing or figure drawing are both parts of observational drawing.
3. Are Flowers Considered Still Life?
Yes, flowers are considered to be objects suited for still life art. In most famous artworks common household objects are used in the artworks, but still life also includes any kind of fruits and plants which flowers are a part of.