• Still Life with Meat Pie

    Jasper Gerardi (Geeraerts) (attributed), Still Life with Meat Pie. Oil on panel, 19 1/4 x 25 1/4 inches. Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

  • Still Life with Blue and White Porcelain

    Cristoforo Munari. Still Life with Blue and White Porcelain. Oil on canvas, 11 3/4 x 16 1/4 inches. Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art.

  • Straw Basket and Chinese Lantern

    Joan Potter, American (1945-),Straw Basket and Chinese Lantern, n.d. Oil on canvas, 28″ x 23 3/4″. Collection of the Carlsbad Museum & Art Center, Carlsbad, NM, USA.

We Can Paint a Still Life

Visual Arts


4: America: Symbols and Celebrations

2 45-minute lessons


How do artists arrange fruits and vegetables to create a still life?
How do I overlap my shapes to create depth and a more interesting composition?

I can paint the colors and shapes that look like fruits and vegetables.
I can make an arrangement of fruits and vegetables sitting on a table.
I can talk about still lifes and how artists make decisions in their still lifes.

Day 1


For hundreds of years, artists have used fruits and vegetables from everyday life and make arrangements that look interesting to them. You have seen this type of art form before because still lifes are popular to decorate homes, and still lifes can have details about what else is included (bowls, baskets, flowers, etc.).

Direct Instruction

Teacher led discussion about still lifes while looking at various examples that include fruits and vegetables. In addition to the Gerardi still life, other images or prints may be used. Some possibilities include Fruit and Jug on Table, Paul Cezanne; Still Life with Peaches, Pears, and Grapes, Georges Braque; or Still Life with Lemons, Henri Matisse.

Discussion questions include:

  • What else can be included?
  • How does the artist overlap the objects to create depth?
  • How do color and shapes also help to identify the fruit or vegetable?
  • What else do you see included besides fruits and vegetables?

Next, demonstrate how students can either draw with chalk (on darker colored papers) or with fat black crayon (on lighter papers) so that students draw larger shapes with some overlapping. Then show how to paint inside the shapes with either tempera cake and water technique or with liquid tempera.

Guided Practice/Application

Students work on individual projects.

Day 2

Demonstrate techniques for adding details, a table surface, etc. It may be also a time to demonstrate painting objects in the background.

Guided Practice/Application

Students finish their projects.

Differentiation and Modifications:

Modification: Teacher can alternately demonstrate how to paint shapes with various colors to represent fruit and vegetables directly with liquid tempera.


Students’ compositions have various overlapping fruits and vegetables.

Art Rubric

Materials Needed

construction paper, 12″x18″, any color, tempera paints (liquid or tempera cakes), brushes, (optional if drawing first: chalk or fat black crayons)


still life, vegetables, composition, overlap, background, foreground

Artwork in this Lesson

  • Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University
    • Jasper Gerardi | Still Life with Meat Pie
  • Carlsbad Museum and Art Center