Assignment one


In this assignment we were asked to find a few objects that trigger a response and place them together to form a still life.  We then had to set them up in a space that created interesting shapes and angles and to light them in a way that they make tones obvious.  At the same time we were to place the experimental mark making sheets we made for exploring texture and gesture near by.   We had to work on A2 or A3 and use a range of drawing tools to create our still life.

Before I started out on this assignment I conducted a lot of research into still life and drawing techniques.  I watched an excellent TV documentary on the history of still life and it’s place today.  From this I picked up a lot of tips and it made me think a lot about the choice of my objects.  One of the most useful tips I got was about composition and so I played around with a lot of objects to create shadows and interesting negative spaces.  I also tried to keep in mind the ‘rule of thirds’ and using the grid on my camera I placed objects at the thirds intersections to try and create some interest.

My choice of objects look perhaps a little odd to begin with but they are all linked with the theme of happiness.  There is:

  • A small sculpture of a mother holding a baby that I was given as a gift when my daughter was born.  This reminds me of the happiest day of my life when my daughter was born and aesthetically I have always enjoyed looking at the soft smooth curves on the piece.
  • A blue crab ornament.  This was given to me by my partner’s Mom the first time I visited them in Virginia so it reminds me of him and his family and also a great vacation in the USA.
  • 3 books (although one is deep in the shadows so not clearly seen).  There is a New York City guidebook as it reminds me of where I first met my partner.  The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien as it is my favourite book and one of the few I can reread time over and an old book called ‘The Company’ which was one of the first gifts my partner gave me.
  • A metal incense holder as one of my coping mechanisms for my bipolar disorder is meditation.  I also like the shape of this particular holder and it gives some interesting reflections.
  • A glass jar of paintbrushes as discovering painting and art has been a major source of therapy for me.
  • As a background is a suede photo album of pictures from University that bring back happy memories, I also thought a dark textured background could be interesting.
  • Scattered throughout the piece are boxes, packets and pills.  These are because I have to take a lot of psychiatric medication each day in order to have some happiness.

Going back to the composition for a moment.  I tried to view from lots of different angles to get the set up I wanted.  The composition I chose in the end was to have the light shining very brightly, with additional lighting from above, at the sculpture and having it sitting on a very white box of medication.  This makes it look as if the box almost isn’t there to symbolise that I don’t like people knowing I am a parent who needs psychiatric drugs and I tend to keep the medication hidden from others but I know I need it to ‘hold up’ my parenting role.  Similarly the other packets and containers of drugs are hidden in shadows and behind other objects, like they are always there lurking in my life but I try to keep them hidden from view.  The very front packet is creeping out into the light just like sometimes I can’t always keep my symptoms hidden from others.  I wanted the main focal point to be around the more ‘normal’ happier objects like the ornament and the sculpture but I feel perhaps like I have highlighted the box of medication too much.


Exercise 4 – Shadows and reflected light

I placed two reflective objects  next to each other and light with a strong light from one side.  The two objects were a black shiny sewing case and a white shiny container.  I just used a charcoal stick on A2 paper and did no sketch in pencil first, just used the charcoal to try and create the long lines.  Although it was a very quick drawing (and I might still come back to improve it) I found using the charcoal combined with a putty rubber effective at creating the tones and reflections.

img_20161203_161229I used the charcoal stick in a variety of ways, as it was a large drawing I used sweeps of the full length, this worked okay but evident in the drawing are areas where the stick has skipped across bumps in the paper.

I found the reflections and shadows work interesting as it made m look very closely at the tones on the sewing box.  I feel like I have started to grasp drawing shiny objects with reflections and looking at the reflected shadows too.

Exercise 3 – Creating Shadows using lines and marks

For this exercise we were asked to look at shadows and use a variety of marks to depict those shadows.  I first just used a page of my A3 sketchbook to experiment with the different marks and tones I could make using pencil, graphite sticks, charcoal, ink pens, paint and brush and fine pen:
I then chose  a very simple box and tried to depict that using pencil, charcoal stick, pen and paint:
Finally we were asked to group a small number of objects and use fast loose marks to depict them.  I placed a pot of brushes and 3 tubes of paint near a lamp and used charcoal to produce this in about 60 seconds.

Exercise 2 – Observing shadow using blocks of tone

In this exercise we had to place two pale simple objects near a light source so that they’d be lit from one side.  I chose a tub of gesso and a covered tube that I hold rulers in.  They were placed on a plain piece of paper and lit from the right hand side by a bright lamp.
To sketch them (on A3 sketchbook paper) I used a medium charcoal stick.

Exercise 1: Groups of Objects


A2 size – soft graphite stick and white chalk on a painted acrylic background.

This exercise asked us to choose at least six objects of different shapes and sizes, a mixture of regular shapes and irregular shapes and draw the image on at least A2 size.

I started with just sketching some basic shapes in my large sketchbook:

Just playing around with different shapes and materials.  The materials used were a selection of graphite pencils, charcoal sticks, pastels and watercolour pencils.  I also experimented with some different fixing mediums on this page with varying success!
My next step was to pick some objects at random and play around with arrangements on the table.  I did a quick sketch just of the layout:
After reading the exercise instructions again I read that it wanted us to make expressive marks but I was struggling as I didn’t feel any connection to the objects at all.  There was no theme linking them and so I decided to change around some of the objects.  The objects I kept were all calming objects for me so I added in some extra calming things like a journal and extra candle and holder.
Sketch of second group of objects.
After finalising the layout I did some practise sketches of the individual objects, just using pencil.
I then decided on a background and sticking with the calm theme chose colours that I find calming, I also wanted a bit of interest in the back ground so decided on a varied acrylic background.
The final piece was drawn over a few sessions using graphite sticks to try and get quite soft outlines to try and express the calmness.  As the background was quite dark in places I then used a small amount of white chalk to try and pick out some highlights.
In the final piece some areas are more detailed than others but I tried not to focus too much on the colour and tone but just on the different shapes I could see.



Texture – Exercise 2 Project 1

We were asked to collect a selection of objects with different surface textures and experiment with depicting the textures in our sketchbooks.

My first page, I was quite lazy and didn’t particularly go hunting for objects but started with objects I had in the same room as me – this may tell you something about me already!
As I usually paint and like to create texture within paintings using the texture of the paint itself, I wanted to try and force myself initially to just create the texture in 2D using simple materials.  Therefore, the first six sketches just use pencils and the sketchbook paper, not something I do a lot.  I started with a piece of ripped corrugated cardboard and wanted to get the 3D texture of the ridges in a 2D form.  The second simple sketch is a small piece of crumbled soft pastel, again just using graphite pencils.  Next, I wanted to try something with a harder more solid texture so tried to do one of my daughter’s lego bricks.  As I didn’t feel I captured the shininess I focused on something with a lot of shine – an empty foil packet.
The next 5 sketches all focus on a clementine, I started with a simple very quick pencil sketch of the whole fruit but didn’t feel happy with the way I drew the texture of the skin so decided to experiment with different ways of portraying this.  Sketch 5 is still in pencil but I wanted to focus on a small piece of the skin and really concentrate on the pitted texture, still not happy I used the skin itself with ink to print what the texture is actually like.  Zooming in further I used a hand lens to really magnify the pits themselves and tried to create this texture with charcoal.  Finally I couldn’t resist getting the paint out and using a very stiff stencil brush I used a mixture of cad orange and black acrylic paint to try and recreate the pitted textures.
As I felt my first few sketches were really just warm up sketches and after enjoying trying to portray one texture in different ways, I took this idea forward and concentrated on four objects but focusing on each one in four different ways:

The first object was actually a wool hat but I concentrated on the texture of just a section of the knitted part.  Using pencil I wanted to try and get the repetitive pattern of the knit but also show the irregularities in the texture as parts had been stretched and twisted slightly.  I then concentrated on just one strand of the wool to try and capture the softness and cable like qualities.  Again zooming in further the final two wool sketches are using different types of graphite sticks to concentrate on just the softness of the texture.

In contrast, my next object was a hard plastic button, as I had struggled with the hard plastic nature of the lego brick I wanted to try different ways to get this quality in 2D.  Again I tired to use different materials to capture the hard texture, pencil was first and again I struggled with this.  I then drew around the button to get the exact shape and used charcoal sticks to focus on the hard outline created by the button.  The third drawing was using a black ink pen and simple cross hatching and the fourth section were experimental drawings using a mix of pencil and pastel, this time focusing on the shine element.

The third texture was a soft piece of cloth.  Again starting with pencil I tried to show the soft pillowy texture with a very quick outline drawing.  Using some acrylic paint I then focused on the detailed texture the cloth made when itself was used to apply the paint.  I like the effect this produced so tried to copy it using some soft grey ink and a mixture of firm and soft brushes.  The final drawing in this section was experimenting with some new water soluble pastels to see if I could portray this soft texture.

The final item was a metal key.  Again I wanted to try and concentrate on the shine as I didn’t think I had done this well earlier.  The top left drawing is using watercolours and I found this difficult to get the shiny texture and so switched below to pencils and ust concentrating on the cylinder of the key tried to get this shine to come through.  The final two images are focusing on the end part of the key which when you touch you can feel the squares pressing into your skin.  To show this I used ink and the actual key as a stamp and then I used these shapes underneath to do a ‘walk the line’ type drawing just using a black pen.

My final experiment (for now) with texture was using a frottage technique:


I used a thinner piece of paper than my sketchbook paper and a soft graphite stick to create an impression of different surfaces.  The surfaces were: a key, wooden floor, terracotta tiles, lemon zester, plastic clothes peg, wool rug, metal cupboard handle and a brick.

Exercise 1 – Experimenting with expressive lines and marks – JOY

Words: confusion, difficult, playful, erratic, fear
This was actually incredibly difficult for me to do as you can probably tell by the list of associated words.  It has made me realise that I don’t do ‘joy’ well at all.  The main issue is with my mental health condition; I have bipolar disorder and often extreme joy has meant being in a manic phase and so has lead to me getting into trouble.  I think this has now led me to almost fear experiencing joy and not really knowing how to express normal joy.
Top Left: this erratic nature of my joy is show as a mixture of wavy calm lines and sharp spiky ones.  As this was my first image on the page I think it’s clear I didn’t know what direction I was going in and had no idea what I was going to end up with.
Top Right: as this was with paint I found it a little easier as painting is something that does bring me calm joy.  Painting is something I started doing in order to help with my condition and so I do associate it with well-being and ‘good joy’.  I had a great deal of fun with the skewer and paint splatters.
Bottom Left:  The erratic feelings return but this time with slightly more meaning.  I used the pastel and let it flow, again there is a mixture of marks: waves and spikes but I feel this one is more reflective of how I was feeling.
Bottom Right: again I started with no real aim, I was thinking of things that do bring me joy.  My daughter is a big one and as her name is also the name of a flower I think that’s what lead me to draw an almost floral shape.
This feeling of being unsure of emotions and artists with mental health conditions is one that I do want to research further.