Observational Drawing (Still Life, Level 1)

Goals and Objectives

  1. To gain an understanding of proportion within one object and between different objects
  2. To understand how values make objects appear to exist in three dimensions
  3. To learn three different shading techniques, practice them, and combine them in one drawing
  4. To gain experience combining different techniques in graphite in order to represent different surfaces and objects
  5. To practice composition and create a pleasing arrangement from the objects available

Step by Step

  1. This project follows several days of gesture, blind contour, and contour drawing in class. This allows for the discussion of this project to be centered around shapes of light and dark areas as they have already had practice in getting the objects mostly accurate.
  2. Show video, and demonstrate creating value scales and creating spheres using three main shading techniques: hatch, smudge, fill-in.
  3. Students create their own value scales and spheres and turn in for inspection/corrections before moving on.
  4. Pass out 12x18" newsprint (you could also use printer paper for this step) for students to begin creating an extended gesture drawing of a minimum of 3-4 objects from the arranged still lives in class (approx.15-20 min).
  5. Remind students of proportional measuring (already covered in class) and give time to begin adjusting drawing to correct any inaccuracies.
  6. Begin simplifying drawing to get rid of (by erasing) any extraneous lines left over from extended gesture and...
  7. Add any and all shapes you can see in the objects in an effort to reference highlights, reflections, shadows, and dark areas.
  8. Demo using light table to trace rough draft drawing (from newsprint) onto final 12x18" drawing paper (TRACE SUPER SUPER LIGHT) *note, students must have instructor approval before moving on to the tracing stage.
  9. Begin shading objects after instructor approval. Biggest tip, begin shading lighter than you think you need to as it is easier to make something darker than it is to make it lighter.
  10. Student must combine all three techniques in a pleasing way in their composition. Usually combining two or more of the techniques within each object. With instructor help, final shading usually takes approximately four 90 minute class sessions.


  • pencil / eraser
  • newsprint, 12"x18"
  • drawing paper, 12"x18"
  • a variety of objects that are different materials and sizes (wine bottles, bricks, cloth, fake apples, wooden pepper mills, candle sticks/holders, etc.)
  • optional separate worksheet to practice each technique in a value scale (pdf upon request)


  • This project typically takes six to seven 90 minute class sessions to complete


If you would like digital copies of examples of this project to download and/or the shading worksheet exercise, please email forgeronstudios@gmail.com with your request.


This project dovetails right in to the Pen & Ink Unit for Level 1 students, and is reinforced at the beginning of Level 2 with a more complex Still Life Project.

Support Videos

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