Do the children know a colour mixing painting process? Do they need reminding or some practice? For example, the children could experiment mixing the colours they can see. Look at the unit, 'colour mixing with paint'.

Show the children a reproduction of a still life painting. For example, use Cezanne. Talk about the painting with the class. You could use the strategy outlined in the unit 'talk about a painting'.

Set up the still life for the children to paint. Better still, ask the children themselves to arrange the group of objects. Do you want the children to consider a background? If this is the first time children have painted in this way it might be as well to use a plain background. In any case, all the children who are painting should be able to see clearly the still life and access their materials and equipment. You will need all the equipment for painting. Discuss with the children the size of paper they would like to use. The size might also be determined by available resources. For example, very large paintings will use lots of ready-mix paint. Discuss the format. Should the paper be 'landscape' or 'portrait'?

If children are not experienced in organising the composition of a painting use this strategy to help them make a good start.

"Find the centre of your paper. Choose the object that you would like to start with in the centre of the still life. Make a very pale colour in the mixing palette or use white. Paint the outline shape of the first object in the centre of the paper. If you make a 'mistake' don't worry, when you are painting you can always paint over mistakes to change or hide them later."

You may need to give the children advice about the size that they should paint their first shape. Once the first shape is painted in position the children can go on to add in the other basic shapes of the still life in the pale or white paint. This provides the framework for the painting.

Now they can start to mix their colours to make the painting. Encourage the children to mix more colour than they think they need as often they are shy of mixing too much. You might discuss with them a technique for applying the colour. One strategy is to look in detail at an artist's painting and observe that, perhaps, the artist had used many dashes and dabs to apply the paint.

The children could finish the painting by choosing to paint a background. Patterned or plain? Simple colours or multicoloured? You may have already deliberately set up the still life with a background. Some teachers and children would prefer to paint the background first and then add the objects from the still life on top. However, there are no rules to follow here! It is probably better to encourage the children to think big and to fill their paper with colour. You may want to persuade them to paint all the paper. More advanced children could add detailed areas later with the smaller brush.

Paint is wonderful as it allows you to paint over areas you want to change or improve. The only problem is that with water based paints the paper sometimes gets very wet. The children will have to wait a little to let the wet areas dry. A secret to helping children to paint freely and with confidence is to convince them that they can 'paint over'. This contrasts with the idea of 'colouring in', a pervasive notion in the art experiences of children, in the UK at least!

Have an exhibition of the finished paintings. You could display them with reproductions of paintings by adult artists.

  • Adapted and expanded from page 43 of 'Teaching Art at Key Stage 1', Nigel Meager, 1993, NSEAD. See the NSEAD web site for information about ordering this book.
  • See the advice in the unit 'drawing and making mistakes' which you can adapt to help children who worry too much about making too many 'mistakes'.
  • For other ideas about still-life, try 'still-life drawing and abstraction in two and three dimensions' and 'still-life'.

More ideas about art connections

  • Still life is frequently about a setting, "at home". Have you thought of asking the children to look at a typical arrangement in their own homes? Some examples by other artists might include Cornelis Kruys, "Still Life" (c.1655, Johnny van Haeften Gallery, London); Jean-Baptiste Chardin, "The Skate" (1728, Louvre, Paris) and Pieter van Roestraeten, "A Vanitas - Still Life" (c.1660).

2 reds, 2 yellows and 2 blues ready mixed paint with white, containers for the paint, paper or card to paint on use the best quality paper you can afford, one thick and one thin brush, a mixing palette, a large container for water, a sponge in a tray, an old towel, polythene to cover the tables.