Exercise 1 Still life using line
Set up a still life group and select objects that either seem to connect naturally (i.e. are similar in one way or another- shape, height, pattern, texture, function, story etc) or deliberately contrast or clash.
Think about, interesting placement or composition, how to tackle this exercise practically as well as conceptually ? how to treat the objects ? how to make the connections apparent ? how do they relate to the background ? what is your viewpoint ? will you look straight ahead, side from below ?
With these questions in mind use A 3 sheet of paper and a medium suitable for drawing line (dipping pen and ink or oriental brush, fine pen) to make a drawn study that shows your understanding of the forms and connections and spaces between forms. Concentrate on patterns, textures, and shapes. You can indicate tone but it’s about line.
For this exercise, I drew a part of my Hag Stone collection. I set up my stones on a work bench and created many sketches in soft 6B pencil and paper cut outs of the stones.
I also drew individual Hag Stones to express shape and form, plus surface textures.
Working on a different paper surface, I made a Zigzag book on watercolour paper to display a drawing in Sharpie pen, wax and watercolour washes.
I drew an extra zigzag book, which is larger that the one above, with more detail too.
I also drew some stones in black ink and painted some watercolour washes over the lines. But I didn’t like the background, so I cut them out and re-positioned them in my sketch book to use as drawing reference.
I decided to make another collage in my sketch book using Cromer Pier as a background, I wanted to describe the Hag Stones I found on the beach in paper cut outs.
In his later life Matisse made many cut out images, using his hand coloured papers and a large pair of scissors. He described his process as ‘cutting directly into colour’ and ‘drawing with scissors’ (www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2014/matisse/the-cut-outs.html)
Here is my picture from my sketch book, it’s more of a collage and has a digital photograph I took near Cromer Pier that I have cut out, and placed with a piece of local newspaper, then I have drawn in the missing part of the pier in pen. To represent the Hag stones I cut out shapes from grey, white and black paper, and glued them to the side, I stacked them up, as the stones on this beach are like that, the sea is very powerful and moves them around on a regular basis. I made big fluffy clouds from paper pieces too.
Above are my stones and some on the beach.
Final drawing in line
My final picture is of the stones, I drew with blue ink on pastel paper. As they were on a blue surface I went with the colour. With my reed pen I tried to describe the marks and lines of the stones in ink and I finally drew with pastel to create shapes.
I really enjoyed drawing the Hag stones, and my choice of medium was the right one to use. Ink has an amazing quality on paper, as it flows and sometimes it stops too, leaving short, long, thick and delicate marks. The stones are very pitted, chipped and damaged that individual ones can look like animals or faces. No wonder in Folk Lore people thought they were magical.
Because the exercise asked for this painting to be done in A3 size, I felt restricted with the paper area. So I may draw this image again, but in a long narrow composition like my zigzag book as I think it would enable me to draw more of the stones, and give that ‘feeling’ of being on the beach where I have seen them piled up high. I would continue with line in ink, as it really does express the marks on the stones.
Exercise 2 Still Life in tone using colour
Set up another still life group. Screw up your eyes to see the darkest areas. 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 another colour for the lighter tones. Work your way around the composition, adding layers of colour, varying the type and pressure of the mark.
Think, variety of effects, pattern, colour etc. Work quite fast to keep activity, spontaneous and energetic. Don’t overwork and fiddle with the image.
Step back and review. When finished consider, have you made good use of line, tone and colour. If not start again, you will know when the image is good enough.
For this next exercise I drew totally different objects. I chose some items from around the house and placed them on a window still.
However as I was drawing the light changed and by the evening it was quite dark and the light came from the front rather the side. So my background changed quickly and I think I needed to observe it differently. I cropped some of my drawing to see it better.
Here is the bottle with some highlights on the top and side, the light was mainly at the top of the bottle.
Here is a robot behind a plastic toy called Pikachu, it was difficult to draw the light in yellow as it’s a difficult colour to vary the tones when you have a limited yellow pencils.
This is my finished drawing.
Overall I liked what I drew, I don’t usually draw with coloured pencils and this is only the second picture I have created in this medium. Coloured pencil are lovely to use if you keep them sharp, so they can be used sideways for shading. It took me nearly four hours to draw this image, and that was due to changing light and the slowness of the pencils.
I had problems with the window and lost the glass effect, so I just shaded it in greens and blacks. As for composition, I was quite happy with it at first, but I think it would have been better without the bottle. I was quite engaged with the items as they have personal meanings for me. I think this would be good as an acrylic painting interpreted in a very cartoon style way. I have some acrylic pens and may try a new painting. However I will have to paint with acrylic to describe the tones in colour.
Here’s the drawing cropped in my computer to a long narrow composition shape.
I love the cat at the end !!
Exercise 3 Still Life in Mixed Media
This time, experiment with using both traditional art tools and ‘non-art’ media. use wax crayons, ballpoints, highlighters and fat marker pens with pencils, dipping pens, brushes etc. Think about the support, use coloured washes and/or collaged, textured surface. Whichever you use, make notes on how the drawing style, visual effect and conceptual possibilities change or emerge with use of the different media.
In this exercise I created a still life with cactus plants and objects. I decided to start with cutting up coloured papers to make the basic shapes and form of the pots and objects.
I collected various materials to work with.
The making of my picture took most of the day as there were quite a lot of decisions to make regarding size, weight, form, shape, line, light and dark. As the shapes progressed it became clear that I had not thought about the background and certain areas were not working with the overall picture. I did not originally draw in the spotty painting at the back and only placed a sheet of torn brown paper. This looked odd and didn’t fit in with the composition. So after looking at it for a while I decided to cut out the foreground and replace it with a drawn background.
The photo below is my first drawing in paper with an odd background which I didn’t like.
The next picture, in the photo below is my second attempt at the background, which is hand drawn with a black pen.
Reflection of this exercise
Initially I really enjoyed this exercise, as like Matisse, I really loved the making of shapes and form with paper cutting. My piece is mainly collage with drawing and a small sample of printing. The shell I printed from a piece of polystyrene pizza base with black relief ink. But as I worked it became harder to make the light and dark areas just with paper, I think I needed a wider range of colours. I know Matisse painted his papers. Using spotty wrapping paper to represent the cactus plant in the middle and tissue for the smaller cactus as it was a hairy one, I think worked well. To obtain some additional darker tones I painted with watercolour washes, which soaked into some of the sugar papers underneath the objects.
Screwing up my eyes I can see the dominant areas are the orange, as it’s a foreground colour. Also the black spots behind the bigger cactus are quite strong too. As the plants are in greens they have receded, so I know I need to re-think my colours.
However I thought that the foreground looked three dimensional against the black drawn background. If anything, I know I have overworked this piece, but sometimes when you make art it does not always turn out how you would like. I can see me creating something different in mixed media.
I decided to make this quick painting in watercolour paint, wax and felt pen. I enjoyed the speed and spontaneity of the process, and watercolour paints are brilliant for this exercise.
Exercise 4 Still Life in Monochrome
For this exercise work towards creating an image in a single colour-combining natural and man-made objects and contrasting materials……………….
Select a medium that suits your subject. Aim for detailed line, express looseness of mark, create a range of tones, practise in your sketch book. Work approximately A3 size.
When finished your drawing, be critical.
Here are my drawings from my sketch book, of bottles with ideas on composition. I was playing with the spaces between the bottles, and the shapes of them in relationship to each other, i.e. heights, depth, widths, and colours. From this I painted in watercolour the bottles on paper.
Here is my watercolour painting of some household bottles in one colour. I chose bottles as I had been reading about Giorgio Morandi (1890 -1964) and I was quite inspired by his work.
Watercolour painting in one colour of bottles
Reflection of this exercise
I used wax for the highlights and tried a range of tones in a Payne’s Grey colour to express the light and dark areas. My bottles look wobbly and I quite like that, also I placed them in front of a plain background as I wanted to concentrate just on the objects and not get distracted by the background. I kept the composition simple, and like Morandi, I kept moving the bottles around till I got a some shapes and spaces I liked. However I think I could have used more objects to paint.
Additional Drawing with more bottles in the composition
I have drawn another picture, but not in one colour. But as an experiment to see what the composition would look like with more bottles. I drew this with coloured pencils and some pen. But I got frustrated with it and scribbled all over the surface. Well that worked okay and for fun I manipulated it in my computer photo program to alter the tones and colours. I really like the second picture as the scribble lines have made the bottles look moody.
Additional drawings in one colour
For an experiment I have drawn some of my shell collection with a white pen on black paper.
I love them !! It was interesting to drawn the light areas first, or the white lines of texture on the surface of the shell. Leaving the dark areas to shine through. The shells look like lace and are very luminous. They are floating on the surface too.
Finally I drew a third image of all shells in blue ink.