This was to be a drawing of natural forms. Given I chose a wet day to do this and we don’t usually have any fruit, I had a choice of vegetables or vegetables! So, after raiding the fridge, I set about trying to work out a suitable composition.
I wasn’t overly inspired by the thought of drawing vegetables, which is probably why it took me a while to get around to doing this drawing. I also didn’t think there would be much problem arranging them, as a pile of vegetables is a pile of vegetables isn’t it? However, on setting them up, it did take me longer than I thought to obtain a pleasing arrangement.
I picked an aubergine, a carrot, courgette, pak choi and some oyster mushrooms. With the reflective surface of the aubergine, the leafy pak choi and the delicate, almost furry mushrooms, I felt this gave a good range of surface textures and shapes.
I tried them loose, which didn’t do anything for me, then on a plastic chopping board. Then I remembered the brief of natural forms and thought that the plastic chopping board and knife didn’t fit with this, so changed to a wooden chopping board and raised the objects on a box to give a lower viewing angle.
I then tried a portrait version, but it would only fit in a square format without having to raise the viewing angle to almost a birds eye view, which also made the composition very boring, so I settled on a slightly raised up selection of objects, drawn quite close up to increase the interest and perspective.
I then tried a comparison sketch in pencil and charcoal, as I fancied experimenting with charcoal more in this assignment. The aubergine I drew here convinced me to go for charcoal in this drawing and I then tried a quick sketch of the other vegetables in this medium which confirmed my choice.
Not having to think about colour in this image, I then moved on to the actual drawing.
One thing I knew was going to be my weakness was the correct placement of the objects in the frame, so I drew out a grid on a transparent CD case to help me to place the initial rough locations of the objects. This was a lot harder than I thought it would be as the slightest variation in where I held the grid made a big variation in the layout. However, after a while I roughly got to grips with it and I used this to mark out the main shapes on the page in pencil. I then started to work on it in charcoal, using a stick of willow charcoal.
I think some areas of this drawing worked really well. I am pleased with the aubergine and the mushrooms in particular. I didn’t get the shape of the pak choi base correct, but didn’t notice this until too late in the drawing. I also couldn’t get the leaves to look like leaves. I should also have experimented more with different thicknesses of charcoal as this was all done with the same stick. Also, I think the image as a whole is very dark, but that may just be the nature of working with charcoal? I could only get light tones by smudging, and struggled to get any really dark tones, especially as I couldn’t fix the charcoal to the page without having to rub a fair bit off, even after applying a lot of fixative spray.
Check and log
Did you do enough preliminary work before starting work on your final pieces?
- Not quite enough, I should have experimented a bit more with different thicknesses of charcoal first. I should have also returned to the sketch book when I struggled with representing the pak choi leaves.
Do your large drawings give an accurate interpretation of the still life groups? If not, what went wrong?
- Mostly yes, the shape of the base of the pak choi went wrong, but the other shapes all worked quite well.
Did you make a good selection of objects or did you try to include too much? Would you change the arrangements of objects if you were to start again?
- I think this selection worked well and I don’t think there was too much. I don’t think the courgette is necessary visually, but it is to hold the pak choi at a better angle. I maybe didn’t need all the mushrooms, but overall I think I made a reasonable selection here and would stick with this if I was to start again.
Do your drawings fit well on the paper or could they be improved by working on a larger sheet of paper?
- I don’t quite get this question, surely the drawings fit well or don’t, no matter what the paper size is, the scale just changes? Having said that, given that I worked with a medium sized piece of charcoal for the whole drawing, maybe I should have used a larger sheet of paper, but it would have been easier to use a smaller stick of charcoal in some areas. I was also daunted enough by a blank A2 sheet, without tackling a blank A1 sheet just yet!
- If the question is more about fitting the objects on the page, then I am pleased with the way my image fills the page.
Did you have problems with drawing or find hatching too difficult?
- I had some problems with the charcoal. Firstly in representing the leaves of the pac choi and secondly in representing the full tonal range of the images (I didn’t use hatching in this image). I’m sure that if I work more with this medium I will discover more ways of working with it though. I think a more textured paper would also have been more suited to charcoal as I had problems fixing it to the smooth cartridge paper and used about half a can of fixative in the end!