Pages 47-50: Sketchbook 1
Exercise: Composition of Natural Objects
I completed this between 13th and 14th December 2012
The instructions were to make a selection of natural objects and explore different viewpoints and arrangements. and to make quick sketches before moving the objects again.
I chose the ingredients for a pasta sauce which we always have in our kitchen. I started by piling the vegetables randomly on a table and sketching them in pencil. I soon found that pencil sketching was taking too long for these rapid thumbnail sketches so i switched to pen and wash. I had not used this much in the past but found it quite satisfying as I was able to give a suggestion of form and colour very rapidly.
Next I tried a square format with the vegetables arranged on a square plate on the floor. I was looking down on them from above. The objects were also lit from above. This made the arrangement quite flat and there was little overlapping of the forms. It looked more like a design project than a still life with depth. However, I do quite like the strong diagonal of the aubergine and courgette here.
I abandoned the square format and tried changing both the viewpoint and the format. Placing the subjects almost at eye level and overlapping the subjects made it easier to give a sense of depth. I tried an elongated horizontal format which I have never used before.
I liked this arrangement and the marks that I'd made with the pen and the watercolours. These techniques worked well for a quick sketch. However the lack of colour intensity especially on the lustrous surfaces such as the aubergine and pepper don't really reflect the surfaces of the actual subject.
The format and subject matter make it more difficult to know where to put a focal point. The veg themselves don't provide such an obvious focal point as the Teds' eyes did in the previous exercise. Despite seeming to break all the rules by having the garlic in the centre of the page it doesn't immediately strike me as looking 'wrong'.Maybe that is because there is an odd number of items and there is more weight towards the left side of the page Although I really like the colour and texture of the aubergine and wanted it as more of a central part of my composition, I think being such a large, dark shape it would tend to dominate too much and it actually works better in the background.
Next I tried working into a pen and wash sketch with my new pencil crayons. There were so many colours that I made myself a little reference page to try them out. The pencil crayon allowed me to build up more intense colour but seemed to kill the spontaneity and vitality of the original pen and wash sketch. I tried to remedy this by instead experimenting with cross hatching with marker pens but this didn't give the glossy texture I was aiming for.
I decided to go back to the elongated horizontal arrangement but the garlic was moved slightly to the left. I sketched it in pen and wash on Bockingford watercolour paper. I experimented with using masking fluid to leave some white highlights on the pepper and aubergine. This was a mistake as removing it lifted off the top layer of paper leaving a rough surface.
Despite my previous discouraging results with the coloured pencils I tried again on this different surface. I was more selective about where I put the colour and built it up judiciously in layers. I was careful not to completely obliterate all the areas of wash. I did not work into the garlic with crayon but chose to use india ink and dip pen which worked quite well for the hairy root area here and on the onions.
I had forgotten to mask out the stalks of the tomatoes so ended up scraping away colour with a scalpel blade to be able to work back in here.