Exercise Still life sketches of made objects

I completed this exercise on 14/06/12 and found it very useful. We were to create a small still life composition from a small themed selection of objects. I wasn’t sure at first what to choose but after looking round decided to use a small vase with a selection of brushes, a pencil and a dip pen and also to have a couple of bottles of ink.

We were then to draw 2 or 3 thumbnail sketches in a sketch book, of different arrangements from different view points, using a light source to help create strong lights and darks and to remember that shadows can be an important and interesting part of the still life composition.

I did find that I felt quite intimidated at the thought of trying to draw several thumbnails. They are not something that I have used very much, the last exercise being the most I’ve used them and I had several worries – would I be able to draw the group smaller? Would I be able to repeat the size of the image in various thumbnails? Would I be able to draw the arrangement from various viewpoints? (going on the fact that I can have enough trouble drawing something from one viewpoint). By this time quite a few worries and fears had crowded in a bit so to settle I grabbed a piece of scrap paper and tried drawing a really quick thumbnail sketch. This actually went a little better than I had thought it might and at least showed that I was capable of doing a thumbnail if I didn’t over think it.

The instructions were to use a pen, pencil or ballpoint and I chose to use a ballpoint as it would prevent me from fiddling. If I used a pencil then rubbing out would be a possibility and I might then spend more time doing that than drawing. Also the ballpoint is a nice smooth tool to use and I tend to be a little freer and more relaxed with this implement and I felt that it would be well suited to trying to draw a thumbnail without trying to make a finished drawing and as we were to show tone I could use it for scribble hatching.

I started with a view that was below eye level, A4 sketch book p.24 (please see figure 1, top arrangement) with the light source from the left, towards the front of the setup. This view gave some interesting shadows and also some nice areas of reflected light. The small ink bottle had an interesting area of light shining through the ink and the ferrules on the paint brushes had some nice reflections.

Figure 1
Thumbnails for Exercise Still life sketches of made objects

For the next view, I raised the setup so that eye level was almost level with the top of the vase and changed the position of the ink bottles (to balance against the large shadow form the vase) and raised the lamp higher and also moved it so that though it was still shining from the left, it had moved more round towards the back. A4 sketch book p.24 (please see figure 1, bottom arrangement) This setup had less interesting shadows on the ferrules on the paint brushes and not such an interesting shadow thrown by the vase and contents.

Next I tried putting the setup on the floor, and looking down on it and moving the lamp to shine down from the right. A4 sketch book p.25 (please see figure 2, top arrangement). I found this setup the hardest to draw, it is not an angle I usually draw from, the small ink bottle giving me the most problem and I didn’t make a good job of the ink bottle at all. It was fun though trying from this angle. The shadow reminded me of an alien. I did however find it difficult to draw from my glasses point of view. It required large head movements to get the floor and then the page of my sketch book in focus and I felt decidedly quesy by the time I had drawn this.

Figure 2
Thumbnails for Exercise Still life sketches of made objects

I realised that I hadn’t changed the position of the drawing implements in the vase so I did that and drew the setup from the same eye level as the first thumbnail but with the light almost overhead this time and slightly to the right. A4  sketch book p.25 (please see figure 2, bottom arrangement). In this view the implements in the vase looked a little unbalanced. I initially tried without the smaller of the ink bottles but the arrangement looked rather unbalanced so I added it to the setup and drew it in. I am not sure though that it has added anything but perhaps it does help to balance against the large shadow.

I realised after I finished this exercise that though I moved the setup, I didn’t at any point move myself in relation to the setup and I would need to remember to try that in the future.

I think that the exercise was very useful in helping me to become familiar with the setup. It also gave me more confidence that I could draw it and I tried positions that I would not have tried otherwise. Normally I would just draw whatever I had arranged in front of me. I may well have tried various arrangements on the table and settled on one I liked, but I think that by doing the thumbnails I have experimented more and it has been interesting to see the effect of changing eye level and lighting on the still life. The thumbnails enable comparisons to be made between the various possibilities.

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