Sketchbook 1: Pages 23-25
Exercise: Observing Shadow and Light Formations on a Surface
This exercise was to start using shading to depict light and shade on a surface. I chose two objects, an apple and a mug which had a reflective surface. I first made a couple of quick sketches to show the broad areas of light and shade.
In the first sketch I struggled to do a simple rendering of the broad areas as the shadows were very complex. I realised that this was because there were too many light sources, There was the main room light above as well as light from the window and a lamp placed to one side. I also struggled with the handle on the mug which looks twisted.
For the second sketch I made life easier for myself by using a single light source. I closed the blinds turned off the overhead light and just used the lamp light to identify the broad areas of light and shade. I found that squinting and looking through my eyelashes helped as it eliminated a lot of the detail. Note that on this one I have not described reflected light on the edge of either the mug of the apple.
The next step was to draw all the gradations of light I could see and to try to include reflected light as well as to try to get all the areas to merge in a series of tonal shifts. I was feeling a bit more confident about identifying the areas of light and shade and it was a bright day so I decided to use sunlight through the window as my light source. Unfortunately this did create some problems. I was interrupted several times during the course of the drawing and each time I came back the light had changed in direction and intensity. At one point there was a beautiful bright shaft of sunlight so I tried to capture this. A lesson I learned from this exercise is that If using natural light I must work fast or make lots of reference quick sketches with notes.
I have managed to identify the reflected light on the edge of the apple and there is also light reflected from the apple and mug into the tabletop and a reflection of the apple on the surface of the mug. However, I did struggle to maintain a tonal difference between the main directly illuminated areas and the reflected light. This was especially problematic because the strong illumination meant that the reflections were very strong. The other technical problem with this was that it all got a bit smudgy as my had passed back over the surface of the paper. This meant that highlights which I had intended to remain crisp and white didn't stay as intended and I had to go back into my work with a rubber to lift the graphite back off but it left a bit of a residue.
I also noted that where I had tried to build up intense shadows I had pressed a bit too hard in placed and embossed the paper. I needed to practise building up tone gradually to avoid this.
The handle on the mug is a bit better then the first sketch but it still isn't quite right It is still a bit twisted.
Following on from this I had a look at the work of Martha Alf in 'Experimental Drawing' by Robert Kaupelis. I printed a couple of her pieces out and put them in my sketchbook labelling the incident light, cast shadow and reflected light to act as a reminder.
I also looked at some other artists working in graphite to see what could be achieved in terms of tonal graduations. Serse - an Italian contemporary artist uses a subtractive technique in which he erases from a base of graphite to describe ripples and splashes on water. In doing so he creates smooth tonal gradations.
Looking at the Jerwood Drawing prize website I found Tanya Wood's 'Pillow' which was shortlisted in 2012. I had a look at her website which shows many images of crumpled paper bags, memo pad paper and life sized renderings of a pillow and a sheet recently vacated by a sleeping occupant. The artist comments that the work concerns the ' fragility and preciousness of life explored through the close study of surfaces disrupted by human actions' I like this and find her renderings of the fragile folds left by a person's head on a pillow - which are unique and inherently transient, quite affecting. It is also interesting to note that meticulous and detailed pencil drawing is an acceptable form of self expression in today's art world. Looking at 'Vitamin D- New Perspectives in Drawing' as well as the Jerwood Drawing Prize catalogue I am struck by how many different techniques, styles, concepts and media are represented and acceptable within drawing today. At the moment I'm only really looking for drawings to inform my progress in technique but hope to explore in more detail the concepts behind different artist's approaches as time goes on.