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Classic Still Life Drawing

Classic Still Life Drawing
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Students will learn the classic method of drawing, on toned paper with charcoal or black pencil, heightened with white.

By Roberta Scrivener [Roberta is an art educator at Temple Christian School in Madison Heights, VA]


  • Introduce the students to the concept of parallel line shading
  • Introduce them to the concept of still life as related objects
  • Introduce the students to the concept of repetition of shape within a composition
  • Introduce the students to classic method of drawing, on toned paper with charcoal or black pencil, heightened with white
  • Students will recognize that they are part of an ongoing tradition in art when using this method, for they will have seen works by Degas, Michaelangelo, Da Vinci and others worked in this method

What You Need:

  • Toned drawing paper, in dark tan
  • Black colored pencil
  • chalk
  • scratch paper
  • Still life elements: (your choice – vases, fruit, baseball glove, ball, and bat, basketball).
  • Examples of similar drawings, done on tinted paper and heightened with chalk by masters such as Rembrandt, Degas, etc.

What You Do:


Talk about the depth that shows in many drawings, and how they are not merely outlines, but also have shading added. Explain that this describes two kinds of drawing: contour, and shaded. Show examples of drawings done on tinted paper, from Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Degas, and others. Point out the delicate shading-soft close parallel lines. Practice this type of line work on the scratch paper. Make sure that the students are working with a light touch. Display the still life, and talk about how it can be drawn, showing the areas such as circles and curved lines that can be picked up on. Have students begin with an outline drawing, working on the objects in the front first, and then adding shading as they see it. Allow students to add highlights with the white chalk.


Hold up drawings, noting the similarities with the master drawings looked at earlier. Talk about working from other artists’ drawings, noting that this is a time-honored practice. Encourage students to continue to work in this vein at home, as well.


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