Project: Enlarging an image

Exercise: Enlarging an image (page from sketchbook)

Check and log

How successful were you in copying the lines from the smaller squares to the larger squares?

Pretty good. I drew all squares by hand, since I didn’t have acetate paper. But then Albrecht Duerer didn’t have any either…

Are you satisfied with your larger replica of the image? What would you do differently another time?

It’s good for now. Next time I would try to simplify my line drawing, instead of my usual “searching” with the pencil for the line. I used an F pencil, I’d also try out the HB one recommended. I guess the F pencil is even fainter, but alos harder to erase.

 

Project: Using texture

Exercise: A drawing with textures (bristle brush, oval mop brush, dip pen and ink, poster colour washes)

  • for tall jug in back: first used frottage technique with the actual jug, as it has a very interesting carved surface; then added deeper shadows with oval mop brush and diluted poster colour
  • for rough pottery vase: first wash with diluted poster colour, then added surface lines/grooves with round brush, slightly wriggly to suggest roughness, fading out at lit side of pot, added stippling marks with same brush
  • for apple: first done in soft pencil and rubbed with finger, but because that looked too rough due to the paper surface being emphasized, I put a wash of poster colour on to make it smooth
  • for table cloth: used almost dry bristle brush for front and wetter one for back of cloth
  • for sage leaf: initially drew it wriggly with a dip pen and black ink, but since the tone had to be darker on the table cloth I applied a wash too (not depicted in photo above yet)

Check and log

Have you discovered any new ways of using your drawing tools to depict surface and texture?

  • all brushes with dry and semi-dry diluted poster colours > they feel great, especially the bristle brushes – depending on how big they are they can create marks from something looking almost like charcoal (small bristle, almost dry colour) to superfine parallel lines as if it is an etching
  • frottage technique worked quite well on the jug

How successful were you at implying form with little or no tonal hatching?

I used washes of differently diluted poster paint instead of hatching as well as lines that become dotted when suggesting the lit area of an object. Also frottage…

I think my success was mixed: while I liked the frottage-jug the round vase looks slightly too flat – given it’s really rough groovy texture. The table cloth is a mixed bag… the idea with the dry bristle brush is good, however the execution at the shaded areas is pretty dodgy looking – I corrected the shade because I made it too dark and then it became a big smudge. I really need to be a bit careful with the dark tones in general as I often use them for areas that should be medium tones at best relative to the whole tonal range of the picture. Once there, they are hard to correct.

What are your impressions of frottage as a drawing technique?

In the drawing frottage worked quite well. I guess it is unusual that I could use the actual object (the jug) to create the texture of the jug. I used it pretty literally. It would be interesting to use a different object’s texture – say roughly woven cloth for a wicker basket. Also, the thick paper I used only showed pretty strong marks… use thinner paper for more subtle marks.

Frottage technique

A technique where you use the drawing tools rubbed over an object’s surface to show an object’s texture in 2D on paper.

Max Ernst developed this technique and used it often in his imagined landscapes. Frottage is similar to brass rubbing, just that it uses any suitable texture to create a texture in the drawing. Ernst often used wood as a medium, due to its beautiful line work.

Max Ernst: Frottage, 1970

Max Ernst: Im Stall der Sphinx, 1925, Frottage

Max Ernst: Forest and Sun, 1931, graphite frottage on paper

Project: Still life

Exercise: Still life sketches of made objects (2 types of pencil - HB + soft)

After the Morandi-encounter I felt quite inspired. Reading about Morandi and his messy studio and then looking at his effortlessly orderly looking still lives struck a chord with my nature I guess. It was an effort for him to create order (see the note that it sometimes took him ages to set up the vessels/bottles/jars), it didn’t come easily.

I wanted to create orderly still lives of made objects and experimented with visual unity and simplifying. And I discovered the beauty of combining 2 kinds of pencils (see above – the last sketch of this exercise). So much better than my normal smudge (compare the first drawing below done only with a soft pencil) …

The key to Morandi might be that his objects are unified – forming very simple compositions like squares etc – but – as I tried to arrange perfect squares with my objects I realised Morandi’s objects were NOT arranged to form a “clean” bigger shape like a square. Instead the objects that appear symmetrically arranged are just a tiny bit off – but that adds a lot of life to his still lives.

Exercise: Still life sketches of made objects (using 1 type of pencil - soft)

Exercise: Still life sketches of made objects (2 types of pencil - HB + soft)

Then I proceeded to the composition of natural objects and had obviously forgotten all about order and limitation and HB pencils. So I first started some rather messy compositions in a soft pencil, they might have been recognizable in colour (as onions, tomatoes, spinach, garlic and sugar snaps) – but in terms of composition (which should work in black or white as well) it turned out a total jumble. Nothing stands out on that plate. No structure.

Exercise: Composition of natural objects - some sketches

So I slowly took things off the plate (there was too much on my plate literally), then I took the plate itself out and then also the indicated table (taped off) and ended up with a much more simple and clean composition (see below). Adieu sugar snaps.

Exercise: Composition of natural objects - what I saw

Exercise: Composition of natural objects - simplified composition

Exercise: Composition of natural objects - final charcoal + pencil drawing (38x30cm)

Check and log

Do you think it it easier to suggest 3D on man-made or natural objects (explain)?

For me the natural objects were harder. A bottle is recognisable as a bottle even if I do not draw that wobble that this particular bottle has. But vegetables – I had the sensation – lived of their texture, their fine lines, their bulges here and there – that’s not a simple shape. A garlic is much more complicated than an onion. But the onion, which is similar in it’s shape simplicity to the tomato, looks different from a tomato – and that’s not just the size – but also the whole texture. The dry and brittle onion skin versus the smooth tomato.

How did you create a sense of solidity in your composition?

I tried to create varied surfaces – even if the side of the object was flat. Also the shadows and cast lights and shadows suggested volume (example tomato, onion in last exercise). The man-made objects in my first sketches didn’t have much cast shadow as I was working outside on the balcony and the day was overcast. But inside it was so dark I couldn’t see a thing.

Do you think, changing the arrangement of your composition make a s difference to your approach and the way you create a sense of form?

I tried to give each object their due in their own right but also to create a flow or a “togetherness” of the objects. I wanted to bear in mind Morandi’s hard-won sense of order so simplifying the initial arrangement was key. All first sketches were really not very good and I needed at least 2 simplification steps t get to something better. This saying, that you should finish something and in the end take something away to make it perfect is true for me.

How did you decide how to position yourself in relation to the objects?

Our flat doesn’t have much light so I am constantly looking for a good spot to draw, where the shadows are strong enough to create more contrast. So I found myself squeezing between shelves and tables to get that light spot. I like views where you can see the objects slightly from above. I thought that if – say the onion – is pretty obscured by other objects then maybe I should take it out entirely.

Maybe my ex-colleague C-gal was right claiming my famous last sentences would include: “What is the purpose of these ornaments? What purpose exactly do they serve in life? And what do people do with these random photographs they take in the train station? Its just random.”

To summarise – I tried to position myself so that I have enough light and see each of the objects well and they would still form an interesting unity.

Research Point: Giorgio Morandi’s powdery calm still lifes

Giorgio Morandi: Still Life, Oil on Canvas

Despite living through both World Wars, Morandi’s (1890-1964) still lifes have nothing violent in them. They look serenely calm. Nothing is flashy. The bottles, jars and jugs play together in unusual arrangements, often with almost the same height and placed very close together. It feels like a skyline – unlike the diagonally varied arrangement I often associate with still lives. Nothing individual stands out – everything melts together into a solemn pastel-grey-coloured world of utility objects.

Morandi lived almost his entire life in a house shared with his mother and sisters in Bolognia, where he collected his various vessels and painted them over and over again in different arrangements.

While his paintings look familiar and naturalistic at the first glance, the items are actually highly altered – stripped bare of any labels, and painted entirely opaque in soft hues, even if the surfaces might have been shiny. Again, shine seems too flashy.

Giorgio Morandi: Still Life

Visitors to his studio remarked on the thick layer of dust that covered everything in Morandi’s one-room apartment and studio, a patina he seemed to have cultivated. (Source 1)

Giorgio Morandi: Still Life

The orderliness in Morandi’s pictures have been a effort, a deliberate act of will and thought, as the studio was rather messy. Josef Herman remarked: “The floor was by far the most cluttered part of the room; littered with bottles, all different sizes, shapes and colours. I had no difficulty in recognizing some of the bottles I had seen in Morandi’s paintings; only in the paintings they possessed a dignity and a life of their own… The live bottles had nothing of the kind. The nobility of the colours and the textures was obviously an invention of Morandi’s.” (Source 1)

Giorgio Morandi: Still Life, Oil on Canvas

Working methods

Morandi was in full control of every aspect that belonged to making a painting. He stretched his own canvasses, made his own paint, and carefully arranged the collected objects on sheets of paper on specially made tables and shelves.

He would sometimes fill his objects with paint or paint them over, thus eliminating the shine normally found on these objects. He wanted to capture the smoothness of light, colour and volume – forgoing the easy (flashy) effects like highlights for example.

Giorgio Morandi: Still Life, sketch

So the dust piling up in his studio must have been a great help dulling down the surface until only matte colour and volume was left. That might be one of the reasons why his pictures look so very timeless – there is nothing time-specific in it, it is bare form and volume, I don’t see how it could age.

Giorgio Morandi: Still Life

Morandi’s process of finding the right arrangement of his bottles and jars was a slow one, and he considered this his real work. (Source 2) He said: “It takes me weeks to make up my mind which group of bottles will go well with a particular coloured tablecloth. Then it takes me weeks of thinking about the bottles themselves, and yet often I still go wrong with the spaces. Perhaps I work too fast?” (Source 1)

At my current pace I won’t make it through the Drawing I course any time soon.

Sources:

Project: Reflected light – check and log (summary)

What are the difficulties in separating cast shadow from reflected light and shade?

Getting the tone right in relation o the other tones in the picture is the most tricky. In my “Reflected Light Exercise” with the pot on the white table cloth for example part of the table cloth was in the shade of the trees (on right) which were moving i the wind and appeared not very dark, on the left the shadow of the house seemed very dark… but it was still all the white table cloth obviously. I had to squint to cut out the many shades and just see dark and light. Even a cast shadow had different tones.

The reflected shadow and light is more subtle but here I find that it is further complicated by the colour of the objects. For example the bowl in the exercise was a medium brown and dark brown inside – so the light and shadow reflected from the ladle and the little jug were very subtle. In fact I initially had to learn what was the shadow and light from these objects by removing them. Before, I had perceived the lights and shadows on the bowl as part of it’s own shape.

Even the negative space of the table cloth reflected a light to the underbelly of the items, so ladle, bowl and jug all have that lighter shade at the foot/underside.

The reflected light and shadow follows the contours of the objects. How have you shown this in your drawing?

  • In the same picture the little jug casts a round shadow including a spout
  • The bowl and ladle cast round/oval shadows
  • In the 1st drawing from Project Tone and Form the tabasco bottle on the right casts a bottle shadow on the spray can on the left. To be honest I only just saw that now, I had tried to draw what I see. But it was late and I didn’t realise it the shadow followed the neck and beginning of that tabasco bottle – hence the body and neck are a bit squarish in the cast shadow, and they should have just be smooth like the bottle shape.

 

Research Point: Patrick Caulfield’s use of positive/negative space

Patrick Caulfield: Fruit and Bowl. 1979-80, Print (Screen Print)

Patrick Caulfield: Fruit and Bowl. 1979-80, Print (Screen Print)

Caulfield (1936-2005) was a painter and printmaker associated with pop art. He abstracted the objects he painted with flat areas of colour, sometimes with more or less strong lines to outline the shapes. A lot of pictures that I saw online did not incorporate a sense of volume to his shapes, as they lack shading/shadows.

Then I found Caulfield’s White Ware prints – and put 6 of the 8 together below. It looks a bit like scissor cuts rearranged on a coloured ground. Large spaces of flat colour and simplified shapes – but here (compared to the flat bowl with fruits above) he has a 2 tone approach for some of his objects – either dark or light. For example the vases in the first 2 prints both appear to have their right side in the shade. Some objects – like in #3 and #5 have a “shadow”.

In some sense Caulfield focuses on the background and fills it, thereby making the negative space a positive. The “real” objects are mostly left blank in the White Ware series – making them the negative space.

Patrick Caulfield: 6 White ware prints, 1990 (6 from a set of 8 screenprints on paper, 107.2 x 81.1cm)

A drawing in a similar style:

After a couple of sketches I decided for a big bowl with some round shapes in the foreground – all only partially shown complemented by a vase in the background.

Exercise: Negative and positive space (sketches)

There is a table indicated by a diagonal on the left, which is a recurring feature in the White Ware prints as well.

Exercise: Negative and positive space (drawing a la Caulfield)

Compared to Caulfield’s series my picture looks a bit lifeless (apart from the fact that it looks rather crap). I think the scissor-cut, slightly squint rearrangement in Caulfield’s series make it more interesting. I guess I need to resist the urge to make things too symmetrical/monotonous/realistic in general. So I redid it slightly and made the gaps between the white objects more uneven. Still looking crap. Also, I can still see the brushstrokes from the poster colour. Hmm.

Project: Reflected light

Exercise: Light reflected from one object to another

I was struggling a lot with charcoal as a medium. Before this exercise I used these compressed charcoal power sticks that came in a mixed sketching media box from Derwent. It was not just messy – I couldn’t even get different tones out of them. Well, maybe black and dark grey. I didn’t manage to get light grey out of them at all, and to erase some of it prove pretty much impossible.

I partially resolved that problem by using proper willow charcoal. These sticks are much better  to handle and can be partially erased – but I am still resorting to use some washes or dabs of white and black poster colour paint to set the highlights and deep shades as I can never make these areas precise enough with charcoal and a rubber. Maybe even A4 ist just too small for this medium?

Notes

  • the white table cloth reflects light up to the “underbelly” of the round objects
  • the directly lit parts/highlights are lighter than the highlights created from the reflection of the light of the primary light source onto the other object (e.g. under the handle of the bowl, as a reflection of the ladle as opposed to the direct reflection on the handle)
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