Watercolor Still Life Lesson Plan

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

Still life paintings feature common objects in interesting displays and can be created using a variety of mediums. This lesson plan teaches students how to paint a still life using watercolors. A hands-on activity gives students a chance to demonstrate what they've learned about watercolor still life paintings.

Learning Objective

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

  • define 'still life' in regard to painting
  • distinguish between still life paintings using acrylic and watercolor paints
  • list the materials and steps required for creating a watercolor still life painting


60 to 90 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Pose and respond to specific questions with elaboration and detail by making comments that contribute to the topic, text, or issue under discussion.


Review the key ideas expressed and demonstrate understanding of multiple perspectives through reflection and paraphrasing.


Interpret information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how it contributes to a topic, text, or issue under study.


Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.


Compare and contrast the information gained from experiments, simulations, video, or multimedia sources with that gained from reading a text on the same topic.


  • A few examples of acrylic still life paintings (e.g. Vincent van Gogh's Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers and so on)
  • Several examples of watercolor still life paintings (e.g. Paul Cezanne's Still Life with Blue Pot and so on)
  • A definition of 'still life' in regard to painting
  • Watercolor paints
  • Paintbrushes
  • Small plastic cups filled with water
  • Scrap paper
  • Watercolor paper
  • Paper towels
  • A bowl of fruit or other brightly colored objects


  • Begin by displaying both the acrylic and watercolor still life paintings side-by-side for the class.
    • What do these paintings have in common?
  • Can you spot any differences among the paintings.
  • Write the definition for 'still life' on the board as you explain that all of the examples on display represent this style of painting.
  • Point out which of the paintings were created with acrylic paints and those that were made using watercolor paints.
    • What are the differences in color between the acrylics and watercolors?
    • How is the illusion of depth different among the acrylic and watercolor paintings?
    • How do the artists create light in the paintings?
    • Is the perception of light different between the acrylic and the watercolor still life paintings?
  • Paint a line on a sheet of paper using the watercolors, making sure the line goes from dark to light. Explain that the addition of water to watercolors makes the colors lighter.
  • Have students practice using watercolors in varying shades on the scrap paper.

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