Still life is the term given to painting subjects that don’t move – a group of objects carefully selected and arranged together. Typical objects for a still life might include fruit, flowers, ceramics, or books. Artists have used still life to show us the beauty in everyday objects or to send hidden messages using symbolic objects. Modern painters have used still life to explore the relationships we have with objects we value or to examine the different ways that we might look at them.

Patrick Procktor, Still Life, 1999

Patrick Procktor, Still Life, 1999


Try the following activities to help you start making still life pictures.

Make A Well-Balanced Meal

There is no cooking required as we are arranging things to draw not eat! Create a group of objects that relate to each other. How about a slice of toast on a plate, a butter dish, and some jam? A feast for your eyes! Now, draw your still life in your sketchbook. Remember to look out for other natural groups of objects around you to draw.

Collage Still Life

Cut out pictures of individual objects from old newspapers or magazines. Decide what kind of relationship your objects will have with one another – they could have a natural relationship, a symbolic relationship or be an imaginative, fantasy still life! When you are happy with your composition glue it in place using a glue stick.

Flowers Forever

If you see or receive a beautiful bunch of flowers, make a colourful drawing or painting of them. Then they will last forever!

Diana Sylvester, Bristol Plate

Diana Sylvester, Bristol Plate


  • Still life objects
  • Sketchbook
  • Pencils
  • Old magazines
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick
  • Watercolour paper
  • Watercolour paints


Use your journal/sketchbook (J) pencils and crayons to make still life sketches. Collect old magazines for your collage work with a stick of glue or sticky tape.

Artist Inspiration: Look at Henri Matisse’s ‘Goldfish’, Georges Braque’s ‘Bottle and Fishes’, or Marie O'Donoghue’s ‘Yellow Table and Still Life'.