College Portfolio Prep: The Still Life Assignment

Over the course of the summer, you will create 4 to 8 well-developed still life drawings with pencil. I have included a list of 24 ideas at the bottom of this blog post. Feel free to choose any topics from this list.

Here are a few examples of the level of drawing I am looking for:


  • Quality drawing paper (not copy paper). Some of these can be done as small as 9×12″, but you will get better results if you work slightly larger, such as 11×14″ or 12×16.”
  • Drawing pencils (2H, HB, 2B, 4B, 6B)
  • Kneaded and regular eraser
  • A variety of blending tools. Blending stumps give you the most control, but in a pinch, Q-tips, napkins, and paper towels will do. Don’t use tissues or your fingers – they both contains oils that will discolor your drawing!


  • Composition
    • How are the objects arranged? A good still life will contain overlap, show movement, and balance the positive and negative space. A photo-realistic drawing of a bad composition is still a poor quality artwork! You may want to post photos of a few different arrangements and angles and ask Ms. Lawson to help critique which would make the most visually interesting drawing.
  • Proportion
    • Are all parts of the still life drawn appropriately sized to one another?
  • Value/Shading
    • Is there a clear light source? How have you shown this?
  • Attention to detail
    • Details are what make a drawing look realistic. The more time you spend capturing details and textures, the more realistic your drawing will look.

Possible Still Life Subjects:

  1. Popcorn
  2. Crumbled paper Bag
  3. Machinery and mechanical parts (old sewing machines, disassembled clocks, cogs/wheels and typewriters, vintage phones)
  4. Science equipment
  5. Wooden Mannequins
  6. Dolls, Train Sets, and other toys
  7. Bottles, Vases, Teapots, and other vessels
  8. Empty Boxes
  9. Jewlery and other Treasure Boxes
  10. Fruits and Vegetables (make sure to get a few and overlap them in your composition)
  11. A glass of water
  12. A cup of tea or coffee (even better if arranged with an accessory such as a cloth napkin, spoon, bagel or donut, etc)
  13. Hands
  14. Shells
  15. Vase or flowers or potted plants
  16. Metal tools, silverware, and other highly reflective objects
  17. Old Shoes and sandals
  18. Art supplies
  19. Old Books (especially if open or stacked or arranged with other objects)
  20. Lamps, lanterns, light bulbs
  21. Contemporary food and packages
  22. A cluttered desk
  23. Eggs
  24. Clothing (make sure it is hung or arranged in an interesting manner)

Have fun, don’t stress, and make sure you post frequent progress to your blog. If you have any questions, please contact Ms. Lawson.