In art classes students either draw pictures of inanimate objects and call them “still life”, or living, breathing human beings and call them “figurative drawings”.

But what about drawing things that are in-between? For example, corpses… If you teach a drawing class and use a cadaver as a model, then can you break free the dichotomy and the tradition? And would you consider what you are drawing a still-life or a figure drawing?

If you use a dead body as a model and deliberately place it in positions that mimic life, like say put him in a chair and have him hold a book with his head down to make it look like he is reading, then the drawings that come out of this might be more “life” than “still” because some of the students might perceive the model as maybe having 0.002 grams of his soul left inside his body.

On the other hand, if you hire a living model and ask him to fake a heart attack and drop dead on the floor in the middle of a drawing session (yes naked) and tell your students to continue drawing him while thinking that he really is dead, then I suppose that moves those drawings closer to the still-life side of the continuum. But what if the students KNEW the model is faking his death? They might perceive and draw him differently with a different cognitive and emotional response to the process than the previous case, then the work might change direction.

Now back to the cadaver-model case. If you deliberately make the corpse look its part – dead, or like more like an object than a human body, say roll him up into a shape of ball, stuff him in a glass box, or chop off his limbs, sexual organs, or facial features and place them next to other more traditional still life objects such as flower vases and plastic bananas for separate studies then I guess the drawings that come out of those things should objectively be considered still-life.

There are other examples that could get muddled up in the grey area as well, such as drawing living plants, drawing a man who is a vegetable, drawing sluts, drawing fries and hotdogs that could crawl, drawing a wax apple/plastic flowers vs real ones, drawing a piece of well done vs bloody steak, or chopping off the model’s body parts and draw them while he is still alive, and etc.