Still Life. Almost.

We did still life drawings of apples today in art class.

Or as still as it can be with several 5 through 8 year-olds around a table!


Still life drawings are a great idea for kids. They’re good practice in drawing from life… but the “life” stays put and doesn’t run off like your cat or your baby sister. And, still life subjects actually don’t have to be alive at all. You could just as easily draw a stack of books or a Barbie doll. As long as they’re still.

Today we worked on apples in a bowl… if you’re working with kids, get them to take a really good look at what they’re about to draw. In most of our minds, apples are round and red, and that’s exactly what you’ll get if you just set a bowlful of apples in front of kids and tell them to draw them! Ask them to look at the apple and describe its shape. One little person today thought her apple looked sort of like a heart with a flat bottom. Another thought his looked pretty round, except flattened in at the top and bottom. So we practiced drawing the shape of one apple.

And then we practiced drawing the bowl. We talked about how it would look like a circle if we looked at it from above, but if you look at it from an angle it looks more like an oval. With a little bit of the bottom showing underneath the oval. It really helps if you can talk through the shapes of things with kids every time you draw with them… they have preconceived ideas about how things look, but if they learn to notice the shapes of things their drawings will improve quickly!

Children tend to be heavy-handed with pencils, so you have to keep reinforcing the idea of sketching lightly so they won’t have dark lines to erase. You can also have them draw with either a yellow colored pencil or a pencil from the “H” side of hardness. Yellow pencils and “H” pencils (such as 2H, 3H, 4H etc.) make lighter lines, and even if they don’t erase all the way you won’t see the sketch lines in the finished drawing. On the sketch above, they’ll need to erase the line of the bowl behind the apples, as well as the “horizon line” of the table.

After sketching, we worked on coloring our apples… starting with a single apple. Again, have the kids look closely at their apple and tell you what colors they see. They’ll be surprised to see that there are several colors! We saw that yellow was underneath the red, so we did an underpainting of yellow with our colored pencils. Then we added the red striations of the Gala apple with lines of color that followed the contour of the apple. Or at least that was the general idea… contour lines are difficult for young folks. (Practice, practice, practice!) And we kept looking at our apple to see where the red was darkest and where the yellow showed through the most. Then we added green highlights around the stem area of the apple, and also shaded with green over the darker red areas. Green is the compliment of red… directly across the color wheel… which makes it a good choice for shading. Whenever possible shade with a complimentary color instead of black! We added final details with brown… little flecks of brown on the apple and brown for the stem. The stem even had a hint of green in it.

So we drew the apples. And the bowl. And we looked at how other artists drew apples and bowls. “Looking” is a big part of drawing… encourage your young artists to look closely for details, shapes, colors, or anything else they notice!

And then several artists decided to eat our still life props!