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Still Life Drawing

Still life drawing focuses on still objects. Get your drawing material and have a seat in front of the objects  (fruit, teapot, bottle, books...) you would like to draw. Set the light right ( just one source of light would give you a nice dramatic effect ) and enjoy it!


-Drawing Paper

-Pencils ( a variety of hard and soft)

-Panel to put your paper on (or you can use  the table, but a panel on your knees  would be more comfortable)




Sit in front of the object you would like to draw and look at it from different perspectives. Then choose the point of view that pleases you most.

In this example we have a symmetric mug with handle. The image here is in black and white for simplicity, we will focus only on Still Life Drawing using pencils now. 


I chose a higher point of view for my perspective, since I can see more details (a portion of the inside of the mug) which gives more information about the 3 dimensions of the object, in this case the depth.


Start drawing with a pencil that has a light mark, the H ones, but it shouldn't be too hard since they can be difficult to erase. HB could be fine, or if you prefer a very light mark you can get H2-H4. Try to keep a light pressure but it is still important to feel in control of where the pencil goes. The lighter touch the better, since you are only sketching at first and still need to get the proportions right.


Draw the background line as light as you can ( the red line in the image on the left) . This line is the only reference you have for your mug. You will need to calculate proportions and symmetry with your eye keeping in consideration this specific line. 

Even if in reality the background is not a perfect straight line, it doesn't matter, since the imperfection is almost imperceptible. 


Find the center of your paper and draw a vertical line. This line is the line of symmetry of the mug.

Still life drawing has not a precise methodology to be applied to reproduce what we have in front of us. It is mostly based on intuition but you can still apply some logic and a few tricks. Each person should develop his/her own way to get the best result. For example you could compare the proportions looking also at the empty spaces. Below you will see some examples. 

Your goal at this point has to be to draw a proportional and symmetrical mug, the closest as possible to reality. Training your eye and synchronising it with your hand, will help you learn how to get control and put on paper your imagination. You wlll become freer to make decisions, decreasing the limitation your lack of technique and experience can cause. There is a chance that technique could become a prison, something to lean on, that's why it is important to practice your creativity and discipline at the same time. 

Below, the blue line is a distance that could help you decide what portion of the paper your mug will occupy. Use logic to guide your intuition and check with maths (in this case the similarity of the distances) to get a realistic result. 

If you do the same exercise of the blue line with your mind (or with your thumb) you will decide where to place the base of the mug and where should the central top be (a little bit above the central horizontal red line).


To draw your mug you need to understand the distance on different height levels. You can see that the blue line on the base is around 1/3 (maybe a bit more) of the blue line  at the half of the object. This will help you figure out the steepness at the sides of the mug  (check next image below).


Consider the inclination (steepness) of the side of the mug. Just looking without measuring it, we can say that it could be in the range of 20-30 degrees counter-clockwise from the central vertical red line. 


The superior part of the mug looks like it does not have any steepness on the sides. So we can draw the edges a bit curved and soft, following the straight blue line. 


Be aware of where the top of the mug ends and starts (just above the horizontal red line at the center) taking also into consideration its height (green line).


Draw the open part of the mug like a symmetrical ellipse. It won't be easy to do that by free hand, but if you focus on the horizontal (purple line) and vertical (red line) lines of symmetry you will get very close to the right way of doing it. As for curves its important to practice, and just practicing you will get a soft and steady hand, which will give you to draw nice curves.


The handle is on the right side. Try to understand the proportion it has and draw the rectangle that contains it, just keeping in mind it spreads around 3/4 of the height of the object, leaving the distance from the table expressed by the pink line.


To draw the handle correctly focus both on the highest point of the curve (the top purple dot), where the steepness changes direction (the orange line), and also on the extreme point on the right (the green dot on the right), where the curve changes its steepness direction again. As soon as you are done with the outlines of your object, you are ready to carry on with the shading. Check the Pencil Technique and Pencil Shading Technique videos.


Before starting drawing you need to understand where does the light come from. Notice the shadow of the mug on the table (orange line) and the reflection of the light on the mug (blue line, red arrow). Here maybe there are more light sources since the left side of the object is slightly darker (purple line) than the right side. Also, the inside of the cup is darker on the right side (green line) and the external part of the handle (pink arrow) is bright meanwhile the inside is quite dark. The inside of the lower part of the handle is not that dark, so we can assume than the position of the main light is on the right but quite central. 

It could be quite difficult to draw all the light sources, maybe there is a lamp and a window (like in this specific case). Before drawing you need to understand the light, not just copy what you see, also because your drawing needs to make sense in reality, and you can make it happen only by having the closest perception of perspective, light and proportions of reality. 


Now you are aware of where the light comes from and how to give a sense of reality to your object. The outlines are drawn, so you can start shading the mug evenly. Always starts from the lightest tonality, covering the whole object. The darker you go, the smaller the space you will cover. With a hard pencil you can shade the mug, maybe leaving some white around the edge of the top. 


Taking a better look you will see that what is on the left of the red line is slightly darker than what is on the right, and that what is on the left side of the cyan line is lighter than what is on the right one. You can shade the darker parts using a slightly darker pencil, one of the Hs or HB at most. Try to keep a light and fast mark.


Add more shades. Keep in mind that it doesn't have to be the same as the real object, but it needs to make sense in reality. At the beginning it has to be as close as it can to what you see in front of you. You will learn discipline and how to look at the world, trying to leave space and time for other creative projects, forgetting about rules and explore your inner self and your own research. At the end try to define the edges and don't leave any detail incomplete. Be as precise as you can be to let the viewer understand your drawing. Your work needs to please you at first, but still the opinion of other people could be important to see if their view resonates with something within ourselves. 


Refine your image at best adding the details you can control. Always fade your marks in the surroundings, so that the texture feel is even and smooth. Remember that only practicing you will get the results you want to achieve, it has to feel like an enjoyable challenge. 

You learned how to look at an object and how to approach your image. Keep adding the shades highlighted with the coloured lines (a few images above), keep on following my suggestions and looking at the videos.  Stay focused and take the time to complete your work. 

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