Assignment 1: Still Lifes of Natural and Synthetic objects.

Finally, after 6 months of interrupted work, I made it to the first assignment deadline at the end of September. Here is my reflection on the work, which consisted of two still lifes, one of natural and one of man-made objects.

Drawing One: Still life with natural objects.

The objects chosen for this still life were a sunflower seedhead, dried dark red roses in a brass jug and a fir cone.

The Process

Preliminary work: I began with two different fir cones in the still life (see the first two preliminary sketches) but chose finally to include one only. Three objects rather than four provided a simpler and more cohesive image.

I sketched the objects using different media:
o Indigo coloured pencil on turquoise pastel background – A4
o Charcoal – A4
o Faber-Castell Pitt Artist pens, # 177, 180 & 186 (shades of tan / brown) – A2

I liked the arrangement used with the Faber-Castell pens but wanted a softer effect than the pens provided. I decided to try Inktense pencils and selected some colours that might work (see sketchbook page headed ‘Sketch with Inktense pencils’). I then sketched, on the same page, the individual components of the image to try out the colours.

I selected carmine pink, chili red and deep violet for the roses; amber, willow and bark for the fircone and the sunflower, with additional sienna gold for the bracts on the “flower”. Sicilian yellow and amber were chosen for the jug.

The final drawing: Having selected colours for each part of the image, I then drew the image on A2 paper. I found it difficult to judge the form of the petals, which are very dark. The sketch included more light than the finished version. In order to maintain colour balance between the dark red and violet in the roses and the remainder of the image, I used the violet again for the shadows and introduced some carmine pink into the tips of the fir cone. This also provided warmth in the foreground. I sat in front of and slightly above the still life arrangement. The drawing was made in front of a window under conditions of natural indirect light. I did not attempt to include the background, for the sake of simplicity of the image.

The image was not centrally situated on the paper and was rather far to the right, a tendency that I have as a left-hander. Half-way through the drawing, I was unsure of the colour balance and hence made the adjustments mentioned above. In the end, however, I am quite pleased with the composition as well as the colour choices. I have not used colour pencils in such a large format before and blending could be improved! I still need to develop the skill of using hatching with different colours to create subtle tonal variations. The sunflower head was tricky and is more impressionistic than realistic.
Drawing Two: Still life with man-made objects

The objects chosen for this still life were a cheese grater, a potato masher, a ladle made from a coconut shell, and a tablemat.

The Process

Preliminary work: I made a series of preliminary sketches using a black fineliner in my sketchbook (A4). I liked the textural patterns on the grater and masher, as well as the highly reflective surface of the grater. The masher also created interesting shadow patterns, which became more or less diffuse, depending on the angle of the light. At this stage, I considered possibly making the final drawing in graphite on a graphite ground from which highlights could be lifted.

I tried several different arrangements in landscape and portrait formats. I particularly liked the arrangement in which the masher faces the viewer (this also avoids some of the difficulties with angles found during the first sketch but involves foreshortening). I also tried varying the composition by introducing a storage jar instead of the grater (sketch 4) but decided finally to use the grater because of its corners and straight edges, which contrasted with the curves of the other objects.

Having decided on a composition, I tried it out on A2 paper using charcoal. I have not used charcoal very much, except in very loose abstract ways and the sketch was rather a mess. Nevertheless, I like the intense darks of charcoal and the potential for emphasizing highlights, and I decided to try combining charcoal with my original idea of using a graphite ground. I considered using Derwent’s tinted charcoal and experimented with these on a graphite ground but finally chose to use a light, medium and dark black. Because of the height of the grater relative to the other objects, I decided upon using a portrait format for the final drawing.

I then sketched the same composition as that used in the charcoal sketch in my A4 sketchbook on a 6 by 9 grid. Each square measured 3 cm by 3 cm. I used this sketch as the template for my final drawing, scaling up the original by a factor of four. The sketch was drawn in HB pencil and the photograph of this page was not clear. Therefore, I have enhanced the image to strengthen the pencil lines; this has created a sepia tinge to the photograph.

The final drawing: Having decided upon a format and media, I drew accurately a 6 by 9 grid of squares, each measuring 6 cm by 6 cm on A2 cartridge paper. I then rubbed graphite powder into the paper within the format. I sat in front of and slightly above the still life arrangement. I drew under artificial light in order to maximize the potential for shadows.

I could not create an even graphite ground across the paper, although I like the uneven effect that is produced but I had intended an even application, which obviously takes a lot of practice. In particular, I like the “frame” provided by more intensity of graphite at the bottom and top right of the format. I drew from right to left across the page to reduce the chance of smearing charcoal and placed a sheet of paper under my hand whenever I needed to revisit an area. I found the medium difficult to manipulate for details, even at the scale chosen and at various times regretted my choice but decided to plough on and see where it was going… Hatching was also difficult – perhaps because I was not using a fine enough point. Charcoal needs constant attention and sharpening and I probably did not do this frequently enough. However, I like the final image more than I expected. The cheese grater does appear reflective although the handles of the two other utensils, which are reflected in the grater’s lower left surface, facing into the picture, are implied rather than drawn in sharp detail. Finally, the angle of the handle on the grater appears inexact in the final drawing, although it looks fine in the preparatory drawing on the smaller grid. This may have been a problem of transferring the image to the larger grid. Another time, I will apply any ground after drawing the outline in graphite on the grid. I marked the grid externally along the outer edges but it was difficult to make out in places although I took the time to place edges crossing gridlines as accurately as possible. I should have anticipated this problem but didn’t.

A slide show of the work documents the process. For ease of admin, both drawings are presented in the same slide show. I have tried three times to order these slides correctly but each time they reorder themselves…. I now give up….  The two final drawing are shown separately with their related tutor feedback.

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Assignment feedback…. what my tutor,Alexis Zelda Stevens, had to say about these drawings…

Man made objects This is the stronger of the two drawings because you have used a media which has allowed you to obtain a full range of rich marks with which to talk about your subject. You have applied a lot of what you found in the mark making exercises to this drawing and have include deflected light, drawing on all that you have learned- well done. In terms of space (fore, mid and background) the drawing is a little confused, with the top of the grater coming forwards a lot and the ladle doing the same. This is because areas of dark tones will stand out against a white background. There is a certain log c that you can work with and bend to fit what you are doing to an extent when you get really skilled. Essentially: light thin lines recede and thick dark lines come forwards. Texture will come forwards and flat colour will receded. An area of dark tone might sit equally in space with a textured surface. You have to judge it and then make the adjustments that are needed. You will also find that clean, opaque colour will come forwards and polluted (muddy) and translucent colour will recede. Your composition is dynamic because you have worked to the frame and considered how the subject fits onto the paper. Well done. I feel that your study for this, is actually a more interesting drawing as it is immediate, selective and less polished. It would benefit you to work bigger and faster and to resist the temptation to over do it. Drawings are like people, you have to deal with them gently of they run away from you!

Natural Objects

Coloured pencil is a hard media to get a varied quality of line out of unless to buy ones that are really soft, or water soluble and use them with water and washes. You need to reconsider the amount of clear space in this image as there is no clear indication that you have committed to the frame and are working in relation to it.




This feedback was provided with other comments related to specific drawings made during the first part of the course.   The feedback was positive and constructive and from it I have made a list of things to address during the next part of the course.  I have published the list separately so that I can refer to it easily and edit it as I attempt to address the tasks.


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