Still life drawing refers to the drawing of arranged objects either natural or man-made objects which are usually used in carrying out our everyday activities. The French call this subject ‘nature morte’ which refers to any subject which an artist composes from a collection of inanimate objects. The reason why the drawing is said to be ‘still’ is that the composed objects, their respective positions and placements remain ‘still’ or intact till the drawing is completed. Some objects composed could last for days, weeks, months and even years. It is termed as ‘life’ because the drawings that result from direct or real observations are life drawings.
In still life drawing, the artist has to pay particular attention to the selection and arrangement of the objects to be drawn. The selected objects should be harmonized to create unison or oneness in the composition. Also, the source of light should be taken note of so that the artist can depict the shades and shadows of the objects as accurately as possible. The design principle called ‘proportion’ is very important in still life drawings. The artist has to know and understand the size relations of all the objects in the composition so that he can depict them on the drawing surface with precision and accuracy.
Before a good still life drawing can be executed, the artist has to efficiently use the senses to grasp every information or detail about the objects composed. The optical sense or sense of touch thus the eyes must be used to view the overall shapes of the composed objects whether is round, angular, regular or irregular. It must also be able to detect the size relations and variations of the objects. Each detail on the objects composed must be detected by the use of the eye. For instance, the eye must be able to know the exact movement and direction of the linear patterns of leaves. The tone or shade of colour of each of the composed items must be ascertained. It’s the colour bright or dull, light or dark, opaque or transparent? The optical sense must be able to furnish the artist with this information. Closer and analytical study of the items must be carried out with the eyes. More importantly is the positions and arrangement of the items to be drawn. This would help the artist to be able to depict the foreshortening, perspective and tones of shades of the object.
Moreover, the sense of touch which is the skin must be used by the artist to detect the textures of the objects to be drawn. The textures can be hard, soft, rough, smooth, porous or non-porous. This would enable the artist to know the kind of shading technique to employ in the rendition of the shades on the objects. The artist to know this must touch and feel the object to be drawn if it’s safe to do so. This would help him to render the shading objectively.
Furthermore, the kinesthetic sense or sense of movement will show whether the object is lighter or heavy in weight, fragile or strong. This will help the artist to know the type of line to use in the drawing of the item(s) as well as the degree of tones and the type of shade to be rendered on the drawn objects.
The senses of taste, smell and hearing are equally important in achieving a very objective still life drawing. For example, if the objects or items to be drawn are edible like a composition of fruits and can be tasted, the artist has to take a bite of each fruit so as to know their distinctive tastes whether sour, sweet, or bitter. Also, the smell of items can be smelt if it’s not hazardous to do so. The smell can be pungent, foul or rotten, sweet or spicy. If the composed objects have the ability to produce sound such as musical instruments, the artist can listen to each sound that each of the musical instruments produces whether it’s loud or soft, high pitched or low pitched etc. The gathering of essential information through the use of the sense of taste, smell and hearing would deepen the artist’s understanding of the objects to be drawn to be able to draw it objectively as they appear in nature.
After gathering the essential information via the sense organs, the artist is now ready to record the details and characteristics of each of them on paper. It must be noted that the eye and hand must coordinate or work together to bring out an exact replica of the still objects composed to be drawn.
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