Exercise: Structured Still Life

This was an extension exercise from p.55 of Robert Kaupalis’ book “Experimental Drawing”.   This exercise begins with the “supermarket shop” still life set up but ends very differently.  These are the stages of the drawing process. Each stage took about 10 minutes.

1.  Draw the verticals of the still life.

2.  Draw the horizontals – still based on the still life, although other horizontals that work can also be used.

3.  Draw diagonals – these may already be implied if the horizontals and verticals are accurately drawn.

4.  Add tone (light, medium, dark).  Relate the value to size of area.  I applied dark tones to small areas and left largest ones light but the reverse could be done, with very different outcome.  The drawing on the left below shows this intermediate stage in the drawing process. At this stage, the marmalade jar, lower half of the drawing on the right, is clearly visible.

5.  Return to the still life and add a section of a flower, a bottle and a section of a guitar. Obviously other objects could be introduced at this stage but it is important that the edges contrast to the underlying abstract geometric structure.  Therefore, lines should be curved, smooth, fluid.

I chose to draw two vases, one containing an oversized rose, and a guitar.  I have not drawn a guitar before and don’t own (or play!) one and so lack the intuitive response that a guitar player might have.  I used an image found in the Dorling Kindersley Visual Dictionary.   Although the final image (below right) does not resemble the still life, the edges of the Rice Krispies’ box can
be made out on the left, as can the shape of the box of oatmeal biscuits on the right. The marmalade jar, visible at the intermediate stage, is now only seen as an edge, behind and to the right of the guitar.

It was a good exercise for escaping preconceptions and using something familiar as a stepping off point for exploring a new direction (new for me). The drawing was made in a ruled, rectangular format but the edge of the box on the left seems to alter one’s perception of the format such that the image seems almost to fold in on itself. This effect is more pronounced in the photograph – probably because the frame of the photo isn’t squared with the format.

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