How Still Life Can Change Your Drawing Works. I’m not going to lie. I rolled my eyes at the idea of drawing still life. They’re just fruit and wine bowls, aren’t they? Then I spent some time on the subject and found that life art is still interesting than that! In the first weeks of my art design, I focused on the history of still life drawing. Because stationary objects, often with relatively simple shapes, are the perfect way to learn (or remember) some essential basics. I talk about things like shading, reflections, composition, even how to start a drawing. We will need all the vital elements in any image, be it still life, a landscape, or a portrait.
What is a still life?
Still, life (yes, this is the plural form, I know it sounds strange) has been around since the ancient Greeks, but the Dutch around the 16th century made it an art genre in its own right and perfected it over time. With a few exceptions, the definition is quite simple. Any inanimate or inanimate (stationary) object, natural or artificial, can be placed in a still life. As such, a still life can be much more than the obligatory plate of apples and pears. Yes, it can be fruit or any food. And it can be bottles and vases. But it also includes clothes, stones, books, dolls, furniture, your fireplace, or your favorite pair of hoops. But of course, there are no laws out some exceptions. Architecture, although not alive, does not count as an object. Also, you should be able to manually arrange things in still life, in theory at least. The sofa in your living room, however, is essential.
With plants, things can get even more complicated. Cut flowers are entirely acceptable, as you can see in my study cool drawing ideas beautiful roses for a still life. But opinions differ when it comes to houseplants or that little berry bush in your garden. These plants are alive and technically not inanimate (they grow and move with the sun), nor are they objects. However, potted plants are quite often the focus of still life art.
Why is creating still lifes a good practice?
The big thing about drawing still lifes is that you can start with almost simple forms, such as jars, bowls, and drinks. Contrary to the people form, animals, or photographs, which invariably have some difficulty, a still life can be as complicated or honest as you need. Because of this, you can focus on tackling some of the essential drawing basics without feeling overwhelmed or distracted by details. If you’re going to learn to shade, it is much easier to start with a couple of apples, as you can easily understand where the light is coming from and how it affects the simple, rounded outside of the products.
And even great, if your quiet life is indoors, you can change the lighting to your liking. The light will not change with the time of day, and you can use a flashlight to try different angles and see how this affects the shadows on your subject. I admit that apples are not a fascinating subject to work with for an artist, but they will help you learn to detect your tones, from the brightest highlights to the darkest tones, and especially the harshest ones in between.
Start with simple shapes.
Another benefit of starting with simple shapes is that it’s the least confusing way to introduce yourself to perhaps the most complicated drawing subject of all views. Trust me on this, if you need to know the idea from different eye levels, vanishing points, and even flare (this is my personal Everest), working with boxes and vases is a fabulous option because you can arrange them any way you want. Another tricky thing to correct (especially without a reference) is reflections on glass or metal surfaces. The effect of light falling on a curved surface and reflecting a distorted image of nearby objects is complicated. It cannot deny. Even identifying reflections correctly can be extremely difficult on a complex set of things.
But starting with your mandatory “bottle of wine next to a candle” can make things much easier for you. As with everything you are learning, try to understand the beginning and then move on to the advanced stuff. It includes taking time to consider what message you want and what your viewer will hear. You can let the colors work together, use a combination of textures to add interest, play with shadows and highlights. Do you want your objects to function as a group or want only one to stand out? Do you want your composition to be relaxing or moving, happy or sad? You can also add symbolism, where a particular object can represent an idea, opinion, or feeling (like the skull that reminds us of death).
Famous still life art that is not dull
I have never been a fan of still life art. Until I realized that the wide range of objects, angles, and arrangements gives you possibilities of expression that other works of art do not have. Now I am completely fascinated with it. Everyone defines “interesting” differently, sure. But sometimes, it helps to pause before dismissing an artwork as “boring.” Let your gaze wander for a moment more, and you may be captivated by a skillful composition with many beautiful details. At the extremely smallest, it will advise you to follow the artist’s path and make you appreciate his plan and performance. Ask yourself, why did they want this special light? Why this specific order of things? What is your focal point? What could the message be?
Not all works of art speak loud and clear, nor is it necessary. Sometimes it is the slow-burning ones that manage to fascinate us the longest. This dark painting by Pieter Claesz is an understatement that deserves our attention. The designer uses soft tones with a limited palette to not be diverted from the work itself. You can see different elements, such as alloy, iron, wood, and glass, all designed to complete fulfillment. My favorite parts are the reflection of the candle in the already super interesting wine glass and the fantastic shadow play in the foreground book. But the more I look at the piece, the more skillfully painted details I discover.