Drawing & Painting Still Life

The Grade 7/8’s Construct a Still Life

Bring in a favourite object, I said.  When it came to class time, very few remembered to (Aaagh – even with reminders), so it became rather a collection of hastily grabbed objects.  Too bad;  I had hoped the project would hold more personal significance, and be more interesting.  But, it is what it is – so we went with it.

I told them about a painter I observed when I worked in the Art Department at the University of Calgary.  John Hall would construct elaborate, shallow depth still lifes, photograph them, and then render them into large painted canvases using super realism.  We would replicate some of his processes when it came to the second half of the project.

Day One & Two (and Three, I guess):

The students arranged their objects into a shallowbox still life, on fabric draped over small pieces of wood.  This provided a staged setting for the composition, and they set up their drawing tables accordingly.  Instruction was given on drawing with pencil using close observation.

Starting with sketching the still life overall, they could then begin to add detail in smaller shapes, and beginning to use shading to make objects appear 3 – dimensional.

I encouraged them to draw what they see, not what they think a given object should look like.   Observe the different values here, as light hits various objects, and the shadows play a part in the composition.  Angles are different for each student there, so, combined with each person’s individual personality of drawing:  everyone’s will look slightly different!  Take a look.  (If you double click on an image, you will see it bigger in it’s entirety, and perhaps with comments from me.)


Day Four & Five (maybe even Six):

Now familiar with the composition, the students were ready for the next part.  I had photographed the still life, and the teacher copied that image onto transparancies, which we projected onto heavy stock paper so the students could trace out the shapes and basic details.  It was not so much about the drawing now, but getting to the paint!  They went onto to filling in what detail they needed freehand in pencil, and then applying the paint. In pairs, they had the photo in front of them as further reference, and the colour copy of it posted on the board.  I encouraged them to observe closely, watching the change in values as the light hit different objects, and keeping from flat applications of colour.  This was a challenge for them, along with their tendency to chat with brushes poised and still.  We could not extend the project to any more classes – it was going to start to drag for them.  And be a drag.

I would do this lesson again, but only with a class I know would be excited about building a personal still life together, commit to the long term – and one (like this one) that is relatively small.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m glad we did it, and I think they learned from it.

(I did.)

Fall 2011 – Winter 2011 / Parliament Oak School



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