Colorful Still Life

Children will explore colors and create art from still life.

Birds Nest

Lesson Objective

Children will explore and interpret colors in artwork and will create their own colorful still life artwork.


What You'll Need


What To Do

Note: This lesson is best taught after the lesson, Exploring Color, found on this website.

  1. Explain that we will be exploring colors in a work of art and using color to make our own artwork.
  2. Display the artwork, and have the children “observe” (look closely) at the painting.
  3. Ask them to describe what they see and to name the colors (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  4. Refer back to the artwork, and ask why they think artists sometimes paint with brilliant colors and sometimes with neutral colors (see Did You Know?).
  5. Explain that this type of painting is called a still life, and it is set up by the artist using everyday items that don’t change or move, so he or she can paint them.
  6. Have the children help to arrange the vase with flowers and fruit in a central location so that all children can see the objects.
  7. Have the children look closely at the still life that they helped create, carefully “observing” colors, shapes, and lines.
  8. Distribute paper, crayons, and markers, and have them re-create the still life on their paper.
  9. Display the children’s artwork, and help them to talk about the colors, shapes, and lines in their artwork.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Tell me what you see in this painting.
  • Describe the colors you see: How are they similar? How are they different?
  • Name some colors that are repeated.
  • Describe the emotion that certain colors make you feel.
  • Explain the shapes that you used to draw your still life.
  • Describe any colors you created for your still life drawing.

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Place a color-of-the-day tray in the art area. Choose a color for the day, and have the children fill the tray with items of that color. At the end of the day, review the items with the children. Look at the differences in the colors.
  • Have children sort the items on the tray into dark and light colors.
  • Use a color wheel to look at how different colors are created, including light and dark shades of color.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Could children describe the similarities and differences in the colors of the painting?
  • Could children name repeating colors?
  • Could children describe how a color makes them feel?
  • Could children explain the shapes that they used in their still life?
  • Could children describe the colors that they created for their still life drawings?


Did You Know

The focus work of art for this lesson, Blue Still Life (Nature Morte Bleue) by Henri Matisse, is from the art collection of the late Dr. Albert Barnes of The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Barnes Foundation is home to a great many of Henri Matisse’s paintings. Dr. Barnes considered color to be one of four major elements of art— line, light, and space being the other three. Henri Matisse was a French artist and was widely considered to be one of the most important artists of the twentieth century. He is known for using brilliant colors in his artwork.

Colors are everywhere, and using art to explore color can open children’s eyes to a world of shades and emotions. Artists sometimes use brilliant colors and sometimes use neutral colors to paint what they see or feel. The colors can be true to life, or the color can represent how an artist feels or what he or she imagines. Color is all around us; it is a beautiful part of our everyday lives.

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • color – a quality of light as our eyes see it; red, blue, and yellow are some colors.
  • still life – small objects—such as fruit, flowers, and bottles—that are used as subjects for a painting or photograph.
  • repeated – occurring again and again.
  • brilliant – very shiny or bright.
  • neutral – a color that matches most other colors well; gray is a neutral color.
  • emotion – a strong feeling such as love or fear.

Lesson Tips

  • You can introduce this lesson using the book A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni.
  • You may choose to have the children first draw the still life and then paint their drawings using tempera paint and paintbrushes.


  • A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni
  • Monsters Love Colors by Mike Austin
  • Colors by Alain Grée
  • Bear Sees Colors by Karma Wilson
  • Elmer by David McKee

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

While we believe that the books and resources recommended may be of value to you, keep in mind that these are suggestions only and you must do your own due diligence to determine whether the materials are appropriate and suitable for your use. PNC has no sponsorship or endorsement agreement with the authors or publishers of the materials listed.

Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS