- choose 4-5 of the same long, pale, plain objects and group them in upright position
- add a black background
- block out daylight and light the scene from the side with a lamp
- Now make 3 drawings of the scene using 1. a finliner, 2. graphite pencil, 3. charcoal pencil
- avoid too much space around the objects
- sketch losely, then work across the whole surface using hatching
- Compare the 3 drawings
Further instructions included: make the image dramatic and richly textured, use techniques learned in earlier projects, fill the entire rectangle with hatching.
I had a hard time getting to grips with this. There were so many instructions and I did not really see why they were so detailed. I felt constrained. And then there was the next exercise looming (enlarge one of the drawings) which inhibited me further and made me want to make the picture simple so the task would not become too difficult. Neither could I choose any objects for quite some time.
Finally I decided to get a move on. I settled on white candles in different lengths, two new ones and three used ones. They felt like something different from the usual fruit and veg. When drawing I realised that I would not be able to make them “richly textured” as they are very smooth. Neither did I find any use for earlier techniques with the candles except that I omitted lines on the lit side to reinforce the feeling of light. I did get a dramatic effect, though.
I started in my sketchbook to test compositions and mark making in the different mediums. This helped me to place my still life on the page and find an interesting composition. A lot of these first mark making attempts did not work at all – especially the charcoal. I tried several different pencils until I found a rather hard one that worked.
With these first attempts I found that the image plays nicely with vertical and horizontal long shapes coupled with light and dark. I tried to work that out more with the composition and the black background. I like the shadows creeping up the background (a black sketchbook), and I like the tilting of the candles. I like the composition of the graphite one best, but for the final drawings I chose one with less empty space. Not sure if I succeeded, though.
In all of the sketches I did not like how I rendered the candles. None of the shadowing reflects the smoothness of the wax. In the final drawings I reduced it to almost only vertical lines, in the ink one very few and very thin. That works much better.
I was positively surprised by the effect of the fineliner in the background, although a pattern crept in that I did not like (darker streaks). With the graphite I eventually found a way of criss crossing that gave an illusion of blackness with a nice movement to it. I tried to duplicate that in all of the final drawings. It worked best with the graphite and maybe it would have with the fineliner, but all my fineliners were emptied by the sketch above so I had to improvise. I used a ruling pen and ink instead.
These are the final drawings:
The graphite and charcoal ones turned out quite similar. I liked using them as I feel I know what I’m doing. However, they lost their point very fast and my hand smudged the lines. The ink was easier in that respect, as long as I allowed it to dry. A fineliner would have been easier still, no doubt.
The charcoal one has a nicer contrast than the graphite which makes it seem more like a drawing than a sketch, more permanent in my eyes. I also like the velvety quality of the background in the charcoal drawing.
With the ink it was more difficult to get the background dark. Probably because it did not smudge and the ruler pen kept to one thickness. I think I have not yet found out how to make this kind of hatching so it looks consistent.
The cast shadows on the white paper are lighter than the background. I had difficulties showing this in a way that worked with the hatching. Lighter hatching seems much more difficult to achieve with regard to the consistency mentioned above. Especially with the ink. I tried different ways but am not really satisfied with any of them. This needs more work.
For the next exercise – enlarging the image using squares – I chose the ink drawing. Its lines are definite and clear. I plan to use the ruler pen’s ability to change the thickness of the line it makes (a rather messy affair as it turned out with the wider lines…).
I am glad I did this exercise. It was difficult working under so many instructions and it felt limiting occasionally. But this made me do things I would not otherwise have done, like the choice of the objects or trying to fill a black background with a fineliner (I long to make a drawing of this with ink and brush!). I am pleased with the graphic effect of the candles and shadows and I have gained valuable experience with regard to using lines to depict areas of tone. Something I have avoided up to now. I would like to try different kinds of mark making with this composition, though.