Charcoal Still Life Lesson Plan

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

With this lesson plan, your students are going to create their own still life arrangements for a charcoal drawing. They will practice transitioning from color to monochromatic art and will think about compositional elements of art.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Analytically describe a still life scene in compositional terms
  • Appreciate the differences between color and monochromatic artwork
  • Arrange a still life scene and depict it with charcoal as a medium


60-90 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives.


Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives; synthesize comments, claims, and evidence made on all sides of an issue; resolve contradictions when possible; and determine what additional information or research is required to deepen the investigation or complete the task.


Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.


  • Brief slideshow of still life paintings and drawings
  • Colored pencils, pastels, and charcoal
  • Drawing paper
  • A large assortment of objects to be used in creating still life scenes
  • A camera and printer


  • Start class with a brief slideshow of still life paintings. Ask students to think about how artists treat still life scenes.
    • Why do artists pick the objects they do? What considerations are made?
    • How do texture, shape, and color impact the arrangement of still life scenes?
  • Ask students to next imagine what happens if you remove color from the equation.
    • What is the point of a still life if color is not a factor?
    • How would your focus and methods change in a monochromatic still life?
    • Can you still capture the same effects of color in a monochromatic work? Why or why not?

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