Your First Week of Drawing: Drawing a Still Life

Take-away: Gather a few objects like a tree leaf, a banana, a stuffed animal or a tea bag. Now sketch one of them! This is your first still life. πŸ™‚

Do not draw from photographs for this exercise.

Reading Time: 3 minutes+ 30-60min of practice


Hey there! Ready for some sketching?

This is part 3 of the series “Your First Week of Drawing”. Here is the previous part.

Here’s the first part: Where to Start?

Now, let’s draw some still lifes!

1. What is a Still Life Drawing?

When you draw a non-living object from real life, you’re making a still life. Think of all those old paintings of flowers and fruit bowls – those are still lifes. We will start very simple, with just one single object.

Good objects to pick for your first time are organics, like a bell pepper or a banana. Why? When you draw a banana and you make it a bit too thick or too small, then your drawing will still look like a banana. Now if you pick a glass or keyboard for your first attempt, then you have all that cumbersome geometry and symmetry. Draw it wrong? Now it looks broken. So it’s easier to avoid man-made objects in the beginning.

Here’s a good list to choose from:

My #1 recommendation: plant/tree leaves. Easy to find, beautiful curves and super-forgiving to draw.

  • plant or tree leaves (ivy is fun to draw!)klokhuis
  • veggies: a bell pepper, a pumpkin
  • non-round fruit like a banana or a pear
  • a banana peel
  • eaten apple core (a fresh apple is a tad too symmetrical)
  • small bones (why would you have that laying around though?)

If you don’t have any fruit or veggies laying around and not a single plant growing in your neighbourhood, then you can pick anything close to you. Don’t worry about finding the perfect beginner’s still life. It’s more important to start practicing today.

2. Why do we draw Still Lifes?

So why do we do still lifes? Our goal is to translate 3D-forms from the real world to 2D-forms on your paper. You want to understand volume and 3D-shapes. This will help later for perspective, shading and so on. Still lifes train your eye and your brain in a different way than grid drawing does.

Grid drawing can form bad habits – such as not looking at your reference as a whole or becoming unable to estimate big shapes. That’s why you want to do still lifes together with drawing from photographs.

3. How to draw a Still Life

There are a lot of techniques to help still life drawing, for example creating a viewfinder. We’re not gonna look at that stuff now, this is a simple get-started walk-through.

So let’s draw!

Step 1: Draw the general shape softly (= sketching)

Step 2: Mark the details

Step 3: Draw in bold lines, correct the sketch lines when necessary

Step 4 (optional): Draw the outline of the shadow. Often the edge of the shadow is a bit fuzzy, so it’s an exercise in decision-making! πŸ™‚

Shading your still life is optional. Do whatever is more fun to you! With time and space left-over, pick up your object and draw it a few more times from different angles.

Here’s my first page:

This was a year later:

Back then I didn’t draw everyday – so you can improve faster by putting in more hours.

4. How NOT to draw a still life

Drawing from a photo of a still life is NOT drawing a still life! It’s a photo study. You’re not training 3D to 2D, instead it’s a more advanced version of grid drawing or maybe a subject study.

However, you can apply what you learn from your still lifes to your photo studies. You will have a better understanding of volume, so you can figure out what is going on in a particular pictures.

If you have any more questions, leave a comment or mail me at (personal email).

Have fun!

– Iris





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