Let’s look for still lifes as they exist in our homes. We don’t have to arrange something fancy; just construct a simple viewfinder, or frame, to help see small compositions isolated from their surrounding visual clutter. We’ll work from images we capture on our phones to compose a drawing or painting.
A still life can be wherever you find it. For example, in Paul Wonner’s Still Life with Fruit and Flowers (1993), we see objects strewn across a table surface, as if by accident. Or perhaps the artist did just find them on the table like that. It’s the naturalness of things in our domestic surroundings that can make for the best still lifes. That, and careful attention to the colors and light, can help craft a beautiful picture with just the things you find around you.
Watch Finding Still Lifes
- Cardstock or thin cardboard (enough to allow about a 2-in. border around a smartphone)
- Drawing paper
- Crayons, pastels, or watercolors
Questions to Consider
Do you think using the viewfinder will help you see things around you differently?
What do you think will make a good still life?
1. To create the viewfinder, use a sheet of cardstock or cut one side of a cereal box.
2. Trace the outline of your phone in the center of the cardstock or cardboard.
3. Cut out the shape. (Tip: bend the sheet or board to start your cut in the middle.)
4. Holding your new viewfinder out in front of your phone, scan your home for pleasing compositions. The viewfinder will help frame things you already have lying around so you can focus and find a still life.
5. Once you find a still life you like, try moving the viewfinder closer or farther from your phone to get the best composition. Take a photo. You can also try taking a picture from above, from the side and from a different angle.
6. Finally, review all the photos you have taken with the help of your viewfinder, and choose a favorite composition to draw or paint.
After creating your still life, consider the following questions:
- Did you find a composition surprisingly better than expected?
- How did the lighting or colors influence your still life?
- Did you experiment with taking photos of a composition from different angles? What angle was your favorite?
We would love to see what you create! Email pictures of your artwork to email@example.com or tag us on any social platform with #deyoungsters.
Paul Wonner, Still Life With Fruit and Flowers, 1992. Color lithograph and screenprint with opaque watercolor and colored pencil, 29 3/4 x 21 7/8 in. (75.5 x 55.5 cm). Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Museum purchase, Gift of the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, Bernard A. Osher, Alfred S. Wilsey and Aristides Demetrios, 1993.126.1. © Estate of Paul Wonner and William Theophilus Brown, Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento. Photograph © Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Process photographs by Raphael Noz