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Still Life

Art 101 Week 1

Welcome to Art 101! This course will introduce you to the basics of still life, portraits, landscapes, and more.


If you have minimal experience with the art world, don’t worry! Whether you’re a complete beginner or seasoned artist, this course is designed to adapt to a wide range of skill levels. Even though we’ll begin each session by guiding you through the characteristics and techniques of each art form, you’ll also have the creative flexibility to show off your unique style and message through your works. 


We’ll begin week 1 of camp with still life drawings. Still life is a genre depicting inanimate subject matter that are often arranged next to each other in a specific way. Creating still life drawings is a great way to improve your perceptive awareness of shape, form, and proportion.


Here’s a reference photo that’ll we’ll practice with. Notice how there are quite a few things going on in the image. Outlining the general contours of each object as well as their heights and width is helpful to map the actual image out on paper. 



Now, prepare a piece of paper (sketch paper is preferred, but any blank sheet is fine). With a light pencil, block out each object with a square that corresponds to its width and height. Focus on the size of each object as well as its position relative to the rest of the frame. Make sure you don’t press too hard with the pencil because we want to easily erase these squares later.




Once the objects are blocked out, lightly sketch the contours of each object within its square. Don’t worry about making, for example, the apple perfectly round. Focus on the general shape of each object; we can always sharpen or round out edges later on in the process.


Once you’re happy with the composition of your sketch, you can erase the squares we drew in the previous step. 




Shading objects will give your drawing some dimension and depth. Apply some tonal values to each object to build up its three-dimensional form. If you have trouble with this step, you can (very, very lightly) block out the specific areas of dark, medium light, and light shadows on each object. Make sure that these lines, however, are erased after you’ve used them for guidance. We want gradient, smooth shadows—especially for curved or round objects—and not blocks of black and grey. 




Now you can focus on shading the space in between objects. Once again, you can outline the general shape of shadows for guidance. Remember not to make the entire shadow one shade of black or grey. Notice how a shadow slowly begins to fade as your gaze moves away from the object that is casting it.



Time for finishing touches! Step away from your drawing and add details if you’d like. You can deepen shadows or fix certain shapes. You can also use an eraser to lighten up certain areas or smudges.




If you’re not happy with your work, don’t worry! You can always practice your skills by starting again. Feel free to follow the tutorial and re-do the sketch. Keep your original drawing, though, so you can see your progress over time.


If you are ready to move on, find a few objects in your house that you’d like to incorporate in your still life (e.g. fruit, cups, vases). Arrange these objects in front of you however you like, then use the tutorial to sketch them onto paper. Make sure to keep all your drawings in a clean and safe place!

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