Thursday, 4 December 2014

Project 2 Basic Shapes and Fundamental Form

Exercise 1: Groups of Objects

I chose to draw a pile of books with a soft pencil case on top of them. It was in a dark room with a lamp to the right.  I liked the idea of drawing them with charcoal on a piece of crumpled old brown paper, so I did that.

I think using these materials gives a good idea of how neglected the pile of books feels to me. The books were my daughter's school books from last year and had not been touched since then, so looked neglected and dusty.  The crumples and folds on the brown paper are very interesting in themselves, but may detract from the understanding of the image. On the other hand, it makes it look monumental, like a huge pile of ancient stones.

Using charcoal makes it easy to reflect the big difference between the light and shadowed sides of the books. I am pleased with the way this worked, and with the thin lines which were all I could see of the pages. The effect was slightly marred by me smudging the dark side with my hand while I was trying to draw the pencil case on top. I didn't really manage to convey the relative softness, or even the actual shape of it here. Also the light behind the books was quite complicated which I think confuses this image a bit. 
The day after drawing that, I decided to try another arrangement of stiff and soft shapes in my sketchbook. I took more care to set it up so that the final picture would show the contrast of stiff shapes and soft ones more. As I was drawing it, it took a long time of working on it before it began to look like what I was seeing (about half an hour). The important things seemed to be the relationships between the different degrees of shadow. Once I had those about right, the whole thing started looking three dimensional. So better, in the sense of more understandable, but not so good from the atmosphere/ expressive point of view.

Exercise 2 Observing shadow using blocks of tone

Bowl and jug
Conte crayon
As I drew these shadows and reflections, it became more and more interesting and complex, and by the end of it I could see things that I didn't/ couldn't see at the beginning of the sketch. It was only in the middle that I thought a blue crayon might have been better for white china.

Exercise 3 Creating shadow using lines and marks

In this part of the exercise I made four different grades of tone for each one, using different materials - pencil, ink, felt tip and graphite pencil. I found it a little difficult to get them in the right place without drawing an outline first, at times, especially around the lid of the box. The most difficult one to get predictable variations in tone with was the felt pen. I was surprised at how the dots of ink turned out, and think I will try that again in future.

Quick loose line drawing using pencil to try creating shadows with line.
I was initally using quite long lines to define the shapes, but quickly realised that shorter ones are more effective sometimes, and allow more variation in tone, The most difficult parts were the handles of the cups, because the shadows are complicated there and any variation changes the shape the handle appears to be. Whereas less accuracy on the larger shapes seems to be less of a problem.

How difficult did you find it to distinguish between light from the primary light source and secondary reflected light?
I am having trouble with this question, seeing it written down like that in words. Looking at what I've drawn, I can remember deciding that the large white area on the inside of the bowl was the brightest, and should therefore be left mainly as the white paper. This, of course, and a small area of the lip of the bowl, are the areas most completely lit by the light source. Other, reflected areas are all shaded to one extent or another. Sometime reflections are very bright, though, and in those cases it may be necessary to rub out areas in order to show this.

How has awareness of tone affected your depiction of form?
I have become aware that using tone removes the need for outlines in most cases, and that this has the potential to completely change the way I approach drawing objects. However, it is going to take a while to get my head out of the habit of telling me that I have to draw lines. This is a sketch I did at the Imperial War Museum. I started out using outlines, and then reminded myself to use tone, and that made the image a bit more three-dimensional- looking. Better...but lots of practice required!

Flat tyre of an army truck
Imperial War Museum London

Another example of the difference using tone is making for me:

Because I signed up for this drawing course I have finally braved a life drawing class at my local pub, that has been on my to do list for 6 months.

On the left, my first 2 minute sketch using only line, and on the right, something a bit more tone-based. While I am quite pleased with both (I am at the stage where getting the proportions approximately right is a bit of a triumph), there is no question which woman looks more real and interesting.

Exercise 4: Shadows and reflected light 

For this exercise I used a large silver Christmas bauble on a white plate. As well as the light from the large window to my right, there were reflections of the room, and of me drawing, in the bauble.

After my conversation with my tutor, and because I wanted to make this one really big, I thought this might be a good exercise to try out drawing on fabric rather than paper, so I used some viscose lining fabric in a cream colour.

This is how it turned out:
Bauble on a plate
Charcoal and white conte crayon on viscose
When I got to the part where I wanted to erase the brightest areas, I couldn't because the cream was already a mid tone. So I used white crayon instead for the parts where the window was brightly reflected. I think that the part on the plate with the same sort of pattern of white was actually where the reflected light from the bauble hit the plate. Again, the detail seemed to develop over time, like a photograph.

There were some technical problems with using fabric. The first was that it needed to be pinned down, and even then it pulled sometimes when I tried to draw firmly. Also, the strokes of the charcoal show a bit more than they do on paper. And the folds and creases of course, add to the complexity in a way which is not so great in this instance. Despite all this, I was pleased with the the way the bauble looks clearly spherical, and the reflection strips on the neck and loop of it turned out very well. It kind of appeals to me that I can see myself in the bauble, too. The plate was not so successful, in part because the charcoal came off in lumps in parts of it, rather than the rather delicate even shading I was hoping for. Spray set seems to work on viscose too, without discolouring it or changing the 'handle' noticeably.

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