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Caran d’Ache Crayons: How to Set up and Draw a Still Life

0:00   Benefits of doing a still life
0:32   Negative views of still life
1:10   Still life set ups are not difficult
1:30   Dutch Vanitas still life paintings
1:42   Pick objects you want to draw
2:10   Grocery shopping: find objects
2:34   Search for objects outdoors
2:41   Plan ahead with your objects
3:20   Common mistakes in still lifes

4:15    Objects: shape, color, size, etc.
8:46   Color saturation
10:15  Complementary color pairs
11:39  Warm & cool colors
12:40   Light & dark contrast
14:10   Background cloths
15:18   Height of objects in still life
15:36   Layering backdrops
16:19   Arranging: overlap, diagonals

18:52   Lighting a still life
21:23   Positioning your easel
22:50   Viewfinders: composition
23:25   Thumbnail sketches
29:50   Line sketch in yellow ochre
33:31   First layer of color: blocking in
37:03   Layering colors
40:47   Finishing: details & contrast

Clara Lieu, RISD Adjunct Professor
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Set up a still life and create a crayon drawing by observing the set up from life.

Core Ideas

Composition, color, layering, diagonals, contrast, saturation.

Related Tutorials


Art Supplies: Caran d'Ache Neocolor I Crayons
Art Supplies: Permanent Fixative
Art Supplies: Black Mat Board
Art Supplies: White Plastic Eraser
Art Supplies: Drawing Board
Art Prof, Art Supply Encyclopedia: Clamp Light

Substitute Supplies

The supplies listed below cost less, and can be used instead of the supplies above.

Art Supplies: Chalk Pastels
Art Supplies: Hairspray
Hairspray is NOT archival!
Art Supplies: Black Paper
Art Supplies: Crayola Crayons
Art Supplies: Oil Pastels
Art Supplies: Colored Pencils


Piper Matthew, Architecture Student

“I never realized just how much work goes into setting up a still life! I spent about the same amount of time drawing as I did setting it up, and maybe that is because I was picky but I really wanted it to look well composed. The tip about adding something beneath the drapery to hoist something upward was genius!

I really enjoyed this and personally I’m never comfortable using color, so this was a challenge. It felt good allowing myself to let go with just layering it on there.”

Britt Sodersjerna

“This tutorial was a really great learning experience for me, because during it, I realized that I have never really considered color in my still life set ups before. Professor Lieu’s advice in color contrast and intensity really helped me make a piece that was far more engaging than if I hadn’t had the advice and just made it on my own.  

Armed with a medium I had very little experience in, I felt much more confident and prepared after watching this tutorial.”

“This tutorial was the perfect combination of structure and freedom for me. I had the ability to control the set up and the pace that I worked at, but I also felt encouraged me to experiment with a new medium and try out some riskier compositions. I have always found working with color to be challenging and a bit overwhelming, but actively thinking about color and color theory from the initial set up to the final execution allowed me to confidently tackle this challenge that was outside of my comfort zone.

Overall, making deliberate decisions throughout the entire process was extremely valuable for me. I had so much fun with this tutorial and will definitely be carrying these newly acquired skills with me into the school year!”

Artist Profile

Visual artist Tony Janello is obsessed with the human face, its endless variations and its extraordinary capacity for expression. He began his artistic practice painting portraits and eventually began creating three-dimensional sculptures and digital photographs depicting faces that appear structurally unsound as if in the early stages of implosion. Janello has taught courses at the college level in portraiture, drawing, and color since the early 1980’s.

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