Monday, 2 March 2015

Project 4: Still life

Exercise 1: Still life using line

I used sketches and photos to help me think about how to make the connections and differences between the objects apparent, and how they relate to the background. I wanted to try a different way from clumping them all together. I tried sketching from different viewpoints.

Sketches for composition
I chose these veg because they are the remains of making a meal, and there's something about the cores that are thrown away that are meaningful to me. Maybe it's just me but there's a gesture to the obscene too. Personal and private insides on show.

The angle of the innards being similar for each seems important to the composition as it draws attention to this aspect of the veg, and links them all into one image. The differences are in the different textures, which I will be drawing with line, and in the colours, which I am not going to use for this drawing. 

I wasn't sure about the position of the set up in relation to the light source, so I tried a few different arrangements which I photographed.

The light from the right gave the most definition without obscuring the different textures.

The light in one room (right) was  much warmer and stronger than the light in the other, as it was natural light.

From above looked boring and took away the emphasis on the parallel lines within the vegetables, so I went for a flatter perspective.

I thought about using a chinese brush,
but decided that I wanted to use a thinner line to make the most of the differences in texture, so I used a black 'technical' pen on white A3 paper.

Ratatouille still life - line

In retrospect - could have used brown paper or newspaper for this one - looks a bit bare. Otherwise focussed in more and let the veg take up more of the paper. I think the different textures drawn with line this way worked pretty well. Not sure the veg all pointing the same way works to make it interesting enough. I think I'll have a play in my sketchbook to see if I can capture the private core aspect better - perhaps using other materials.

Exercise 2: Still life in tone using colour
First attempt - white paper and 'natural' colours
Comments on these drawings are in the review section below

Second try at using tone and colour
White paper and three colours only

Pale pink paper and restricted range of colours

Reviewing these exercises:
What aspects of each drawing were successful, and which did you have problems with?
The detail and shading of the objects was good in the line drawing. The overall impression not so good. I left too much of the background and didn't put in the shadows falling on the board. Using the white paper for the lightest tones worked well for that one, but again, I didn't give any thought to the tone of the background.

First tone drawing  - The chunkier parts of the vegetables worked best, perhaps because the tones changed with simpler shapes and were therefore easier to judge. The details weren't working, perhaps because I used line more than tone to outline them in this one. The drawing doesn't hang together very well as a single image and this has something to do with the choice of colours, especially the black I think, and because I didn't cover the whole of the white paper with pastel colour, so it looked scrappy.

Second tone drawing This was better as a whole as I had learned from the first one to use the same colours throughout, regardless of the actual colours of the objects. I also learned to cover the white paper. The objects' detail worked better, as I was learning to use tone to show detail eg in the pepper seeds. It was difficult to get any more detail, or sharpness of edge, than there is in this one without using line.

Last one drawing. This one was done using coloured paper, as in the example in the course instructions, and colours in a narrower range of tones - just to see what happened. I also focussed in more to get less background and more veg. This combination left the veg apparently floating in nothingness! Again, difficulty with the background. I also found the shadows more difficult to differentiate from the objects when there was less tone difference. The pale greeen for the lightest tones worked better, though, I think. And by this time I was getting more of a grip on how to use tones for the onion pattern.

Did you manage to get a sense of depth in your drawings? What aspect of drawings and still life groupings helped to create that sense?

There was some sense of depth in the drawings, which seemed to come from a combination of tone/shadow and perspective. Overall, though they are all a bit flat, which I think is due to the arrangement of the objects mostly separated from each other. And all three of the tone drawings were drawn from higher up than intended, which contributed to this too.

What difficulties were created by being restricted to line or tone?

Using line only allows tone to be incorporated by making the lines closer together, except where there is shadow (unless you use crosshatching for that). I expect that colour is more difficult to incorporate and use in line drawings.

Using tone only means that detail has to be suggested rather than drawn in. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and for me anyway can make the image more expressive.

How did using colour affect your working method?

Using colours to convey tone - the way I did it depended on the relatie intensity of the colours. I was trying to use the method in the instructions, but once I had done darkest, middle, lightest, I found myself wanting to go back over the dardest again so as to increase the contrast and balance the image out a bit. Using them this way meant that the actual colour became less relevant than the relative tone. I only understood this really when I had finished the last drawing and found that the difference in tone between the middle and light ones (tan and pale green) was not great enough, especially on the coloured paper.

I found that trying to use the 'real' colours of the vegetables didn't convey anything of the atmosphere or feeling. Using only three colours as in this exercise, gave me the opportunity to see the effect of different colours and ranges of colour on the final image.

Exercise 3: Experiment with mixed media

Preparatory sketches for this exercise, trying out different arrangements, and different combinations of media.
I particularly wanted to get the reflections and the strong colours.
I tried out a few different objects in front of the two pans, because some of them didn't reflect well, some weren't a strong enough colour, and others detracted from the strong shapes and reflections.
I eventually decided on half a squash.
For the paper I wanted to get the directional stripes of the wood on the table, but something to make it more homely than clinical, so I used a collage.

Still life - marker pens, conte crayon, wax crayon, coloured pencil, magazine collage

Exercise 4: Monochrome

Sketches for monochrome exercise, trying out different angles on it, and line vs. tone
The big difficulty was getting enough contrast to show the shapes and reflections in the same colour range.
The other difficulty was drawing the shapes accurately!
After these sketches, I decided that picking objects because they were the same colour was a mistake, and found some more interesting musical instruments to draw, with contrasting shapes and reflectivity. I kept the cloth underneath.
I also thought it would be good to practice using pastels again because I hadn't quite got how to do it in the earlier exercise, and to use a black backbround so that the contrasts were greater.

Monochrome musical instruments
Pastel and pencil on black paper
Looking at this drawing critically: I think I have captured the reflections on the recorder in a way which allows you to see the shape of it. I am also pleased with the shape of the wooden clapper at top left, which was tricky because of all the angles. The gourd rattle wasn't so successful. I think because the colour of the circles doesn't adequately show the changes in light across it, and because I haven't drawn them all as they actually look, but in the target shape I know them to be in my head. The background cloth is not really drawn in properly at the bottom left - more scribbled, and this detracts from the look of the whole thing. It looks better on the right where I was more careful to make it look as it did in real life. Finally, I'm not sure this is really monochrome - I tried using different shades of brown through mustard up to a peachy beige, but in this photo it looks like pink, yellow and white on the black background. It might have been better on a brown paper instead of black. Using a black background was interesting because it did what I hoped it would and increased the level of contrast in the whole thing, making it more dramatic. I had to change the way I thought about what I was putting onto the paper, though, and initially put the middle colour on first (instead of the darkest) to get my bearings. Later on in the process I used a pencil to remove some of it to make lines (eg for the edges of teh clappers, and the fine detail on the recorder). I like the way the pastel makes the objects look very physical.

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