KS3 Art Scheme of Work: Abstract Still Life

I love teaching this Abstract Still Life painting project! I have used it with lots of different year 8 groups and they have all enjoyed it and made great progress. The outcomes are all different and students like being able to see how they can improve their work each week, even when they tell me their artwork is ‘finished’…

We start by looking at some different artists, then drawing quick observational sketches to focus on the shape of still life objects. We then move onto pattern and mark-making, then finally colour theory; the colour wheel; contrasting and harmonious colour schemes.


Artist inspiration:
Since the outcomes for this art project will be paintings, we look at a range of abstract still life painters including Picasso, Juan Gris and Georges Braque.

Still Life le Jour
Georges Braque, 1929
Image result for picasso abstract still life
STILL-LIFE
Nature Morte

Pablo Picasso, 1945

Students identify different features of still life work, including overlapping objects, patterns, positive / negative colour etc. Whilst understanding a little about the history.

Observational Drawing:
After their research, students start to create a series of drawings. I teach this by having different sets of still life objects positioned around the room. Students then have a set amount of time to draw the outline of different objects.

I keep the drawing times short – to around 5 minutes per drawing. This is to help students sketch, and only focus on the shape of the outlines. I think this also helps students understand the importance of ‘working drawings’, that can be developed into something else (in this case paintings), rather than creating an accomplished, detailed and fully shaded drawing.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/H01Uz7Ct9obmUlNJ3j8yiWNgQSMNwM7Xt3gLYdUNxAizBDfCk8pCmZ-2el2UuTkcQ0lHl6uWiDgSYWsRnP7kcaLFugdVHC5-7zxHmsGu16JQr297sb2A_BJc7ddLegpuJSiT2UyHOlYKZ_RS0ANV-7k0tU4IvWBSB7AwQub-CCIBvGKhVUoRZi7wx0h9nYwXGDtR-on8GlCZ2fFR0dODsjiMgA9Xb8HXql2XUxJZbdvghrx4dp7-9eDsIp0wMTH-8q-ITQBydUPlfqpXxekKWURB4pOaB-JaNsWIbS0zbQ25dTTgCYa1UPf_CAZqagQOxWDF--AXmnjxNHqqJcqRSIOr5G-cSYU1akoRzmowBGuxCD429j4ya6qz1DlbuDzz7GGzR7S9dj5Pj6dC3ckPFJu5ZjM3OwZBy_4fKD-U7G25ql29h8qVrHS1D5qNyd59ZXYm-8iyZ7hvw1Q-OJfcSYWhVNXIkHDQG4Dd7IdWPk_YwshntGKNj2NawMC3kPIEHF8g-IBvlEQ6MFm-52NpBQieV9y8AmZ7eM4ti4VukMw1pxyTtu4eMmfPwFwrgI4OWXnoWhRjTcCUuN2uP6ydapfTnGPIGwWKHiaHCUCt=w1044-h794-no
First drawing on the left, improved drawing on the right.

During their lessons, students aim to draw the outline of their chosen objects, making them as accurate as possible, overlapping and aiming to fill the space on their page. After their first drawing, students complete a self-assessment and aim to make an improved drawing next.

As they complete more drawings, I make the outcomes more difficult, adding things that need to be done on in their work:

I use starters and plenaries in these lessons to look back at the artists’ work and have students identify similarities / differences from their own drawings.


When their series of drawings is complete, I introduce pattern and mark-making. I have lots of lessons around mark-making here.

I tend to use ink and wash for mark-making techniques as it gives students some experience in using their brush to create detailed areas.

Students then go back to their drawings and develop them by adding a range of patterns and mark-making drawings.

Next we move onto colour theory – building on what they have learned in the previous year – so you may have to adapt this to your groups.

I try to use the interactive whiteboard as much as possible with entry tasks like this one:

When students start painting, they paint their names and a 3 way colour scheme onto the back of their work. They should have an understanding of harmony and complementary colour schemes. Later in the project (when they add fine details) they will use an accent colour.

Some students are happy to paint straight onto their paper, copying their earlier drawings, however I have had some groups that preferred their drawings to be enlarged so they could paint onto them and make their work more accurate.

As they develop their paintings, they add more details and make them more complicated.

Then finally start to add highlights / accent colours / patterns and mark making into the different parts of their work.

Here are some of the final pieces – what do you think? Let me know in the comments!

This scheme of work is available here, including all the slides and examples of students’ work.

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