Cubism Still Life

My students and I did this art activity in two different ways. The first time, we used contrasting pastel colours to fill in the shapes. The second time, we used charcoal pencil and focused on shading.


You will need:
– Pencils
– Oil Pastels
– Cartridge Paper
– Charcoal Pencils
– Clear coat spray
– Objects to draw


We began by talking about cubism- what it was, famous artists who used the style, examples of artwork (Google is your friend!). It is important to note the use of crisp, straight lines, and the contrast between light and dark. We talked about Picasso a little bit, and the students noticed the difference between the cubism style of art and the Hundertwasser style (which they had looked at earlier in the year).

I arranged the desks around a central point in the room, and displayed the various cups, glasses and jars I had selected in the middle where everyone could see. I tried to choose objects that were of varying heights and widths, to make the still life more interesting. Make sure that the items you choose are arranged so that some of them overlap.

Next, I modelled the drawing process. I chose the tallest item to draw first (the wine glass). I talked about proportion, and how I would use this object as my reference point for everything else I drew. I found that while the students were developing their own sketches, it was helpful to prompt them with hints such as “is the jar taller or smaller than the cup?” to help them to think about proportion.

An unusual feature of this style is that you draw ALL of the outline that an object has, even if some of it is obscured behind another object.

Once all of the outlines have been completed, it is time to rule lines across the sketch. We found that 6-8 lines were enough. Vary the angles and  try to make sure each of the objects is being ‘cut’ a few different ways.

The next step is where you will need to choose whether you want to work in pastel or charcoal. When we worked in pastel, we talked about hot and cold colours, and used these to fill in each section made by the lines of the object and the lines we had ruled. We tried to blend colours from the same group together. Where ever possible, make sure that the colours that border each other are not the same type.

If you choose to use charcoal pencil, have the students practice shading light and dark on scrap paper first. Again, try to make sure that light areas are bordered by dark areas and vice versa.

When the shading/colouring is complete, finish by going over the outlines  and ruled lines again- either in black pastel or charcoal pencil, depending on what you used.

Finish with a spray of clear coat and you’re done!



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