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What is a still-life?
Grade Level(s): 1-2
By: Karen, Second Grade Teacher

Learning how to paint a still-life using the works of other artists.


  • Prints of Irises by Vincent VanGogh and Sunflowers by Vincent VanGogh (or a still-life by another artist)
  • 12 x 18 white drawing paper
  • Payons (work like crayons but when you paint water on the drawing it turns to watercolor)
  • water containers
  • brushes
  • paper towels
  • vase
  • silk flowers (I use either purple irises or sunflowers)


  1. Take a "picture walk" through the paintings and let children discuss what they see. What is this painting of? What colors did the artist use? Did VanGogh paint these flowers out in his garden? Are the flowers large or small? Are they all facing the same way?
  2. Discuss when VanGogh picked the flowers and brought them inside and arranged them in a pleasing way to paint he made a still-life. A still-life is created by an artist from objects arranged in a pleasing way to draw or paint.
  3. As a class, experiment with what it felt like for VanGogh to make his still-life. Put the vase in front of the class and hand each child a flower to add to the arrangement.
  4. While the class is capturing the still-life on paper, suggest they may want to sign their work with their first name and VanGogh as their last name (ex.Billy VanGogh). My class really enjoys this.
  5. While the last artists are finishing, look through an art book with the rest of the class and see if they can identify other still-lifes. A teachable moment might allow you to discuss the difference between a still-life and a portrait or landscape.
  6. Follow-up: On another day hand out bags filled with 5 or 6 objects to small groups. Have each group create a pleasing still-life and draw it. Review the term "still-life".


Copyright (c) 1999 by Karen. All Rights Reserved.


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