How to Draw a Cubist Still Life in Pen

Cubist still life drawings are an excellent way to extend the range of drawing techniques that you work with. Especially, if you have limited yourself to only basic observational work.

An excellent way to start is with an elemental still life composition. As this easily accessible to most people.

How to Draw a Cubist Still Life in Pen? To create a Cubist composition, you will need to complete the following steps:

  1. Learn about the Basic Principles of Cubism
  2. Organize Equipment and Materials 
  3. Arrange a Still Life Group 
  4. Draw the Basic Contour Outlines of the Objects
  5. Observe and Draw  to Subject From Multiple Various Viewpoints
  6. Apply Tone, Graduated Shading or Hatching to Your Drawing
  7. Take a Final Look at Your Drawing

Basic Principles of Cubism

Cubism was a revolutionary art movement in that it changed the way we view painting and drawing.

Developed by the genius Pablo Picasso and his associate Georges Braque took the well made domesticated still life painting, landscape and figure painting to a whole new level.

The basic principle of Cubism is the idea of a multi-view perspective where objects are viewed from multiple angles. 

These observations are then transferred to the flat picture plane, which is, in our case, a still life drawing.

Forms are reduced to there basic geometric shapes with only slight visual clues as what is beneath the surface be it a mouth, letters or numbers.

Linear elements are extended or overlapped within the composition of the painting or drawings. Colors are reduced to grey or tonal variations.

The first stage of Cubism is the analytical phase. Picasso and artist such as Juan Gris then began to work in a much more stylized fashion with the addition of color, texture, and surface.

Equipment and Materials

Cubist drawings can be produced in a variety of media and materials, from pencils, charcoal to pen and collage.

In this post, I want to focus on how to draw a basic Cubist composition in pen. To begin, think carefully about the types of marks you want to create in your drawings

A variety of different marks in terms of thickness of the line, hatching, and stippling techniques will result in a much more successful outcome.

I suggest a fine line pen, a broad-tipped pen, and possibly a thick marker pen.

You can exclude a pencil if you wish to draw directly when outlining and drawing shapes in your drawings.

Before you begin your drawing, you will need to source some objects to draw

Depending on your level of experience and what you have available to draw think about what type of objects you would like to draw. You may wish to draw on a drawing board as opposed to a sketchbook.

Arrange your Still Life Group 

Different shapes and different types of objects will enable you to create very different styles of drawing.

Basic objects such as bottles and jugs are excellent subjects for the beginner who is looking to create a simple composition.

Also, the base of your arrangement is essential as it creates a sense of stability, such as a tabletop or table cloth.

To create a more visually appealing drawing think about arranging some musical instruments into your still life arrangement. The flowing lines and the shapes created by a guitar or a saxophone will make excellent subjects to draw. 

The next stage is to arrange the objects into some visually appealing arrangement. 

Think carefully about the types of objects in the arrangement. Ideally, a tall object such as a wine bottle will add a sense of height to your arrangement. Smaller objects can be placed around this.

Contrasting smaller objects around a taller element in still life arrangements is an effective way to create a sense of contrast.

Opposite elements are excellent for creating a visual interplay between large and small, tall and short and fat and thinner items.

Practically and effective approach is to arrange around a central element such as a bottle and begin to remove features.

Objects can then be placed around or in front, this will also create the added dimension of depth in the drawing.

The horizontal arrangement of objects in a landscape formation is also an effective way the arrange the objects in the still life group.

This could work well if you have a guitar. As the flowing contours of this form of this instrument make an excellent focal point. Has further objects can be placed around it.

Drawing from a Photograph

If you prefer to draw from secondary source then at this stage I suggest you digital photographs from multiple viewpoints and angles. They can then be printed out at a later stage.

Draw the Basic Contour Outlines

As with all drawing of objects, be it still life or a figure drawing. Drawing from direct observation really allows you to take a long hard look at the objects you are drawing. 

Observe and Draw  to Subject From Multiple Various Viewpoints

How that your still life is set up in front of you, the first stage of the process is to draw the objects from various angles.

Outline contours can be drawn as part of a shape. The objects can then be drawn from slightly different angles directly onto the paper.

Drawing with a pen is immediate, and the marks created cannot be erased. They can, however, be adapted or drawn over.

Pro Tip: Create a series of warm-up sketches before you begin your main drawing. The objective here is to develop a visual understanding of the objects you are drawing. Additionally, you will also be able to gain a sense of the limitations and the potential of the medium you are drawing with.

Begin with a fine line pen to make your initial marks. The benefit of creating a series of drawings is that you can select a successful composition and develop it further. Or generate another picture on a larger scale.

When you have settled on the approach you want to take, you can begin to draw on a larger scale. Say A2 or even A3 will be an excellent size to develop you're drawing the outline shapes with a fine line pen.

When drawing with a pen, the lines you draw are immediate. Begin by actively moving around the still life and begin to draw parts or sections of the objects in front of you. You also have the option of drawing a full outline shape.

Overlap the shapes and outline the shapes in the drawing. This will, besides, create new contours as you build the complexity of the drawing.

Thicker lines can be added to the drawing; this will emphasize the areas of your drawing which you want or need to stand out.

Apply Shade, Tone, and Graduated Hatching

The addition of shade and value immediately provide your drawing with a sense of three-dimensional form.  This principle can also be applied to a Cubist drawing when darkness and shadow are added to the planes and shapes of a Cubist composition.

Mark making or hatching is an excellent way to add tone to an abstract composition. Drawing directly from the edge of the line or a fragmented shape. There are several ways you can do this.

Hatching.  This is a simple method of drawing quickly to produce quickly drawn and tightly packed lines next to each other. This technique works exceptionally well with a good quality fine line pen or a mechanical pencil.

Cross Hatching. Similar to hatching in the sense you draw with carefully packed lines. To begin this technique, turn the page around and draw lines in the opposite direction to create the hatched effect.

Create Light and Dark Contrast. The number of lines drawn can be limited to merely hatching in two directions.

Additionally, hatching can be added from 3 up to seven directions, which results in a densely formed web of interlacing lines.

Additional Pen and Ink Line Techniques.

Cross Contour Lines. To create a more profound sense of form in your drawing, contour hatching can be added. Contour lines follow the shape of the object, and when added to your drawing, they will enhance the volume of your drawings.

Tick and Basket Hatching. These are smaller strokes that can be built up to provide a greater sense of three-dimensional volume to the objects featured in your drawing.

Ink Wash Techniques. The ink wash is an excellent technique for added a greater sense of form and volume to your drawing.

To begin, you will need to make sure you are drawing with a water-soluble pen. Using water and a brush, use a fine brush to add small amounts of water to the lines you have drawn on the paper.

Applying the water with your hand behind the brush begin to dilute the ink on the page. This method is perfect for adding and refining chance effects in your drawings. Consider blemishes and mistakes created by using this technique as an integral part of this work. 

Take a Final Look at Your Drawing

Now that you have finished your drawing, you can take a long hard look at the overall effect from a distance if need be. The overall effect may be one of an aesthetically pleasing composition may.

However, it is a good idea to check if you need to add any additional lines, fragmented shapes of areas of tone and mark making.

Additional Questions

Cubism Characteristics

The main aspects of Cubism include pictures which seem to be fragmented, geometric and disassociated. Multiview perspective is the integration of several views into one image, and this is the main characteristic of a Cubist drawing painting or sculpture.


I hope you have liked studying this post and have found it enjoyable and fulfilling. For further information on how to develop your drawing, please tour my home page at


Ian Walsh is the creator and author of and an Art teacher based in Merseyside in the United Kingdom. He holds a BA in Fine Art and a PGCE in teaching Art and Design. He has been teaching Art for over 24 Years in different parts of the UK. When not teaching Ian spending his time developing this website and creating content for the improvedrawing channel.

Recent Posts

How to Draw a Cubist Still Life in Pen