Tag Archives: still life

Assignment 2

This assignment is designed to pull together the fine observation and practice that has been done in part 2 of this course. Choose your own subject matter and media, still life, animal study or interior scene –provided that you take account of the factors listed below.

I was lucky enough to come across a pheasant, who obligingly posed for Assignment Two.

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Preliminary sketches to test ideas for composition and which materials to use.    I did a few thumbnail sketches for layout and tonal composition, but the composition found itself early on.  Looking at both these and previous work, I settled on the use of mainly pastels with additional media as required.  I also experimented a little with pencils, trying various drawings of the head, but thought using these would lead to me becoming engrossed in minute detail meaning any freedom of gesture and marks would probably be lost.

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I worked on the picture for several hours and thought I had just about completed it.  But, when I reviewed my work I was bothered about the perspective and the fact that the back of the board appeared to be too high.  I was a bit perplexed as I had measured carefully during my initial outline sketch, but think the orientation of the board had confused me a bit.

initial attempt with incorrect perspective at back of board:-IMG_0570

I reworked the picture and  adjusted the RHS of the board, but upon reflection it was still not correct.  I remeasured and realised that the back edge was still at too steep an angle:-IMG_0571

This is the FINISHED DRAWING with the perspective corrected:-

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“One for the Pot”  Soft and Hard Pastels and coloured pencils on Daler & Rowney 250gsm A2 mixed media paper

Reflection:  The drawing was built up over a number of layers, starting with smudged pastels for a background depth of tone, then adding increasing levels of colour tone and detail repeatedly over the top.  The multiple layers of pastel create a vivid depth of colour and texture.  The bird was really beautiful and some of its feathers caught the light and glowed with iridescent purples, blues and greens- I really wanted to capture a sense of this.

I think that using mainly pastel gives the pheasant a softness that is reflective of the actual feel of the feathers.  Marks have been used to create a sense of the different textures- some of the feathers were downy and fluffy, while others were shiny and flat.  The board looks dense and heavy and I practiced how best to draw the texture of the wood.  There was a subtle reflection of the head in the granite work surface below and reflections in the cooker behind, which I hope I have recreated.

I took care to darken the edges of the bird, and slightly highlight the top, to give a sense of roundness and fullness of form.  The shadows were carefully observed to give a sense of the weight of the bird lying on the board.  the bird was mainly lit from above so the shadow is quite defined.  I carefully observed the direction of the feathers and hope I captured them accurately to support the sense of form I was aiming for.

I am happy with the picture’s composition and context.  I used slight poetic licence with the background to create context by moving the subject to a different position to complete the background (See photo).  Where I had started to draw the subject, there was good light, but not really a background, which would have left it sitting slightly in space.  I decided to put the knife in last as I couldn’t decide if it was a little grotesque.  However, when I finished the picture without it, there was a big space at the top right, where I finally decided to place the it.  I thought it was appropriate to the title of “one for the pot”!

I wanted the focal point of the picture to be the head/eye.  With this in mind I positioned it at the front, but  I wasn’t sure halfway through drawing whether the head was too far forward and too far in the corner?  I suspect that your eye is drawn to the centre of the paper now?  However, I wanted to capture the beauty of the whole bird and to focus just on the head would have led to a different composition in which the rest of the bird would probably not have featured.

Initially, I really didn’t know how to approach this.  I was attracted to photorealism, but I was also torn, as a part of me wanted to be more free.  In the end the more realistic approach won over naturally as I was drawn into the beauty and detail of the subject before me.  However, using pastels stopped me from becoming too microscopic in my rendering of the details.

I was also initially very unsure about how to go about the techniques for layering pastels.  In the end this developed spontaneously as I worked on the drawing, but in places I felt  the small details were clumsy.  I don’t have pastel pencils and would like to acquire some for any future pastel work so i can input details. Instead I used coloured pencils, which in places created a slightly shiny overworked surface on the paper, which made it difficult to add new layers over the top.  Am I using the appropriate paper?

In places I was tempted to add ink to define some of the edges, but I resisted as I didn’t want to take away from the slightly hazy effect in places.

I am not sure if the picture has got depth?  Does the background recede? or is it competing with the foreground of the picture? I wonder if I ere to do this again whether I would blur out the background a bit to let it recede?  Would making the pastels fainter /slightly purple have the same effect?

Perspective: after sleeping on it I decided the perspective was wrong. It looked like the board was rearing into the air at the back!!  Which was strange as I had spent time measuring and viewing angles between the sides of the board.  But when i checked and measured again it was definitely wrong.  I had drawn all four sides about parallel.  I lowered the back RH corner- hopefully it looks better now.

Assessment criteria points

  • Demonstration of technical and visual skills – materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills (35%).  I think that appropriate materials were used for the effect I wanted and that the drawing was well observed (form, colour, perspective- eventually!- & composition).  I could further develop techniques for the use of colour media, but hope this will develop naturally with time as the course progresses.
  • Quality of outcome – content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas (20%).  I felt confident about what would work and what was not right (on the whole), with just some questions about the focal point, depth and background.  There is good use of colour and application of techniques and ideas considered during the course to date.  I approached the assignment logically, with some experimentation in my sketchbook of both media and composition.
  • Demonstration of creativity – imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice (25%).  The outcome of this assignment feels like an honest reflection of my natural style.  I did not refer to other artists for this work but responded to the subject in front of me.  I would like to experiment a lot more with a freer more abstract style however,  I had to experiment with the media to create the finish I wanted and hope that the composition of the still life was imaginative.
  • Context reflection – research, critical thinking (learning logs and, at second and third level, critical reviews and essays) (20%).   I felt that a pheasant was a classic traditional choice as the subject for a still life. For example, Renoir’s Pheasant-In-The-Snow-large.html or Monet’s Still-Life-With-Pheasant-large.html and Pheasants-and-Plovers-large.html.   I had not researched this before doing the drawing, but was interested and pleased to note that I have approached this subject in a manner not dissimilar to both Renoir and Monet.  Not that I would presume to be equal to them in any way(!).  There are many pictures that I have found that suggest that the pheasant is on its way to the pot.
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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.

Part Two, Project 4, Exercise 1- Still Life Using Line

Set up a still life group and select objects that either seem to connect naturally or deliberately contrast or clash.  Use an A3 sheet of paper and a medium suitable for drawing line (a dipping pen and ink, an oriental brush pen or a fine black pen) to make a drawn study that shows your understanding of the forms, and the connections and spaces between the forms. Concentrate on patterns, textures and shapes. You can indicate tone but this is principally an exercise about line.

I chose to draw a selection of green vegetables (linked by subject theme and colour- I was interested to see how I would differentiate them using only line).

I did a couple of sketches in my sketchbook to explore which angle to draw the arrangement from.  I tried a sketch from eye level which I initially liked but when I drew the arrangement again from above I decided that the shapes and perspective was much more interesting in the second sketch.  I realised that composition-wise there are subtle but important differences in the potential allure of a drawing, depending on whether your perspective is from above, below or at eye level.

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“Eat your greens” White ink on A3 black pastel paper.  I liked the picture shown in the course book and decided I might try to use similar materials myself..  I found it challenging and was a little confused for a while whether white represented the light or dark areas in the objects.  In the end I treated it rather like a photographic negative with increasingly white areas representing shadow and dark areas on the objects.  I tried to put in a background in the form of a wicker basket which I thought might provide interesting texture.  However, I got the perspective all wrong and drew it too wide and flat and the angle of the board under the vegetables also went rather awry.

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I tried using some white conte crayon to smudge in some shadow but it just looked messy and I wished I had left it as just a line drawing.  I was torn between heeding the instructions to make this exercise predominantly about line and my own compulsion to add  shading! IMG_0435

“Eat your greens” Black ink on A3 cartridge paper.  I tried the exercise again using black drawing pens on cartridge paper.   This time I removed the wicker basket and draw the objects on a glass table.  I tried not to get too bogged down with shading and just drew line to represent the different textures.  I just added some light suggestion of reflections and shadows in the glass surface and drew in the wrought metal structure of the table.

I was aware that my challenge was to differentiate between the celery, cucumber and pak choi as all three have predominantly linear stalks.  The cucumber is smooth and dark however, whilst the celery has pronounced stringy lines- these were difficult to represent using just line.  I had to darken the lines where the vegetables overlapped to make the shapes and orientation of each vegetable clear.  I tried not to just ink in dark bits but to apply some of the lessons learned in the previous ink drawing and to repeatedly overlay lines to create darker areas.  This was easier in the head of the broccoli than the linear areas in the celery and cucumber.

The texture in the head of the broccoli and the leaves of the pak choi were easier to differentiate as they have very characteristic features. I focused on delineating the curled veins and curls of the park choi leaves and the florets of the broccoli, which resulted in the lines naturally evolving to capture the differences between them.

I indicated just a little shadow below and between the vegetables to put them in context with their surroundings.

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Part Two, Project 3, Exercise 1- Using Markers or Dip Pens

Work out at least three alternative compositions for your objects and other material, and test colour combinations in your sketchbook. Use a collection of markers with different sized fibre tips, from fine points to wedge shapes. Choose a variety of colours in different tonal values. Pick some vibrant coloured inks and have ready a couple of different widths of nibs for your dip pens. Try using both media together. Once you’ve tested a few compositional possibilities, select the one you feel works best and recreate it on an A4 or A3 sheet (or use a found surface).

I spent a bit of time playing with different pens and dip pens in my sketchbook before creating a final drawing.  I was thinking about the concepts of cartoons and pop art and thinking about how to create a lively “pop” image.  I wanted to move away from literal representation towards flattening and brightening a bold picture with intense colours.

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Brush pen and marker pens on  A3 250gsm bristol board (extra smooth).  In this first attempt I was thinking about trying to flatten the image whilst still drawing in shadow and tone.  I felt the cherry tomatoes worked well- I liked the cartoon-like highlights, which I forgot to put into the other fruit.  I tried dabbing ink off the page with a wet towel which smudged the finish and detracted from what I was attempting to do. I like the effect of the bold outlining which added to the cartoon style.

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 Dip pen & ink and marker pens on A3 250gsm bristol board (extra smooth).  This time I decided to go with my natural instinct to represent detail and form in the objects but to enjoy using bright unrealistically vivid colours.  I started in the lightest areas on each piece of fruit and built up through mid tones to the darkest colours.   Whilst trying to represent the textures of each piece of fruit I was not attempting to create photorealism and I enjoyed using different squiggly lines to suggest the citrus fruit skin (more suggestion that realistic texture).  I think the apple works the best; it looks very round and vivd and juicy!

Lastly, I added the background, from my imagination, but I was annoyed that I put the edge of the surface the fruit was sitting on too low so it looks as if the pepper is about to fall off the table!  If I did this again I would make sure I set up a background to draw from.   I chose bright but contrasting colours for the background to exaggerate the intensity of the fruit colours.  I really liked the way the (Sharpie) marker pens worked in layers.  The first colours were true and all subsequent colours blended nicely with those beneath.  I used dip pen last to add detail and outline in places- again to increase the impact and contrast of bright colours against the dark areas.

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Research Point- Still Life Genre

I looked at Oxford art online and Bridgeman Education Library and various other links specific to particular artists to explore the development of the Still Life Genre.

Still Life (or Nature Morte) emerged as an independent art form towards the end of the 16th century in Spain, Italy, Flanders.  It allowed the status of the work to reflect the vision and skill of its creator rather than its subject matter. It was an opportunity to display skill, realistic light effects, colours and textures.  A Still Life was  traditionally meant to be read for its allegorical message- especially in the vanities theme of the frailty of human life.

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HARMEN STEENWYCK (1612-1656)

‘Still Life: An Allegory of the Vanities of Human Life’ by Harmen Steenwyck 1640 is a classic example of a Dutch ‘Vanitas’ painting. It is essentially a religious works in the guise of a still life. ‘Vanitas’ paintings caution the viewer to be careful about placing too much importance in the wealth and pleasures of this life, as they could become an obstacle on the path to salvation. The title ‘Vanitas’ comes from a quotation from the Book of Ecclesiastes 1:2, ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.’  from http://www.artyfactory.com/art_appreciation/still_life/harmen_steenwyck.htm

By the 18th century a lot of the religious/ allegorical meanings of the still life were dropped.  Typical of this era were kitchen table paintings featuring everyday foods and paintings to reflect the extravagance of life.

In the 19th century, the academic approach to still life was dropped and artists discovered a freedom to experiment.  The Impressionists explored colour and Cezanne gave still life a structure from which cubism is partially derived.  Cezanne is thought to be the most significant 19th century still life painter.  He was fascinated by optics and tried to reduce naturally occurring forms to their geometric essentials—the cone, the cube, the sphere. He used layers of color on these shapes to build up surfaces, outlining the forms for emphasis..  Other artists from this period include Van Gogh who expressed a weight of meaning in his still life paintings. Also Goya, Renoir, and Monet were key still life artists of this period.

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Paul Cezanne- Still life with apples   https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/paul-cezanne-still-life-with-apples-1895-98

In the 20th century art became essentially about the creation of new orderings of shape and appearance and still life was reinvented in a myriad of ways.  Henri Matisse for example pushed the boundaries of colour.  A lot of pop art is based on still life and the iconography of images. e.g. Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup cans (1962)   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campbell%27s_Soup_Cans

Henri Matisse - Still life with Geraniums (1910)
Henri Matisse – Still life with Geraniums (1910)

http://gohighbrow.com/henri-matisse/

In Patrick Caulfield’s work, including vases of flowers,  (1962) the elements of the still life are honed back to the bare minimum- flat outlines of objects against angular geometric shapes and unmodulated areas of colour.

Vases of Flowers 1962 Patrick Caulfield 1936-2005 Purchased with assistance from the Tate Gallery Publications Department and the Trustees of the Tate Gallery Trust Fund 1976 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T02031
Vases of Flowers 1962 Patrick Caulfield 1936-2005 Purchased with assistance from the Tate Gallery Publications Department and the Trustees of the Tate Gallery Trust Fund 1976 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T02031

Cubists such as Braque and Picasso used colour, line, and outline to shatter the boundaries around objects- representing objects from several view points at the same time.

pablo_picasso_still_life_with_skull_leeks_and_pitcherhttp://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-liverpool/exhibition/picasso-peace-and-freedom/picasso-peace-and-freedom-explore-1
In Pablo Picasso’s Still Life with Skull, Leeks and Pitcher  1945, the symbolism of the vanities is re-invoked, reminding the viewer of the transience of human existence

Contemporary artists, for example Peter Jones and Cindy Wright, http://www.theguardian.com/culture/gallery/2013/oct/19/10-best-contemporary-still-lifes  are presenting a fresh new outlook on elements of the still life.  Many artists are exploring new media- such as photography and the digital age.  There is a freedom to explore the morbid, macabre and horrific, as well as the mundane and beautiful, and to focus on elements of the image rather than the whole.

Conversely, painters such as Tim Gustard almost swing back to the original Dutch 17th Century tradition with paintings of utmost photo-realism and more traditional compositions .   tim-gustard-the-kitchen-tablehttp://www.totteridgegallery.com/artist/tim-gustard/the-kitchen-table.html

Assignment One

Assignment Objective:  To create a still life using objects that have meaning to me- ensuring there is good lighting, making tones obvious, looking at spaces between objects, using A2/A3 paper.

I decided to draw my saxophone, some sheet music, a glass of water and a pencil using charcoal on A2 cartridge paper.  I gave it the title: “The Perfect Musicians Pencil.”  a reference to an in-joke with my piano teacher-  this pencil (The Blackwing 602), however worn down, always has a functional eraser on the end, which makes it perfect for adding and altering practice notes on music!! These objects tell a story about me, of being mid-practice session- making notes on the music as I go.   I picked these objects because music is a big part of my life and also because the sax is such a beautiful object for its own sake.  I was slightly concerned that the sax is also a very complex object but I had a very strong idea of what I wanted to achieve so wanted to have a proper go at tacking it.

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I started with some thumbnail sketches and draft sketches in my sketchbook to plan the composition and try out graphite pencil versus charcoal.  I did not want to draw the whole sax- I wanted to focus in on part of it so that it put the other objects equally centre-stage.  I had to try this out a couple of times so I could get a feel of where I wanted the objects on the paper.  The charcoal resulted in a lively spontaneous sketch, while the pencil gave a more accurate but also a more stilted image.  I positioned the composition in natural light- this created more subtle tones than using a lamp.

IMG_0234I lightly outlined the main shapes and structure of the objects using a pencil.  I took a long time to measure and position each element of the drawing as accurately as possible.  The exact orientation of the objects was at this point determined by the fact I was working on an easel.  I had to stand back a bit and could not get quite as close to look down on the objects as I had wanted to.

IMG_0239I lightly sketched in the main tones and shapes of the objects using the side of some vine charcoal.  I built up form slowly, layering the tones to build mid- to dark-shaded areas, trying to leave the white areas clean.  I was able to remove the charcoal where it muddied the picture, using my fingers or an eraser, and kept working methodically until a structured picture emerged.  I was trying very hard to accurately represent the objects’ anatomy and highlights/shading.

The shape of the sheet music was surprisingly hard to get in perspective, especially where it emerged behind the sax.

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For a long time I worked on capturing accurate detail, but the sax only started to come to life when I realised that I had to describe the negative space between the keys as well as the keys themselves.  The background was a black granite work-surface and when I started to add that in, the sax seemed to emerge from the background in stark relief and develop a 3D quality I hadn’t managed to capture up to that point!  The highlights and different shading on the shiny metal started to make sense as a representation of the instrument’s form.

The challenge with the water glass was very different.  There were a lot of mutated shapes (staves and shadows) wrapped around and through the glass.  I tried to just observe accurately and reproduce only what I could see.   Some of the detail of the sax was visible through the glass, above the waterline, albeit slightly muted.

The sax, the glass and the pencil are all reflected below in the granite surface- I tried to hint at this without detracting from the main objects in the picture.

Finally, I focused on detail- checking the accuracy of highlights etc.  I used a charcoal pencil to outline and darkening some of the tones to exaggerate detail and contrast.  I also tried highlighting some of the lightest areas with a white conte crayon and acrylic paint applied with a brush.  This was a mistake as I felt mixing the media took away from the freshness of charcoal alone.  Whites that relied on just the colour of the paper were much fresher.  Similarly in some places I tried adding finer detail using a rollerball pen, but decided very quickly that it just made it look over-fussy and detracted from the natural fluidity of the charcoal.  I should have tested out both before applying them to the finished drawing!

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“The Perfect Musicians Pencil.” Charcoal on A2 cartridge paper

Assessment criteria points

  • Demonstration of technical and visual skills – materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills (35%).  I felt I exhibited technical and visual skills.  I applied a lot of what I learned in part one and was clear in my mind about what I wanted to produce visually- both in terms of style of drawing and composition on the paper.  Due to the complex nature of the objects chosen (I was worried the sax might have been over-ambitious) I was careful to focus on accurate observation and to draw only what I could see.  I like the looseness and expressive nature of charcoal and how it leads you to focus on shapes, contours and contrasts rather than getting too stuck on fine details.  I think I depicted the contrasting surfaces and 3D shapes of the objects, to create a picture that captured solidity and depth, with sufficient shadow  to ground the objects and give them mass/weight.
  • Quality of outcome – content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas (20%).  I felt I worked logically and developed my idea from concept to finished drawing.  From the start I had a very clear image in my mind’s eye of the composition of the still life and what I wanted to capture on paper.  I hope this is communicated above.
  • Demonstration of creativity – imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice (25%). Experimentation was through trying out a few different compositions and media.    I was clear from the start that I wanted to use charcoal,  but was less happy with different media I tried adding later.  I should have worked these through in my sketchbook beforehand! I don’t feel this assignment overly challenged my imagination as I more or less directly applied what I’d learned in part one of the course.  As a still life it says a lot about me- music and practice is a big part of my life!
  • Context reflection – research, critical thinking (learning logs and, at second and third level, critical reviews and essays) (20%).   If I did this again I might try using masking fluid to protect the highlight areas- so the paper underneath stays clean until the end.  I would also be interested to try using pen and ink or washes to try to smooth out the tones and give a more “shiny” finish.  In the course so far,  I have learned a lot about myself and my abilities – I am reading a lot and becoming more immersed in the subject and my confidence and enjoyment is increasing.

Part1, Project 2, Exercise 4- Shadows and Reflected Light (P26)

Draw two objects with reflective surfaces.  Using charcoal, putty rubber, on A1 or A2 paper fill the paper, showing the reflected light and shade.

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Attempt 1- teapot and mug.  Vine charcoal on the smoother side of A2 mixed media paper.

I chose a shiny chrome teapot and ceramic mug with interesting contours on its surface.  I positioned them so that the mug reflected onto the teapot- there were also reflections of windows and the room in its surface.  I positioned them so natural light fell from the right- natural light gave a subtler range of tones than when I shone a light on the composition.  However, I read somewhere that a still life should be lit from the left so the viewer reads it like a book (L-R)- is this true?

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I felt it was important to try to observe and protect the white areas from the start to prevent the drawing becoming dulled and muddy and to let fresh white paper shine through.  I used the side of the vine charcoal to lightly describe the main areas of shade and slowly built up tone from there using a combination of the side of the charcoal, its sharp tip and using the putty rubber to lift out the light tones where needed.  I was not altogether happy with the rough finish caused by the rough texture of the paper- even though i tried to smudge it smooth using my fingers.  I finished the picture by adding finer detail using a conte stick- this gave power to the denser blacks and lifted the drawing.

I am pleased with the shiny finish on the teapot lid, and the dark tones and textural contrast of the lid handle brings it to life.  I am also pleased with the reflection of the mug in the side of the teapot.  I was less pleased with the contours on the mug which lack subtlety and would have liked the side of the teapot to look more “shiny”.  I felt overall the proportions were accurate.  I Like the strong blacks created by the vine charcoal and how it can be smudged back to change and reduce areas as required.  It allows experimentation and enables the picture to be created in “layers” without spoiling the finished drawing.

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Attempt 2. “The Odd One Out?” Vine charcoal on  A2 cartridge paper.

I wanted to try the exercise again to see if I could create a smoother effect on smoother paper.  I chose to draw salt and pepper mills and an oil diffuser which were similar shapes but differed in their details. They all had brushed chrome surfaces with interesting distinct patterns of light and card across their surfaces.  This arrangement made me think of playground infighting at school- how in a group of three friends, one is often left out!

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I was concerned not to muddy the finished drawing- I wanted bright highlights and details and clear contrasts of tone.  I’m happy with the finished drawing- I finished it off with charcoal pencil.  I am not 100% sure I should have added the background shadow- it looked cleaner without, but having it in does contextualise it more.

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Attempt 3. Compressed charcoal in shades of grey on grey A3 pastel paper.

Every morning I look at a vase on the fireplace in the bedroom and think I should try drawing it.  It is a large glass vase, against a grey wallpaper (hence the choice of paper).  Alongside it is a decoupage model- a giraffe dressed up as a zebra.  Using just grey compressed charcoal I did a reasonable background sketch of the subject but it looked a bit flat- partly because of the grainy texture of the charcoal and partly because the colours were not intense enough.  I used white chalk, white pencil, charcoal pencil and vine charcoal to intensify the lights and darks and to define detail.  Making the reflections whiter gave the picture more of an illusion of 3D form.  Also, using a blending tool to remove graininess and smudge the blacks and whites of the giraffe, brought it to life more.  I wonder if I have made the vase too distinct?- (looking at the actual object it almost disappears into the wallpaper).  Maybe I should have just hinted at its form more using light colours and fewer dark colours.  I like the highlights on the giraffe and its reflection in the vase.  It made an interesting change to draw something that was level with/above my eye-line.