Exercise 1: Compositional sketches of man-made objects
Picking the objects was trickier than I thought it would be. 'Pick objects that have the potential for creating meaning.'
I went round with a camera looking for things that I could pick. I didn't worry too much about the background for these photos.
The flowers were pretty and classical, but a lot of the interest is in the colours and early decay, and it is a bit of a cliche.
The bikes would be quite interesting to draw, and could mean togetherness or affection. The daleks are a joke. Not so meaningful, unless I did them against something that made you think about what they represent. They are very hard looking, and I find I prefer to have something soft in the picture.
Boots are a cliche, but for a reason - they do seem to tell you something about the people who wear them.
There is something intriguing to my eye about collections of similar things 'Accumulations'. There's an exhibition of artists collections at the Barbican at the moment which looks interesting. Magnificent Obsessions exhibition
So I tried an accumulation of umbrellas. They looked interesting like this.
I tried a sketch of the chinese parasol in my sketchbook. I think it looks bit like a flower. The sharp but delicate edges were interesting to draw with a relatively hard pencil.
Here are the thumbnail sketches I did of some different compositions.
|'Thumbnail' sketches for Exercise 1|
Reading from left to right in the top row: My first try was using charcoal, but that obviously wasn't going right - I needed something I could do a bit more detail with, and the transparent plastic umbrella just wasn't going to be do-able. I like the floorboards lines giving a bit of depth, and my second try with soft pencil worked a bit better. The pile of umbrella handles in a clump wasn't really working so put them in a wine rack. That showed me that the wine rack wasn't as interesting to draw as the umbrellas! I started drawing in the negative shapes, which gives the solidity to it in places.
On the bottom row, there's a more typical arrangement of umbrellas and other objects in a basket in the corner. That looked a bit better, but not very meaningful or interesting. The middle one is the arrangement I liked most. You can see that this one caught my eye more, and I have filled in the detail more as a result. Why? The light and shade is clearer. The shapes of the handles are laid out in a way which alerts you to the contrasts between them, the repetition of the curves in the wine rack, and the three dimensional feel of the handles. The folds of the umbrellas are picked out by shading in the negative spaces. And the perspective floorboards make it more lively to look at. I initially made this one rectangular, but I think it has more power and depth when it's a square. I made a note that it needed more directional light.
Finally, bottom right was an attempt at a more birds eye view of the basket with umbrellas, to use the flower-like shapes. I think this would be the next best choice to the previous one, but I would have to do a bit more work to get the angle right.
Exercise 2: Compositional Studies of Natural Objects
For this exercise I picked some shells and a piece of foliage that was going a bit brown.
The objects looked good on a page together, like some of the illustrations I found in my researches on still life drawing.
I wanted the arrangement to be a little more natural looking, so I picked snail shells and foliage, and did some arrangements in my sketchbook using a B pencil.
|Pencil studies for exercise 2|
What I found was that it is very much more difficult to show the three-dimensional form of these natural things by shading, because their surfaces are so much more complex, and you want to use shading to show that as well. In my first drawing (top left), I put so much of the surface detail in that the shapes of the leaves are not really distinguishable. The shadows are the part of this sketch which allow you to tell what shape the objects are.
For the second drawing (right), I changed the arrangement so that the snails were snuggled behind the leaves. I tried using shadows and lines only for this one. This allowed the shapes to stand out better, but left the leaves without any interest or contour to them. I tried putting in the veins but that didn't work so well. I was more pleased with the stalks of this one, as I saw that they had intensity changes along their length.
The third one was even more of a sketch, where I was focusing on the double shadow I got from a lamp and a window, and on the detail of the snail shells. The arrangement was to emphasise the structure created by the shadows around the shells. At this point I noticed that the shapes of the brown on the leaves was quite unexpectedly geometrical because it reflected the shapes between the veins.
So, the challenge in the fourth drawing of these natural objects was to draw in some of the leaf detail, without confusing this with the shadows. I decided to try using coloured pencils to do this, with blue/purple/grey for the shadows. The arrangement was almost the same as the third one, but seen from a little higher up so as to widen the shape formed by the shadows.
|Compositional study of natural objects|
Is it easier to suggest three dimensions on man made or natural objects?
I found it much easier with man-made objects. I think this is because of the regularity of the shapes of man made objects, allowing the shading to be used mainly for three dimensional shape rather than texture.
How did you create a sense of solidity in your compositions?
By using the way the light fell on them to create shadows (with shading and filling in the negative space), and how they interact with each other eg leaves falling behind each other.
Did changing the arrangement of your composition make a difference to your approach and the way you created a sense of form?
Yes, some arrangements of the umbrellas led me to use negative spaces much more than others. (Which increased the sense of form). Some arrangements led me to leave out details so that the overall composition became more the focus (eg the right hand study of natural objects).