Ideally, the subject matter for this exercise is meant to come from ‘our box of natural objects’, but I haven’t had much success in building up a collection – this time of year isn’t too great for strolling around the woods or scavenging along beaches. I had this problem in mind when we went to our local farmers market on Sunday morning. The food there generally makes a big play on the fact that it is all natural, so I decided that perhaps I could buy a few pieces that could fit into the intended theme. So after a quick shop around, I ended up with a really nice selection of wild mushrooms, some bacon, and crusty bread. When I got home I supplemented it with a bottle of olive oil.
These objects together gave me a further idea for my theme – the pieces I’d selected were all to one degree or another natural items that had been worked into a finished, man made product, and I planned to draw them in our kitchen, that had an exposed stone wall, and a wooden table, further fitting the theme that was developing.
I originally had it in mind to put the objects onto a wooden chopping board that I’ve used in one of the exercises before, as this also fit my ‘nature changed by manufacturing theme’. I didn’t want to make a drawing too similar to what I’d done before though, but not wanting to lose the wood idea completely, I instead used a thin slice of tree trunk that I had earmarked for a possible drawing before, but hadn’t got round to using.
The objects were selected slightly on the fly, but I did have a definite idea about my choice of media for the drawing. I wanted to create a colour piece, as my work for the previous assessment had all been monochrome. Looking back through my work for this section, I felt that I’d handled colour best with colour pencil, in the drawing of a bouquet of flowers, and watercolour pencil, when I drew the fish. The biggest drawback I’d had with colour pencil, as I discussed at the time, was how long they took to work over a large area, but I thought that by combining them with watercolour pencil I could get round this issue by creating washes. Also, colour pencil has its drawbacks when trying to capture really vivid colour, but the objects I’d picked were quite earthy tones, and not massively bright anyway, so this wouldn’t be too much of a problem.
My first prep sketches concentrated on colour, and how to apply it, particularly the watercolour pencil. I made quite a lot of notes around these experiments and they sum up my thoughts quite well, so I won’t repeat them all here, as you can read them in the photos. I also thought it might be useful to do a sort of colour chart, to see how the predominant colours would work together. When I did this, I was generally happy with it, but decided that a bit of brighter colour wouldn’t go amiss, so I added some green tones, and decided that these would be best provided by a pot of flat leaf parsley. This would have the added bonus of adding another texture into the drawing.
After I had chosen the objects, media and colours, I then very quickly sketched out some ideas for compositions. Again, these sketches have quite a few notes on them, that describe what I was thinking fairly thoroughly. I planned to draw the finished piece on a piece of A3 paper, and my initial assumption was that I’d work in landscape orientation, but by the third sketch, I’d realised that portrait looked to work better.
The instructions caution against trying to cram too much into the drawing, so I tested that I wasn’t falling into that trap in the second sketch, by removing everything other than the bread, wood, mushrooms and parsley. The drawing definitely looked better with the other stuff in though, but I was glad that I’d confirmed it, in my mind at least.
By the time of the third sketch, I was pretty happy with the composition, and this formed the basis of my finished drawing. I did actually end up moving all the objects round, but they still fitted within the general ideas in that sketch, as you’ll see below.
Here is my final piece.
I liked the progression of the items down the page in the prep sketch, so I’d emphasised that in the final drawing by moving the olive oil bottle into the top left corner, as it was the tallest object, and also moved the bacon and greaseproof paper down toward the bottom right of the page. I also swapped the bread onto the other side of the wood, because I thought that this had looked best in the first prep sketch. I also decided to add a chair into the picture, and I think this works well – it makes it a bit clearer that the objects are all on a table, it breaks up the stone wall a little, so that the stone doesn’t dominate the colour, and the carved detail on the chair is a really nice detail.
I took quite a lot of care to make sure that the objects were drawn accurately, and I think I’ve done ok with this. The parts are all in proportion, and the shapes look correct. I think I’ve captured the main features of each item well enough, and it certainly matches the style I had in mind.
The items I picked worked well in terms of getting a good variety of textures into the drawing, and this variety helped a great deal with the other objective of the assignment, to demonstrate a variety in mark-making. For the bacon and olive oil I applied the marks evenly, in quite long, flowing strokes. By contrast, the stone wall was made by building up layers of wet and dry colour quite roughly, to give a sense of texture and depth, but I kept the treatment of this quite free, so that the stone wouldn’t overpower the scene. I used a similar technique for the crust on the bread. The bark around the edge of the wood is applied differently again, in short, vigorous strokes of the dry medium, but then I worked over it really quite delicately with a wet paintbrush, and I think this approach has come out well. For the mushrooms, I applied the coloured a faint wash, then allowed this to dry before working over this in colour pencil, using a fine hatch. I perhaps should have aimed to get a bit more contrast in these objects, though the hatching has come out quite well.
The bark makes up the darkest part of the drawing, and the tone of it varies from dark toward the left edge of the page, getting lighter toward the right side. This reflects well the fact that I set my light source up from the right hand side. This tonal progression can also be seen in the parsley and the pot it stands in. The lightest and brightest areas of the drawing are the table top and the parsley, and I think these areas are key to getting enough variety of tone into the piece.
For the parsley I worked in quite a loose way, which I felt was appropriate given that it is toward the background. I think that I’ve been reasonably successful in capturing the general form of the plant, both its leaves and stems, without having to slave over every single detail. The colour also really helps with this, as the tonal progression gives the plant a three dimensional quality.
The colours work nicely as a feature of the composition. The brown tones dominate the top of the drawing, and it is drawn into the lower half by the bread, mushrooms and wood. To balance this, white is the main colour of the bottom half of the drawing, but again, this is drawn up into the top half by the chair and the plant pot. The pinkish red of the bacon is balanced in a similar way by the label on the olive oil bottle.
The diagonal line of the table by the chair isn’t quite right. I have adjusted it slightly while making the drawing, and this has put it closer to where I think the vanishing point should be, but it should really be lower still. The flip side of this problem is that the lines of mortar separating the stones should be a bit more diagonal, as they are a bit too near the horizontal to be completely right.
I’m not too sure of the detail of the cut through section of the bread either. The crust has come out well, but the very fine crumb on the flat part was too hard to capture without making the colour too dark. Because the light shines more or less directly onto this part of the bread, there isn’t much contrast to be had. If you look closely you will see how I tried, not overly successfully, to suggest the crumb texture by very faintly rubbing over the area in a light brown colour. It is slightly too faint, and too indistinct, but I felt this was the lesser of two evils here, since the alternative approach would have led to a very artificial looking area of false shade and contrast. The intensity of colour is slightly toned down in my drawing compared to the real scene, but as I discussed in the colour pencil exercise, this seems to be a function of that medium as much as anything. I think that as long as all the colours are toned down to more or less the same degree, then the overall effect should look about right, and I think that I just about get away with this.