2nd Grade Still Life Study

2nd grade students recently finished a study on still life drawing and painting.  Students started off by looking paintings of still life objects and then participating in a think pair share on what items they could see, and reasons why the artist may have chosen the objects.  While discussing these images, we worked on a definition that all could grasp and that the students would be able to explain to one another.  As a class, we came up with: still life is an artwork consisting of objects, often everyday objects, arranged in a composition.  The objects cannot move on their own, usually.

DSCN0308 (513x800)Students worked on 2 practice still life drawings, based on simple still life objects placed at their tables.  These included things such as glue bottles, jars, paintbrushes, and books.  These 2 practice drawings were completed in their sketchbooks and with little guidance from the myself, the teacher.  Students were reminded that this was practice and therefore there were no such thing as a mistake during this time.

flowers (600x800)After the practice time, a photo was projected of one of the groups of objects on the white board.  Using a dry erase marker, I outlined around the objects, all the while identifying simple shapes that are used to make up the objects.  Once the objects are all drawn, I turned off the projector to show the students the simple still life drawing left behind on the board.

We discussed backgrounds and negative space next.  We noticed that the objects were floating in empty, or negative space.  I demonstrated how a simple horizontal or diagonal line can create the illusion of a table behind the objects.  Students were reminded that while the background does not need to be intricately drawn, something needs to be done to avoid floating objects.  We also discussed that the objects are grouped together and some areas overlap, so students must draw objects overlapping and grouped together.

Next, I introduced the concept of contour line.  I have a ShowMe video that I use to start the process – I only used the first segment of this video for my 2nd graders.

I always stress the following information when teaching contour line drawing:

  • Lines are continuous and pen does not leave paper until drawing is finished.
  • There are NO mistakes, just keep drawing.  (Like a certain cartoon movie about a fish – “Just keep swimming…”)
  • Lines will overlap and objects may not be super realistic.
  • Focus on outlines of objects and not all the details inside the objects.
  • Draw large!
  • Look frequently at the objects.
  • If you need to stop, hold pen still.  If you accidentally lift pen from paper, place it back in the spot it left to start again.


DSCN0307 (583x800)After a little more practice, students were turned loose to create two larger contour drawings in black felt tip pen.

Each student completed two still life drawings and then finished them with oil pastel and watercolor paint.  See finished work examples below.

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If students mastered contour and successfully finished their two still life images, they were given time to create a third still life only using their brush and watercolor.  This meant no pencil or pen for an outline first, and was quite challenging for some students.  See examples below.

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Upon the completion of the still life unit, students filled out a checklist.  This gave them a chance to reflect upon their work and give feedback to me as well.  The first line in this checklist, below, did not copy well, and it should say, “I created 2-3 still life drawings and paintings.”

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