Still Life Learning

shading practice
orchid sketch

Every other week my 7-year-old has a creative task to complete for homework.  This usually has something to do with a topic they are learning about in class. This spring the topic is plants and growing.

Ollie was asked to look carefully at a plant and draw what it looks like. Then, he had to label the plant parts he could identify.

It was a wet day in the U.K. so I asked if he would like to sketch one of my indoor plants. He chose the orchids.

Here is how I extended the learning of this assignment.

  1. I explained he was about to do a ‘still life’ drawing and defined the phrase.  Still Life – A collection of inanimate (non-living) objects arranged together in a specific way.
  2. We looked at a few famous still life painting like Apples and Grapes by Claude Monet, Vase With Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh (I reminded him that we saw one of the Sunflowers paintings at the National Gallery in London to make the real life connection), Apples and Oranges by Paul Cezanne, and Vanitas by Pieter Claesz.
  3. I pulled up a few orchid sketches on Google images so my son could see the techniques artists use to make a 2-dimensional drawing appear 3-D.
  4. I introduced the concept of shading. My son loves to draw so he was really excited about this. We watched this inspiring YouTube video on shading:
  5. Next, I left my son to his orchid sketch.
  6. Ollie labeled the plant parts he knew.
  7. We used Google images to look at labeled plants and learn a couple of new plant parts to add to his sketch. We only added two new ones so he would remember them. I know he will learn more when he is older so I kept it simple and only introduced two new plant labels.

Author: beckygrantstr

Writer. Teacher. Coffee-loving, car singing American mother of boys living in the U.K. Learning right along with my children at

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