Part Two, Project 4, Exercise 2- Still Life In Tone Using Colour

 Set up another still life group. Before you begin, screw up your eyes and identify the darkest areas. (You may need to adjust the light using a lamp or strong sunlight.) Use a coloured pencil or pastel to sketch them in roughly, using the side of the medium to create broad strokes. Then, use a different colour to sketch in the mid tones, and yet another colour to sketch in the light tones. Work your way around the composition, adding layers of colour on colour, varying the type and pressure of mark, building up tone, shadow and contrasts.  Think carefully about using a variety of effects, pattern, sweeps of colour, etc. Work quite fast to keep the activity and the image spontaneous and energetic. Don’t be surprised if this image becomes slightly messy and don’t be tempted to fiddle or overwork the image.

I set up a still life and very quickly sketched light pencil outlines to work from. I chose various brown green tones, starting with a mid-green colour in broad sweeps to roughly suggest the mid-tones of the objects.  then I filled in the dark areas and then the light areas.  This had only taken a few minutes but I was surprised how 3dimensional it looked, especially from a distance.  I actually rather liked the picture at this stage but thought I should develop it.

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I tried to add some background; I felt I had to use  contrasting brown/black colours for this to avoid the whole picture becoming muddy and losing contrast.

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In the resulting picture  I defined some of the detail more strongly.  I was pleased that I stayed pretty much with the original three colours for the main objects, with may just the addition of a lighter tone for the highlight areas.

I did not linger over-long on this exercise as I felt I had succeeded in using simple tone and colour to represent the objects.  I resisted the urge to add detail even though the picture was a bit messy. I just indicated the main details using the tip or side of the pastels.

I have been reading recently and picked up a hint along the way that it is more important to think more about tone than the actual colour in a colour drawing, in order to create contrast/ highlights and shading and a sense of 3D form.  I think this exercise illustrates this perfectly.  In fact using my camera to look at this picture in B&W showed that it still had 3D form.  If the colours had all been of similar tone this would not have been the case.

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Review your work on the  exercises 1&2 in project 4:

  • What aspects of each drawing were successful, and what did you have problems with?    The black line drawing was successful, particularly the leaves and florets of the vegetables.  I felt this drawing benefitted from not allowing myself to dwell on the shading and form but to enjoy the shapes and lines in front of me.  It was almost hypnotic, homing in on the detail without thinking too much about the actual object I was trying to draw.  The success of the pastel drawing was less in the detail and more in the use of depth of tone/colour to depict form.  I found I viewed the objects differently, seeing them as a 3D whole.
  • Did you manage to get a sense of depth in your drawings? What elements of the drawings and still life groupings helped to create that sense?  The line drawing does not give a sense of depth in the same was as the colour tones.
  • What difficulties were created by being restricted to line or tone? Being restricted to line frustrated my desire to create a sense of form as by its nature it resulted in a rather flat image rather like a pattern.  Conversely, the limited colour pallet and use of pastels frustrated my desire to add detail and line! This may have been different had I used colour pencils, but I deliberately chose pastels to prevent myself becoming bogged down in detail, to make myself  concentrate primarily on representing 3D form/ shades and highlights etc.
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