25 Creative Still Life Ideas To Draw Or Paint

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Still life scenes are perfect for learning how light works and how to design an interesting composition. The controlled environment means you do not need to worry about the changing environment, the wind blowing your canvas or your subject moving. You can have as much control as you need with a still life scene so you can focus on actually drawing or painting it.

Still life inspiration is all around us. You can literally draw or paint any subject. The main things you need to consider when selecting a still life scene are light and composition.

You do not need your still life to have any hidden meaning. You could use a milk jug, a chair, a cup, a coffee pot – it does not matter.

If you are struggling with creative still life ideas to draw or paint, then here are 25 of them to spark your inspiration:

Idea 1 – Crabs

These paintings of crabs by Vincent van Gogh are a stunning demonstration of color. The intense greens contrast nicely against the reds and oranges. The crabs also comprise of many varied shapes which create interesting light effects.

Vincent van Gogh, Crab On It's Back, 1889
Vincent van Gogh, Crab On It’s Back, 1889
Vincent van Gogh, Two Crabs, 1889
Vincent van Gogh, Two Crabs, 1889

Idea 2 – A Lobster

Much like the crabs by Vincent van Gogh above, the lobster also has many varied shapes which can be interesting to draw or paint. The vibrant orange is also a great color to contrast against a cooler background.

Samuel Peploe, The Lobster, 1903
Samuel Peploe, The Lobster, 1903

Idea 3 – A Skull

The skull is a classic still life scene which everyone should have an attempt at drawing or painting. You do not need an actual skull of course – you could use a photo or a plastic model.

You are also not limited to a human skull. Animal skulls would also work fine.

Paul Cezanne, Still Life Skull And Waterjug, 1870
Paul Cezanne, Still Life Skull And Waterjug, 1870

(See the supplies page for details about what I use and recommend.)

Idea 4 – Your Art Supplies

What better to draw or paint than your own art supplies. This can make for a very personal and unique artwork.

Samuel Peploe, Still Life With Paint Tubes, 1903
Samuel Peploe, Still Life With Paint Tubes, 1903
Pyotr Konchalovsky, Still Life, The Palette And Paint, 1912
Pyotr Konchalovsky, Still Life, The Palette And Paint, 1912

Idea 5 – A Leg Of Ham

A leg of ham can be an interesting subject with many varied shapes and flesh tones. If you are struggling with the flesh tones in portrait painting, then try painting a leg of ham still life.

Paul Cezanne, Still Life Bread And Leg Of Lamb, 1866
Paul Cezanne, Still Life Bread And Leg Of Lamb, 1866

Idea 6 – A Flower Vace

The classic flower vase is a perfect demonstration of color and light. Flower vase paintings can vary significantly based on the type of flowers you decide to use.

Henri Matisse, Vase Of Sunflowers, 1898
Henri Matisse, Vase Of Sunflowers, 1898
Paul Cézanne, Still Life Flowers in a Vase, 1888
Paul Cézanne, Still Life Flowers in a Vase, 1888

Idea 7 – Apples

The circular shape of apples makes them perfect for studying light.

Paul Cezanne, Apples, 1878
Paul Cezanne, Apples, 1878
Paul Cezanne, Dish Of Apples, 1879
Paul Cezanne, Dish Of Apples, 1879

Idea 8 – A Fish

If you are having fish for dinner, then take a photo before you dig in as it can be a great still life to draw or paint. Felix Vallotton creates an interesting composition using a fish, lemon, and herbs on top of a light background.

Felix Vallotton, A Gurnard One Has Towel, 1914
Felix Vallotton, A Gurnard One Has Towel, 1914

Idea 9 – A Coffee Pot

Everyone has a coffee pot lying around. The silver or brass makes for interesting reflections which can be a great challenge for beginners.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Coffee Pot, 1884
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Coffee Pot, 1884

Idea 10 – Red Peppers

If you want something more challenging than an apple, then try painting peppers. Their shapes are more varied, making them more difficult to draw or paint.

Felix Vallotton, Still Life With Red Peppers On A White Lacquered Table, 1915
Felix Vallotton, Still Life With Red Peppers On A White Lacquered Table, 1915

Idea 11 – A Basket Of Cherries

If you want to challenge yourself by painting a large number of small subjects, then try painting a basket of cherries.

Felix Vallotton, Basket Of Cherries, 1921
Felix Vallotton, Basket Of Cherries, 1921

Idea 12 – A Fish Tank

A fish tank, either empty or full, can make for an interesting composition. You do not need to include the fish in your artwork.

Henri Matisse, Goldfish, 1911
Henri Matisse, Goldfish, 1911

Idea 13 – A Shell

If you plan on going to the beach, then keep an eye out for whole shells as they make for fantastic subjects to draw or paint.

Rembrandt, The Shell (Conus Marmoreus) 1650
Rembrandt, The Shell (Conus Marmoreus) 1650
Rembrandt, The Shell 'Conus Marmoreus' 1650
Rembrandt, The Shell ‘Conus Marmoreus’, 1650

Idea 14 – A Branch With Leaves

This is one of the more simple and accessible still life ideas. Just venture outside and grab a branch with leaves. Each branch will be different, so you can paint this subject over and over.

Vincent van Gogh, Branch With Leaves, 1890
Vincent van Gogh, Branch With Leaves, 1890

Idea 15 – A Chair

Whilst not the most interesting subject, it is easy to set up and many of the famous artists seem to have painted a chair.

Samuel Peploe, Interior
Samuel Peploe, Interior

Idea 16 – Chops

Much the same as the leg of ham. The unique shapes of chops can make for an interesting subject to draw or paint.

Samuel Peploe, Chops, 1930
Samuel Peploe, Chops, 1930

Idea 17 – A Pot Plant

If you do not have any vibrant flower vases around, then you could try using a simple pot plant.

Paul Cezanne, Pot Of Geraniums, 1885
Paul Cezanne, Pot Of Geraniums, 1885

Idea 18 – A Billiard Room

A billiard room makes for an interesting composition. However this is a complex scene to draw or paint, so this is reserved for more advanced artists.

Edgar Degas, The Biliard Room At Menil-Hubert, 1892
Edgar Degas, The Biliard Room At Menil-Hubert, 1892

Idea 19 – Your Living Room

If you are lacking inspiration, then get out your sketchbook and start drawing your living room. It does not need to be a masterpiece.

Carl Larsson, Cosy Corner, 1894
Carl Larsson, Cosy Corner, 1894

Idea 20 – An Open Book

An easy still life scene for beginners is an open book. It does present some challenges in perspective and light.

Felix Vallotton, Still Life With Blue Trim, 1922
Felix Vallotton, Still Life With Blue Trim, 1922

Idea 21 – A Bowl And Milk Jug

Another easy still-life scene for beginners is a bowl and milk jug.

Paul Cezanne, Still Life, Bowl And Milk Jug, 1877
Paul Cezanne, Still Life, Bowl And Milk Jug, 1877

Idea 22 – A Piano

If you have a piano, it can make for an interesting still life subject, with varied shapes and subtle reflections.

Henri Matisse, Woman At The Piano, 1925
Henri Matisse, Woman At The Piano, 1925

Idea 23 – Your Art Studio

What better place for inspiration than your own art studio (if you have one). Depending on how much you include in the scene, this could be as simple or complex as you like.

Henri Matisse, Red Studio, 1911
Henri Matisse, Red Studio, 1911

Idea 24 – A Bird’s Nest

A bird’s nest makes for an interesting subject if you can find and photograph one like Vincent van Gogh was able to. Or you could find a photograph on the internet or a book of a bird’s nest.

Vincent van Gogh, Bird's Next, 1885
Vincent van Gogh, Bird’s Next, 1885

Idea 25 – A Statuette

If you want to venture into any kind of portrait work, then you should draw or paint a statuette. They are perfect for studying the human anatomy and how light interacts with it.

Vincent van Gogh, Plaster Statuette Of A Female Torso, 1887
Vincent van Gogh, Plaster Statuette Of A Female Torso, 1887

Summary

I hope you enjoyed these creative still-life ideas to draw or paint. Some of these ideas are perfect for beginners and some should be reserved for more advanced artists.

What I want you to learn from this post is that you can use anything as inspiration. The main thing you need to consider with still life scenes is light and composition.

If you have any creative still-life ideas you would like to add, please share them in the comment section below.

Thanks for Reading!

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I appreciate it! Feel free to share with friends. If you want more painting tips, check out my Painting Academy course.

Happy painting!

Signature Draw Paint Academy

Dan Scott

Draw Paint Academy

6 comments on “25 Creative Still Life Ideas To Draw Or Paint”

  1. Great ideas! I have been experimenting with still life….bowl of tomatoes of different colors from the garden – you have given me more to try! Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Thank you, this has definitely helped me out of a locked mindset. Lots of good ideas and inspiring examples.
    Do you have any suggestions for a starting point into a painting when using collected sketches made in the landscape. how to overcome the fear of starting?

    Reply
    • Hi Belinda!

      I find that by doing a quick sketch or staining the canvas is the easiest way to just get things started.

      Dan

      Reply
  3. amazing….. it is very nice and useful for all the artist of the world and also the artist that are looking the Google for there at works…… thank you you had made this……

    Reply

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