Still life drawing ideas for Art students
High school Art students are often required to produce still life drawings or paintings within the confines of a busy classroom. Most Art Departments have cupboards crammed full of visually interesting objects that can be used to create still life arrangements. This article lists still life ideas for teachers or students who are stuck or in need of inspiration. The collection includes tried and true favourites that have been used by Art teachers for generations as well as more unusual and contemporary still life topics.
While senior Art students are usually free to come up with their own topic or theme many middle school or junior high school students are required to work with objects and scenes that meet the following criteria.
- Viewable first-hand
- Visually interesting, with a range of different textures, reflections, surfaces and forms.
- Small enough to set up and arrange in the classroom (light, easily moveable).
- Able to arranged in different ways creating original compositions so that multiple exciting works can be created.
- Durable enough to be handled safely by enthusiastic teenagers (without sharp for example).
- Able to stored from lesson to lesson without eroding decaying or breaking (this is not necessary if the still life can be drawn within a single lesson or photographed for completion at a later date)
- Appropriate for younger students to view.
Popcorn, as in these original still life artworks by Po Yuan (left) and Betty Chen (right), students of Elizabeth Jendek, Thai Chinese International School, Samutprakarn, Thailand.
Machinery and mechanical parts, such as old sewing machines, disassembled clocks, cogs/wheels and typewriters, inspired by this drawing from Parkway North High School, United States, taught by Art teacher and artist.
Science equipment, inspired by this pencil still life from a student of Grant Kniffen at Parkway North High School, United States.
Wooden mannequins as in these black and white still life drawings by Grade 10 and Grade 11 students from Conway High School, United States, taught by Carla Owen. Jeff (left), Dylan (centre) and Nathan (right).
For more line drawing examples, please read our comprehensive Line Drawing Guide for Art Students.
Preserved animals and other specimens in jars such as these modern still life artworks by Cindy Wright.
Shells, as in these artworks from the students of Elizabeth Jendek (from left to right): Marisa Leong, Supanan Lee, Miri Morita, Warin (Pinky) Rungsakaolert and Po Yuan, completed while studying at Thai Chinese International School, Samutprakarn, Thailand.
Insects, such as these stippled pen drawings upon colored wash completed by Grade 11 students Emery (left) and Caleb (right) from Conway High School, United States, under the direction of experienced Art teacher, Carla Owen.
Many resources that demonstrate ‘how to draw step-by-step’ encourage students to draw by formula rather than learning to see and record what is in front of them. however, as it provides good insight into how tone can be built up using light and dark pencils on mid-tone paper.
Origami or folded paper, inspired by this observational drawings by Sean Dooley, a graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design.
Woodworking tools, as inspired by this teaching exercise by Jaime Brett Treadwell, artist and full-time Professor who teaches foundation courses for all AFA programs offered at Delaware County Community College including Studio Arts, Graphic Design, and Photography: