Mixed Media Still Life Painting
This mixed media still life paintings art lesson is a terrific introduction to ink, watercolor and chalk pastels. It’s practically fool-proof, with results that are fun and impressive for you and your students.
By Andrea Mulder-Slater
What You Need:
- Watercolor paint
- Watercolor brushes
- Watercolor paper (if you don’t have watercolor paper, heavy drawing paper will do as long as it has “bite” and won’t soak through as you work on it.)
- Black (waterproof) India ink
- Wooden shish kabob sticks (very long wooden toothpicks)
- Water containers
- Chalk pastel (or even blackboard chalk will do — the brighter the colors, the better.)
- Still life subject matter (I’ve found that masks, dried flowers and pottery all work very well. Be sure to also have some colorful, patterned fabrics on hand.)
- Newspapers or plastic tablecloths as protection for work surfaces.
WARNING: Ink can be messy if spilled, so be careful!. You can substitute washable ink but the results are not nearly as impressive. I have had success using permanent ink with students as young as 9 and 10 years – in the classroom – with no problems. The key is to use spill-proof containers for your ink and make sure students know that once ink gets in clothing, it doesn’t come out.
What You Need:
- Set up your still life (if you have a large class, set out a number of different “still life centers” around the room so everyone has a good view). I always like using my collection of wooden masks but you can use any items you might have available (fruit, vegetables, vases, plants, etc.)
- Have your students draw what they see on a large sheet of paper (about 12″ x 15″ ) If you have students who groan and say “I can’t draw” remind them that they should only draw a basic outline of what they see. Also, let them know that the lines they draw are simply guidelines, and will change dramatically once the water media is added to the paper.
- Encourage students to fill the entire sheet of paper with their subject matter. Even if it means “moving” some objects around so the paper fills up.
- Once there is a basic pencil outline on the paper, have your students wet the paper with clean water — using a clean paint brush. The key is to not soak the paper totally and completely, just enough so that ink or watercolor will flow easily across the page.
- Next, while the paper is damp, have your students dip their shish kabob sticks into the ink (using the pointed end).
- They should then redraw their pencil lines, using ink (on the stick).
- The first thing that will happen is that the ink will “blob” up, and run on the paper — DON’T PANIC — you WANT this to happen! The idea is that you really can’t control what happens next.
- When all of the pencil outlines have been traced with the ink on the stick, let the ink dry. (The paper can still be damp, but there should not be any wet ink blobs on the paper.)
- Next, have your students add details with watercolor paint.
- I usually encourage my students to use colors not associated with the items they are painting. If a mask is brown — make it red. If a plant is green — make it blue. Of course, color choice is completely up to the individual.
- When the painting is complete (but still slightly damp), hand out chalk pastels and encourage your students to highlight certain areas of the painting. The idea is not to fill in large areas with pastel. Just a shot of bright color here and there (ie: along the edge of an object) is all you need.