TECHNIQUE: Once you are happy with the shape, proportion and composition of the still life, you can erase its lines of construction. This will leave you with an accurate outline of each form and the confidence that all the objects are positioned correctly. You are now ready to work on the details of each object.
Before your pencil touches the paper, spend some time looking at your objects and simplify forms. Visualize the basic shapes that you see in each object: circles, squares, triangles, rectangles. Start drawing the basic shapes of each object on the paper, rough them in: draw a circle for an apple, a rectangle for a mug, etc.
Establish the main areas of light and shade by lightly toning in the shadow shapes into a big two-dimensional value shape.
In this step, some basic tones are lightly applied to each object to help build up its three dimensional form.
TECHNIQUE: Now lightly sketch in the shapes of any shadows or reflections onto each object.
We can guess the spatial relationship between objects because of the overlapping masses, but there are no shades and no indication of the surface on which they sit.
To better define the planes, I drew a horizontal line behind the composition, to show where the table and the wall meet.
Until now the objects in the drawing are only empty shapes, completely flat and not appearing to sit on any surface.
TECHNIQUE: The tone of our still life is built up in four stages outlined in Steps 5 – 8.
Still Life. Begin adding more shapes to create the illusion of roundness. | Source
TECHNIQUE: In the third stage of building up the tone, you focus back on the objects. This time you deepen their tone, increasing the contrast between the areas of dark and light. This will enhance the form of the objects and increase their impact.
NOTE: This see-through drawing technique uses vertical and horizontal lines of construction to help you to draw convincing ellipses and to balance the symmetry of cylindrical forms.
Focus on the essential lines only, without too much detail. Draw with a light pencil, most of these initial lines will be erased later.
The use of a viewfinder, or view catcher, can help you see angles and lines better. Viewfinders are pretty inexpensive to buy, but you can make your own with supplies you have at home. I made mine using matting board.
Drawing presents several challenges, even to expert and seasoned artists.
We all drew as children and we were proud of our work. Then one day we became aware of mistakes and limitations in our drawings. That’s a bad day, many people stop drawing altogether.
Check angles and lines and how high each object is compared with the others. Look at how edges and lines intersect each other. | Source
NOTE: The more care you take over the accuracy of these marks, the easier you will find the next stage of the drawing – the shading of tones.
What a shame when a child labels him or herself “I suck at drawing”. Perfectionists do it more than others, because of the disappointment from the difference of how things look in their head and how they end up looking on paper.
TECHNIQUE: Finally, you focus again on the spaces between the objects, deepening their tones and increasing their contrast.
Our step by step still life lesson will teach you the drawing techniques used to create the still life above which was done with a 2B pencil on cartridge paper.
NOTE: The drawing of the light and shade between the objects must be treated with as much importance as the drawing of the objects themselves. The shadows cast beneath and around the objects add as much to the definition of their shapes as does the shading of their surfaces. Notice how the counter-change of tones between the objects and their surrounding spaces takes over from the use of line to define their forms.
Keep comparing darks and lights and you’ll be able to see what needs adjusting.
There are shapes that are formed by the light as it hits the objects. To see them better squint your eyes. With the filter provided by your eyelashes, you’ll be able to see shapes of darks and lights.
I don’t consider myself a master artist, I enjoy sharing with others what I’ve learned so far. I wrote this article hoping that it will help beginner artists in their drawing process, not because I believe I “know” how to draw.
TECHNIQUE: In any still life, you should start to draw the objects as if they are transparent wire frame forms with visible lines of construction. This technique helps you to be fully aware of the shape of each individual form and its position in relation to the other forms. It is important to sketch the objects lightly as this makes it easier to change any mistakes and erase any lines of construction.
How to Set up a Still Life and Complete a Still Life Drawing – Tutorial | Source
Still Life is the best subject in art for learning and teaching the skills of drawing and painting. It teaches you how to look at objects and see them like an artist – with a perceptive awareness of their outline, shape, proportions, tone, color, texture, form and composition.
The more you draw the most accurate you get at it, no matter your initial skills.
TECHNIQUE: When composing a still life, try to introduce the qualities that make an interesting arrangement. You need to be aware of the abstract structure of your arrangement: its balances and contrasts of line, shape, tone, color, pattern, texture and form.
NOTE: The biggest problem at this stage is maintaining a balance of tones across the whole still life so that no object appears too dark or too light. You are searching for a unity of tone and form.
When you are done, spray your drawing with a fixative to prevent smudges.
Make sure you maintain the relations between heights and widths, and to make sure the directions of the lines are consistent with those of the models.
How to Set Up an L-Shape Composition for a Still Life of Kitchen Items Video
Drawing from a photo is not the same. Try to set up your own composition. The video on the right will give you some great tips on how to do it.
Make Your Pencil Darker Only When You Are Happy With the Drawing
When you draw a line partially hidden behind objects, make sure the line on one side is consistent with the line on the other side, checking with a pencil or a Drawing lines of partially hidden objects | Source
I hope you found it useful and enjoyable. Happy drawing! : )
Few things to keep in mind while setting up your still life:
How do you get the proportions right? How do you keep some parts from looking out of scale or distorted? How do you make your drawing look realistic and not childish?
When you are happy with your drawing, erase all earlier sketch lines and continue to refine the objects.
Hold your pencil in front of you and check for the angles of the lines and how high each object is compared with the others. Look at how edges and lines intersect each other.
I’m stopping here with this still life, but you can continue adding more details and refining the tones and shades.
Look around the house for everyday things, like pots, pans, fruits, vegetables, utensils, etc. If you are a beginner, choose objects with simple shapes; avoid things that are too complicated or ornate.
Once you have mastered simple objects you can choose more challenging ones. Have a specific light source, not multiple lamps or overhead lighting, your light should come from one source, and possible not straight down or front.
The goal is to get a strong contrast between your highlights and your shades. You can use sunlight, but keep in mind that it changes with time. If you use a lamp, make sure the light from windows is not interfering.
When you work with multiple objects, set them up so they overlap. As a general rule avoid placing objects so that their edges barely touch. Overlapping adds visual interest, and defines depths, making clear what is in front and what is in the back.
It’s ok if a few objects are isolated or a couple barely touch: it’s good to keep it varied. Walk around your still life to find the most interesting angle. Even if you are drawing one single object, there are always some views that are better than others.
Try taking things out, adding others in, moving and tweaking. Play with the composition until you are satisfied with it. When you are happy with your setup, you can start the fun part: drawing.
Look for all shadow shape: within the object itself and the shadow of the object being cast onto something else. They are just as important as the shapes of the object itself. Draw the cast shadows of each object on the plane and on other objects.
NOTE: A transparent wire frame approach to sketching the still life helps you to organize the composition of the group. It makes it easier to see the shape, position and proportions of each object in relation to its neighbours.
Steps 5 to 8: These steps illustrate how to render the three dimensional form of the still life using tone.
THE FINISHED STILL LIFE: The completed still life should work on two levels: as a realistic representation of the group of objects and as a dynamic composition of visual elements, harmonizing and contrasting the use of line, shape and tone.
Begin adding more shapes to create the illusion of roundness, keeping it sketchy.
To draw a still life the first thing you need to do is finding a still life composition to draw. You can find photos of different objects in magazines, books, or online. However, drawing from life provides the artist with more accurate details and information.
Always be aware of plane changes, lighting, and contours that affect forms so that you can render forms correctly.
Still Life Drawing with shades and darker outlines. | Source
Steps 1 to 4: These steps demonstrate how to draw the shapes and proportions of the still life objects using line.
NOTE: You need to be careful in balancing the tonal values of the objects and the spaces between them to ensure that you create a unified image.
The video below provides great tips on how to approach setting up a still life composition.
You can also use a workable fixative and spray your drawing when you reach a stage in which nothing needs to be erased. The fixative will protect the work done so far, and you can keep working on tones.
Once you have defined all basic shapes, start to refine the objects making the lines neater and erasing the preliminary guidelines. Define curves more precisely.
Replicate the same angles and relationships on paper, but keeping it loose and sketchy.
Develop the darkest areas and strong lines of the objects. Find the darkest darks and the lightest lights and start building up the main tonal areas based on the structure.
TECHNIQUE: The second stage in building up the tone focuses on the spaces between and around the objects.