Still Life – Composition of Natural Objects

Composition of Natural Objects

The brief for this exercise was to ‘Make a selection of natural objects for my composition, such as fruit or vegetables on a plate, and explore the different viewpoints by moving all the objects around in different arrangements and assessing which set up I like best. In my sketchbook, make quick sketches of each different set-up before moving the objects about again.’

I found making quick sketches of the natural objects a lot easier than making thumbnail sketches of ‘made objects‘ in the previous exercise and started out with a good feeling that the exercise would go well. I chose vegetables for my composition which were a red yellow and green capsicum, a tomato and a carrot.

Still Life Composition of Natural Forms
Thumbnail Sketches of Compositions of Natural Forms

I thought about the best place to position myself in relation to the objects and positioned myself slightly above. This was also more comfortable as I had bruised a rib after a fall during the Thai new year festivities (Songkran) a couple of days before, so I propped myself up with a couple of pillows, I couldn’t complain though as it did give me a good view of all the vegetables.

The brief for the second part of the exercise was to ‘Use the information collated in my sketchbook along with written notes from previous exercises to make an informed decision about the organisation of my still life drawing. This would help me to clear my mind and give a sense of order to my work.’

As always due to doing most of my work over different times of day and especially in the evening I worked with a bendy light as a light source, making sure it cast adequate light and shade onto the still life.

still life natural forms 2

  • Mediums used – Watercolor pencil, 2B, 4B, 8B, EE graphite pencil, charcoal, Conté pencil
  • Paper – A3 Canson Watercolor pencil 190 gsm
  • Time taken – 10+ hours

I wanted to get more practice with watercolor pencils and so I initially chose to do this exercise completely in watercolor pencil and so the only size sheets I had were A3 which I bought for the ‘Supermarket Shop’ exercise. However the problem was the composition I chose meant that I had to use the paper length ways but I wanted to get the whole of the plate into the finished drawing with the shadow that it cast and so I knew in advance it would leave a lot of negative space on the paper. Placing another folded sheet of paper under the composition helped me fill up the negative space and I decided that I would also use the TV unit in the background as the background.

I made a very poor first attempt at the still life completely in watercolor pencil, it set me back a good few hours and did not put me in the best of moods but did teach me some valuable lessons.

  1. I did not have enough practice with this medium to get it perfect.
  2. Blending colours with this medium was more difficult than I thought.
  3. You can’t erase watercolor pencil once it’s in paint form and if you try there’s a risk of ripping the paper!

I decided that my next attempt at this exercise would be a great chance to produce my first mix medium drawing and if I couldn’t perfect the colour, shadow and light of the vegetables I would do my best  and then really make the composition stand out by the drawing everything else in graphite pencil.

On my first attempt at this exercise I started out sketching the dark parts of the vegetables in watercolor pencil first but on the second attempt I started with the lighter colours, although the second attempt was easier and looked better I have yet to perfect my technique.

When it to the lighter shadows in the drawing I took it very slow, using the pencil very lightly and holding it at the end and letting it almost dangle, only occasionally did I have to resort to blending with my finger. For the darker shadows on the plate I used 4B and 8B pencil.

All was going well until it came to the  background objects, my 7B, 8B and 9B pencil kept snapping so after an email to Derwent to complain about the quality of pencils in their 24 graphite pack I continued with an EE pencil. I found the EE pencil no replacement for the 9B pencil and was hard to produce different tones so I finished the background off in Conté pencil and charcoal.

Still Life Composition of Natural Objects
Still Life Composition of Natural Objects

I was a bit disheartened at times after starting off so well, especially having discovered that I drew the composition in my second try on the the wrong side of the paper thinking they were the same. Luckily enough it turned out to my advantage as it was easier to draw in graphite and the paper did not warp as much when wet plus the colours seemed to be a lot brighter when they bled.

I was also a bit upset that I had to use more than two mediums in this drawing and found it frustrating when things kept breaking. The end result of the watercolor pencils is not what I had in mind but I thought the contrast between the colour and the graphite pencil was excellent.

Composition of Natural Forms - close up
Composition of Natural Forms – close up

The good news is Derwent did get back to me and admitted there was a problem with the old batch of graphic pencils and are sending me replacement 7B, 8B and 9B pencils.

Tone and Form – Tonal Studies

The brief of the first part of this exercise was to draw four 5 cm squares in my sketchbook using 4 different drawing tools such as a pencil, drawing pen, nib pen and black ink and a ballpoint pen. Try to make 4 distinctive grades of hatching with each square without paying too much attention to detail, suggesting that we have close our eyes as this will help eliminate most of the detail.

I totally read this wrong, drawing the squares in pencil and then hatching within the square using the 4 drawing tools that it gave as examples as above. I tried different types of hatching to do this including, cross hatching at an angle as well as using horizontal and vertical lines to give a much denser tone. The nip pen was probably the most difficult for me and couldn’t quite graduate the tones.

Tone Using Hatching
Tone Using Hatching

The second part of the exercise was to arrange 4 objects such as an apple, orange, ball, cup or other kitchen utensils, draw the objects then use a hatching technique to technique to add tonal shadow patterns to these objects. The 4 objects I initially chose were a mug, a small bowl an apple and a pong pong ball and chose to have a go at cross hatching with a Faber Castelle Ballpoint pen.

1st Drawing Using Ballpoint
1st Drawing Using Ballpoint

I failed miserably in my first attempt, I even forgot I was hatching with a pen at one stage and went to smooth the pen and smudged the ink across the paper having to fill in the background to cover it up. However it did give me some well needed practise.and confidence towards the end to have another go with the ballpoint pen.

2nd Choice of Objects
2nd Choice of Objects
2nd Drawing Using Ballpoint
2nd Drawing Using Ballpoint

My second attempt was much better, this time I swapped the bowl for a tupperware container turned on its side and I could clearly make out what each of the objects were in my finished drawing, well…apart from the ping pong ball that is.

3rd Drawing Using 2B Pencil
3rd Drawing Using 2B Pencil

For my third attempt I went back to a 2B graphite pencil, the tool I feel most comfortable with and successfully cross hatched the whole drawing without smoothing any lines with my finger and this time even the ping pong ball was clear enough to make out in my finished drawing,. I think deciding to start off the exercise with a ballpoint pen was a very wise idea and may have even helped to improve my cross hatching technique.