On a bolder note

The first mortar and pestle image was well within my comfort zone and I felt I wanted to try something bolder. I made two new versions, one with colour and one with less precise marks.

With colour

The idea of the red tomato and its reflections in the mortar intrigued me so I did a version in graphite pencil and coloured pens. I also tried to make the contrasts stronger.

HB-5B graphite pencils, coloured pens and putty eraser on drawing paper, A3

For the mortar I left out some more lines on the lit side. The omission works like a highlight and creates an effect of very intense light (amplified by the dark shadow). I found that I did not need to darken the surroundings now. I also tried to rectify the elongated shape of the mortar. It is better now but still too long.

I haven’t used coloured pens for a very long time and felt awkward to begin with. I started very softly and gradually increased colour strength, mixing colours as I went. For the red I used three warm midtones, dark magenta, two oranges and dark purple. The white spots due to the paper’s tooth bothered me much more than when using graphite. Probably because I now thought in colour and wanted to restrict the white to the highlights. I think I managed to give the tomato a nice volume (although it got an indentation near the bottom which it does not have). It does have much more character than the graphite tomato, a tomatoness that the graphite one lacks.

I like the idea of a graphite drawing with just one colour in it. However in this picture, as the mortar is white, the green sepals of the tomato are the only thing where the b/w idea is obvious. I think the picture would profit from other vegetables kept in b/w to reinforce the idea. That would also make the composition more interesting.

Bolder marks


I chose a medium that is hard to control in order to not fall back into detail – stones.
They are a kind of ocher from Sicily, the dark one sepia-like with a hint of purple, the others shades of yellow ochre. I have never before drawn with these and found it hard to predict the kind of mark they would make and where exactly. Suddenly the mark making ability of the stone would vanish and I had to find a new edge to use. Sometimes it would be strong and rich in colour, sometimes thin and weak but grating the paper.

When drawing I used what I’d learned in my earlier pictures, the directional hatching, the leaving out of lines. I think it worked well for the mortar and the tomato, but not at all for the shadow.


The shadow has a contour which feels very wrong here. When working with pencil I made the contour line too, but could hide it in the darkness of the shadow later. Not with the stones. In this picture I feel the shadow is way too big and it seems to leave the table and curve up (at the top?). I think the smudging would have worked if the shadow was smaller, but I don’t like the lines at all. At the base of the two objects it works well, though.

Both the tomato and the mortar have nice volume, I think, and the forms are distinct even if not all the lines are correct. I am surprised how well the highlights work here. In the tomato I like how lines, smudging and blank areas work together. The dark lines to the left are very nice and bold.


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