What is the Difference Between Life Drawing and Still Life Drawing?


What is the Difference Between Life Drawing and Still Life Drawing
What is the Difference Between Life Drawing and Still Life Drawing?

There are two types of drawing exercises that both combine elements that create a picture based on models. If you ask ‘the difference between life drawing and still life drawing,’ this guide will help separate these two and relate to each other.

Is Still Life Easier Than Life Drawing?

Even though still life is often easier than life drawing, there are obstacles within still life drawing that cross over into life drawing. The good thing is that still life allows you to draw from a composition that will not be moving at all. This frame of time gives you more freedom to capture a scene using basic drawing skills. Because these staged scenes include various objects with various textures, it can also be a challenge.

It’s up to you to compose these drawings using your artistic skills to capture the essence of an arrangement while sticking to set rules of proportion and lighting conditions. Still life will include many themes involving similar rules related to anatomy, botany, and everyday objects. If you’re unfamiliar with these studies, you’ll need to become comfortable drawing them since you cannot just copy them without having a basic overall understanding.

Please take a look at this drawing and sketching video course I have createdUse this link.

Which Should You Learn First?

Even though life drawing will be popular, if you can’t master still life before drawing any kind of living model, you’re going to run into trouble later. Still life will allow you to study from a setting that has all the potential to be a life drawing without an actual living model. Still life also tells a story, as these objects are arranged to drive human emotion.

This is the sole purpose of what still life represents, hence the name itself. While most people consider still life to be a picture with non-living objects and items, it’s also a slice of life representing our living world. Much like a work table full of daily life tasks, still life tells you a story of something in motion without saying anything verbally. It’s an essential skill you should learn before starting any kind of life drawing.

What Are The Main Differences Between Still Life and Life Drawing?

The first difference is the absence of any living model aside from freshly cut flowers, fruits, vegetables, or food items, including animals and creatures. While some still life drawing includes insects, these are living organisms that go hand-in-hand when drawing fresh clams, oysters, or shellfish that are present. The point is that your picture is void of human presence yet is part of daily human interaction.

Life drawing is all about a living model that is directly seen in your picture. It does not tell any story or indicate what is happening aside from the pose of your model. As most life drawing sessions include nude models, it’s hard to tell anything other than anatomy and the detail of the human form otherwise. Essentially, life drawing celebrates a living form, and still life represents forms of life.

Types of Still Life Drawing

Over the centuries, the themes and topics of still life fall into little categories to describe the settings. These settings aren’t always set in stone and will have crossover themes at one point or another. Here are the basics:

Flower and Fruit Compositions

A hallmark of still life includes flowers and fruits of all sorts, with one of the other placed into this setting. This concept is not one that became popular in the age of the Old Masters but can be seen in interior paintings as old as Pompei and even ancient Egypt. It’s a timeless concept that is a feast for the senses.

Animal Compositions

Not just a visual reminder or eat or be eaten, animal compositions that show animals in various stages of preparation represent daily life. We eat meat and animals because this is part of our life cycle. It gives an insight into what is popular and what was widespread throughout the ages. Animals are simply part of our daily diet that represents a different aspect of still life.

Breakfast and Banquet Compositions

Perhaps, this is the earliest form of food porn popularized in paintings and will share the richness of comfort foods throughout the day. You might say this is food for thought which gives us a snapshot of what most people post on their social media every day. Only these scenes are more fanciful for what we wish to enjoy and celebrate throughout our lifetime.

Symbolic life Compositions

The religious connotations began to creep into still life as the old school salons were heavily monitored by religious entities. It was also a lot of experimentation into the legacy of life, which held many symbolic images that represent life and death within a still-life picture. Many of these included the sacrament and dedication to religion to convey the idealisms of religion at that time.

Still Life Subject Matter:

No matter how a still life drawing is composed, the subject material and how it’s drawn will take on the mood and careful placement of light. This brings out the dramatic qualities of shadow and allows still-life images to have enhanced qualities that give each picture character and deeper meaning.

Drawing objects

The same principles of drawing apply when creating a still-life picture, so getting the scale and perspective is essential. You begin with framing your scene so you can use reference points to place all of your objects within a picture, so they look as they do in your line of sight. If this involves using a horizon line to establish your angle of view, anything that allows you to place items within a location is done with vanishing points.

These lines can help place key objects in your picture to get the proper perspective and angle they would appear in real life. The rest is a matter of combining all of these items with each other. The spacing they all share when grouped together in your picture as a whole. These items and objects need to appear as they belong rather than being two-dimensional objects. They need to include proper shadowing to give them believable mass.

Drawing Inanimate Objects

Objects made from pottery, glass, wood, or anything that is not living need to appear natural. This means that wood grain, reflections, and texture. All follow the natural order of what is seen in front of you. Even if you create a black and white representation of still life, these need to stand out with the appropriate amount of shine and highlight to give them a texture you immediately know is a specific material.

Color drawings will not only bring out the realism of your image but solidify the objects that you include without guessing what it’s made from. Even when the image is including inanimate objects, you’ll need to provide plenty of detailed shadowing, which helps it stand out more than a flat image. Give your objects the ability to become 3D images that will be accepted as ones with plenty of depth for belonging.

Fruit

Fruit is challenging because it is not only organic material. It also can absorb light in ways that transparent items usually do. Just like skin, a fruit will exhibit shine and layered colors that you overlook unless you really look closely at its’ exterior. Grapes, plums, and anything smooth is highly reflective and need to be treated like a mirror for everything around it. A pineapple or artichoke won’t give you any of that since there’s so much surface detail.

But they all have a roundness that will need careful shading to reflect the light bouncing off them. Pay special attention to water droplets or special touches that make fruit look more inviting for whatever reason. You want to get the sheen or shine just right to sell the idea of natural fruit in your picture.

Flowers

Flowers are also semi-transparent since the petals of many flowers will pick up light in awe-inspiring ways. They can be backlit and pick up highlights just like glass at certain times. Since flowers are organic, you need to treat them as organic material to give them more life. Your lighting on flowers is also meant to bring out the colors and textures, too, as the lighting for these arrangements will be, no doubt, tedious.

Treat each petal and flower bulb as if it’s reacting to the light shed onto it or through it. This is why many art students have trouble with still life and feel the urge to skip over to life drawing sooner than expected. Take the Bob Ross approach by treating these as happy little trees and giving them the respect they deserve.

Practicing Life Drawing

If you haven’t exhausted yourself in exploring the complicated nature of still life, life drawing will be a welcomed art form you’ll indeed enjoy. That doesn’t let you off the hook for learning the rules that apply to anatomy. You need to understand the basic building blocks that give every human form a realistic appearance, right down to your muscle placement and pose that you draw.

If you don’t, you end up with bodies that look out of place and look more like overly-stylized Anime characters. Learn the classic methods that are the roadmap provided by the Old Masters. It will give you a strategy for panning ahead and creating dynamic body shapes that are believable and faithful to their proportions.

Figure Drawing From Life

Take the time to complete a course on drawing the skeleton and muscle structure before tackling figure drawing. Better yet, when you begin life drawing, do some rough skeletal structure under your initial form so you can follow the path to finalizing a figure from the inside out. You might be asking why go through so much trouble when you can just trace what you see?

You’re missing the point of following essential rules that allow you to know precisely where bones and joints are angled to get your pose right. You can’t fake this with a 1:1 sight by hand drawing. You need to give your sketch a reason for having an internal frame so you can build your model without encountering mistakes!

Elements of a Life Drawing

Among the top examples of what to follow when making a life drawing include these points listed below. Once you complete a basic internal frame (aka- your skeleton), you can then proceed to the following steps to have your model looking just as it would on paper.

Form

Start with the outer edges that will have light lines that start to cover your skeleton frame. These can overlap wherever they happen to end up, so try to layout this outer shape so you can correct this as you go. Light lines will be easier to erase and won’t be time-prohibitive if you decide to fill in the areas outside your Drawing with a darker background color. Even if you lightly sketch muscle section to get your outside form, this is perfectly fine too.

Proportion

Use your sight as a guideline while going through the process of adding proportion to your life model. Every part of the body will follow a pattern for what is thicker or thinner and become second nature as you practice more and more. Make sure that limbs and parts of the body can be matched like a mirror. It also helps if you can see things in reverse (just like a mirror), but it is more or less practice.

Light and shadow

When going to the final stages of your drawing, you need to address light and shadow before fine detail is added. The reason for this is a little complicated because even human skin can reflect back onto itself, appearing as bounce-back light. Even if your subject has pronounced shadows under their chin, an arm or appendage can reflect light onto a shadow, making it appear lighter than the other shadowed spots.

A great example is when you have a model holding their arms or legs close to parts of their body that are nearly overlapped. This includes crossed arms or crossed legs but is not limited to holding a hand or arm close to the head or body.

Line

Your lines that cover the outer edges will also go through many changes to help reflect the level of light that’s falling onto your model. Basic lines are about as fickle as a leaky drum when it comes to drawing realistically, so become prepared to make some lines darker, whereas others with highlights will all but disappear. But to get your form correct, you’ll need to follow these lines, like making a carbon copy of your live model.

After these lines are laid down, you can reduce these with an eraser or try to blend them away with your fingers to reduce the sharpness of the line itself. You’ll find that Drawing often involves holding a drawing utensil in one hand and an eraser in the other. Learn to use these hands independently of each other.

Texture

You won’t be sitting on top of your model, so the detail of their skin isn’t going to be so apparent unless you’re doing close-up life drawings. The texture should include basics such as wrinkles and natural folds in the skin. Sagging skin or imperfections are also critical. People worry about the texture of their skin more than anything, but in life drawing, you’ll need to know how to add orange skin, goosebumps, fatty lumps, and overall skin slag.

Even the best athletes will have stretch marks and parts of their skin that look strange. Keep in mind that the human body is covered with skin that flexes and winkles for all sorts of reasons. All of these texture details will also need the appropriate shading and highlight to bring them out.

Taking a Life Drawing Class

This is a must if you can put these lessons into your schedule. If you want to know the difference between life drawing and still life drawing, you should take both within a semester to get good practice from both. Life drawing classes can give you exposure that will stick with you for a lifetime. These skills will teach you to draw within a time limit to speed up your drawing ability.

They will also teach you tough lessons on getting the anatomy correct if you take a class that includes anatomy lessons additionally. Don’t forget that you’ll owe your success to learning little bits of info that art teachers add to their lessons. They aren’t going to force you to memorize every human bone and muscle, but it won’t hurt you one bit to know them just for anatomical reference.

There are two types of drawing exercises that both combine elements that create a picture based on models. If you ask ‘the difference between life drawing and still life drawing,’ this guide will help separate these two and relate to each other.

Is Still Life Easier Than Life Drawing?

Even though still life is often easier than life drawing, there are obstacles within still life drawing that cross over into life drawing. The good thing is that still life allows you to draw from a composition that will not be moving at all. This frame of time gives you more freedom to capture a scene using basic drawing skills. Because these staged scenes include various objects with various textures, it can also be a challenge.

It’s up to you to compose these drawings using your artistic skills to capture the essence of an arrangement while sticking to set rules of proportion and lighting conditions. Still life will include many themes involving similar rules related to anatomy, botany, and everyday objects. If you’re unfamiliar with these studies, you’ll need to become comfortable drawing them since you cannot just copy them without having a basic overall understanding.

Which Should You Learn First?

Even though life drawing will be popular, if you can’t master still life before drawing any kind of living model, you’re going to run into trouble later. Still life will allow you to study from a setting that has all the potential to be a life drawing without an actual living model. Still life also tells a story, as these objects are arranged to drive human emotion.

This is the sole purpose of what still life represents, hence the name itself. While most people consider still life to be a picture with non-living objects and items, it’s also a slice of life representing our living world. Much like a work table full of daily life tasks, still life tells you a story of something in motion without saying anything verbally. It’s an essential skill you should learn before starting any kind of life drawing.

What Are The Main Differences Between Still Life and Life Drawing?

The first difference is the absence of any living model aside from freshly cut flowers, fruits, vegetables, or food items, including animals and creatures. While some still life drawing includes insects, these are living organisms that go hand-in-hand when drawing fresh clams, oysters, or shellfish that are present. The point is that your picture is void of human presence yet is part of daily human interaction.

Life drawing is all about a living model that is directly seen in your picture. It does not tell any story or indicate what is happening aside from the pose of your model. As most life drawing sessions include nude models, it’s hard to tell anything other than anatomy and the detail of the human form otherwise. Essentially, life drawing celebrates a living form, and still life represents forms of life.

Types of Still Life Drawing

Over the centuries, the themes and topics of still life fall into little categories to describe the settings. These settings aren’t always set in stone and will have crossover themes at one point or another. Here are the basics:

Flower and Fruit Compositions

A hallmark of still life includes flowers and fruits of all sorts, with one of the other placed into this setting. This concept is not one that became popular in the age of the Old Masters but can be seen in interior paintings as old as Pompei and even ancient Egypt. It’s a timeless concept that is a feast for the senses.

Animal Compositions

Not just a visual reminder or eat or be eaten, animal compositions that show animals in various stages of preparation represent daily life. We eat meat and animals because this is part of our life cycle. It gives an insight into what is popular and what was widespread throughout the ages. Animals are simply part of our daily diet that represents a different aspect of still life.

Breakfast and Banquet Compositions

Perhaps, this is the earliest form of food porn popularized in paintings and will share the richness of comfort foods throughout the day. You might say this is food for thought which gives us a snapshot of what most people post on their social media every day. Only these scenes are more fanciful for what we wish to enjoy and celebrate throughout our lifetime.

Symbolic life Compositions

The religious connotations began to creep into still life as the old school salons were heavily monitored by religious entities. It was also a lot of experimentation into the legacy of life, which held many symbolic images that represent life and death within a still-life picture. Many of these included the sacrament and dedication to religion to convey the idealisms of religion at that time.

Still Life Subject Matter:

No matter how a still life drawing is composed, the subject material and how it’s drawn will take on the mood and careful placement of light. This brings out the dramatic qualities of shadow and allows still-life images to have enhanced qualities that give each picture character and deeper meaning.

Drawing objects

The same principles of drawing apply when creating a still-life picture, so getting the scale and perspective is essential. You begin with framing your scene so you can use reference points to place all of your objects within a picture, so they look as they do in your line of sight. If this involves using a horizon line to establish your angle of view, anything that allows you to place items within a location is done with vanishing points.

These lines can help place key objects in your picture to get the proper perspective and angle they would appear in real life. The rest is a matter of combining all of these items with each other. The spacing they all share when grouped together in your picture as a whole. These items and objects need to appear as they belong rather than being two-dimensional objects. They need to include proper shadowing to give them believable mass.

Drawing Inanimate Objects

Objects made from pottery, glass, wood, or anything that is not living need to appear natural. This means that wood grain, reflections, and texture. All follow the natural order of what is seen in front of you. Even if you create a black and white representation of still life, these need to stand out with the appropriate amount of shine and highlight to give them a texture you immediately know is a specific material.

Color drawings will not only bring out the realism of your image but solidify the objects that you include without guessing what it’s made from. Even when the image is including inanimate objects, you’ll need to provide plenty of detailed shadowing, which helps it stand out more than a flat image. Give your objects the ability to become 3D images that will be accepted as ones with plenty of depth for belonging.

Fruit

Fruit is challenging because it is not only organic material. It also can absorb light in ways that transparent items usually do. Just like skin, a fruit will exhibit shine and layered colors that you overlook unless you really look closely at its’ exterior. Grapes, plums, and anything smooth is highly reflective and need to be treated like a mirror for everything around it. A pineapple or artichoke won’t give you any of that since there’s so much surface detail.

But they all have a roundness that will need careful shading to reflect the light bouncing off them. Pay special attention to water droplets or special touches that make fruit look more inviting for whatever reason. You want to get the sheen or shine just right to sell the idea of natural fruit in your picture.

Flowers

Flowers are also semi-transparent since the petals of many flowers will pick up light in awe-inspiring ways. They can be backlit and pick up highlights just like glass at certain times. Since flowers are organic, you need to treat them as organic material to give them more life. Your lighting on flowers is also meant to bring out the colors and textures, too, as the lighting for these arrangements will be, no doubt, tedious.

Treat each petal and flower bulb as if it’s reacting to the light shed onto it or through it. This is why many art students have trouble with still life and feel the urge to skip over to life drawing sooner than expected. Take the Bob Ross approach by treating these as happy little trees and giving them the respect they deserve.

Practicing Life Drawing

If you haven’t exhausted yourself in exploring the complicated nature of still life, life drawing will be a welcomed art form you’ll indeed enjoy. That doesn’t let you off the hook for learning the rules that apply to anatomy. You need to understand the basic building blocks that give every human form a realistic appearance, right down to your muscle placement and pose that you draw.

If you don’t, you end up with bodies that look out of place and look more like overly-stylized Anime characters. Learn the classic methods that are the roadmap provided by the Old Masters. It will give you a strategy for panning ahead and creating dynamic body shapes that are believable and faithful to their proportions.

Figure Drawing From Life

Take the time to complete a course on drawing the skeleton and muscle structure before tackling figure drawing. Better yet, when you begin life drawing, do some rough skeletal structure under your initial form so you can follow the path to finalizing a figure from the inside out. You might be asking why go through so much trouble when you can just trace what you see?

You’re missing the point of following essential rules that allow you to know precisely where bones and joints are angled to get your pose right. You can’t fake this with a 1:1 sight by hand drawing. You need to give your sketch a reason for having an internal frame so you can build your model without encountering mistakes!

Elements of a Life Drawing

Among the top examples of what to follow when making a life drawing include these points listed below. Once you complete a basic internal frame (aka- your skeleton), you can then proceed to the following steps to have your model looking just as it would on paper.

Form

Start with the outer edges that will have light lines that start to cover your skeleton frame. These can overlap wherever they happen to end up, so try to layout this outer shape so you can correct this as you go. Light lines will be easier to erase and won’t be time-prohibitive if you decide to fill in the areas outside your Drawing with a darker background color. Even if you lightly sketch muscle section to get your outside form, this is perfectly fine too.

Proportion

Use your sight as a guideline while going through the process of adding proportion to your life model. Every part of the body will follow a pattern for what is thicker or thinner and become second nature as you practice more and more. Make sure that limbs and parts of the body can be matched like a mirror. It also helps if you can see things in reverse (just like a mirror), but it is more or less practice.

Light and shadow

When going to the final stages of your drawing, you need to address light and shadow before fine detail is added. The reason for this is a little complicated because even human skin can reflect back onto itself, appearing as bounce-back light. Even if your subject has pronounced shadows under their chin, an arm or appendage can reflect light onto a shadow, making it appear lighter than the other shadowed spots.

A great example is when you have a model holding their arms or legs close to parts of their body that are nearly overlapped. This includes crossed arms or crossed legs but is not limited to holding a hand or arm close to the head or body.

Line

Your lines that cover the outer edges will also go through many changes to help reflect the level of light that’s falling onto your model. Basic lines are about as fickle as a leaky drum when it comes to drawing realistically, so become prepared to make some lines darker, whereas others with highlights will all but disappear. But to get your form correct, you’ll need to follow these lines, like making a carbon copy of your live model.

After these lines are laid down, you can reduce these with an eraser or try to blend them away with your fingers to reduce the sharpness of the line itself. You’ll find that Drawing often involves holding a drawing utensil in one hand and an eraser in the other. Learn to use these hands independently of each other.

Texture

You won’t be sitting on top of your model, so the detail of their skin isn’t going to be so apparent unless you’re doing close-up life drawings. The texture should include basics such as wrinkles and natural folds in the skin. Sagging skin or imperfections are also critical. People worry about the texture of their skin more than anything, but in life drawing, you’ll need to know how to add orange skin, goosebumps, fatty lumps, and overall skin slag.

Even the best athletes will have stretch marks and parts of their skin that look strange. Keep in mind that the human body is covered with skin that flexes and winkles for all sorts of reasons. All of these texture details will also need the appropriate shading and highlight to bring them out.

Taking a Life Drawing Class

This is a must if you can put these lessons into your schedule. If you want to know the difference between life drawing and still life drawing, you should take both within a semester to get good practice from both. Life drawing classes can give you exposure that will stick with you for a lifetime. These skills will teach you to draw within a time limit to speed up your drawing ability.

They will also teach you tough lessons on getting the anatomy correct if you take a class that includes anatomy lessons additionally. Don’t forget that you’ll owe your success to learning little bits of info that art teachers add to their lessons. They aren’t going to force you to memorize every human bone and muscle, but it won’t hurt you one bit to know them just for anatomical reference.

My Favourite Drawing Resources

General Drawing Courses. I really like Udemy if you are looking to develop your knowledge of drawing techniques Udemy is an excellent choice due to its wide range of creative courses and excellent refund policy. They often have monthly discounted deals for new customers, which you can check here. Use my link.

Sketching and Collage. Take a look at this sketching resource I have created. Use this link.

Proko. Is one of my favorite teachers who surpasses in the teaching of Anatomy and Figure drawing. Prokos course breaks down the drawing of the human body into easy-to-follow components aiding the beginner to make rapid progress. For this, I really like Proko.

Art Easels. One of my favorite ways to draw is by using a drawing easel, which develops the skill of drawing on a vertical surface. The H frame easel is an excellent vertical easel way to add variety to the style and type of marks you create when using a drawing board.

To see all of my most up-to-date recommendations, check out this resource I made for you.

Ian

Ian Walsh is the creator and author of improvedrawing.com 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.

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