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Exercises Still Life

I must admit I do find still life a bit of a challenge for me. I am not sure quite why I am resistant to this, in fact it took me ages to get to doing this part of the course. I recognise it is important for me to try some of these things, but trying to come up with something which is a realistic rendition of what I see always proves to be tricky. I can look at the still life and back at my drawing, see that the line is out of place, or the shading is wrong, but somehow I don’t seem to be able to edit my drawing to reflect what I really see. Trying to find different ways to set out my still life usually results in me going back to my first choice of layout!

I found drawing manmade items to be easier than natural objects. With the manmade object there was a definite shine and things tended to have a hard edge. The natural objects have a definite edge, but things are softer, the shading, the surface you are trying to imply. I found drawing the orange for instance very difficult, I had to force myself to look closely at the surface of the orange and think about how I could best represent that surface texture. I had tried just using dots, but then I realised they were really like little craters or dimples, so drawing a feint circle seemed the best option. Also I realised it wasn’t necessary to cover the whole surface with this drawn texture, just drawing in bits of it was enough. I also used the technique described in the course materials of squinting my eyes when looking at the still lifes to better see the dark and the light.

I might next time draw out a light grid before I start drawing to allow me to position things correctly. For this I chose the ‘strongest’ item (the apple in the natural objects) and drew that first. The rest I fitted in around it. I did the same for the mug for the manmade objects.

I am finding this whole idea of drawing because there is a requirement for me to do so to be quite a bit more challenging than I thought it would be. I have had my still lifes sat around waiting for me to draw them and it just doesn’t happen. I find just about every reason under the sun that I can’t do it. I don’t know why this is causing me so much trouble, I wonder if others face the same problems? I think I can create art if there is no fixed agenda, but this is making me wonder if a degree in Fine Art is for me. Its not the subject matter, just the formality of the study. I have numerous books on the subject of art and have taken various workshops, albeit mostly on mixed media and produce stuff quite happily. Its the basics of drawing. I am not as good at drawing as I believed myself to be and that has been a bit of a shock I think. I had this slightly niave idea that I might have this amazing latent talent. The reality is a big wakeup call.

I am thinking of keeping an art journal, for two reasons, one to get me in the habit of producing some art (however small each day) and two I am hoping that drawing is a skill that if I practice it enough I will improve.

To make something appear 3D on a 2D surface it is necessary to include shading in your drawing to reflect the areas of light and shade. Lighting of the subject will effect the reflected light and the shadow of the object you are drawing. In sunlight it is easy to see all around us, if the sun is high the shadows cast by us and those objects around us are short, if the sun is low the shadows are long. In different types of lighting you will get different shadows. In candlelight the shadows will be warm and soft, in flourescent lighting the shadows will be crisp and harsh. Objects that opaque will cast a shadow, whereas objects that are transparent will allow some or all the light to pass through it and possibly reflect onto other objects nearby. If the object is suspended the shadow will be detached from the object, if it is on say a table the shadow will always be attached. By adding shading to an object, it allows the viewer to perceive the drawn object as something that is 3D as opposed to 2D. By applying tone to the drawing, making the marks darker in those areas where the shadows is most dark, and leaving it very light where the light is reflecting adds dimension to your final drawn piece.

[Insert drawn image here to demonstrate]

I am truly struggling with the whole drawing jam jars things, let alone jam jars that are casually laying on their sides. I will perserve though but I cannot promise anything that might be suitable to adorn a wall in some quiet and cobwebby corner even!

Observation of Light

Q. Stand in a room without light. Ask yourself what can you see?

A. Initially I cannot see anything, and either by memory or feeling my way I enter the room. As time passes (not too long) my eyes gradually become accustomed to the lack of light. The irises in my eyes will be opening wider to allow what little light there is in so I can “see” better. Eventually I can begin to make out the outlines of pieces of furniture. Paintings on the walls against a pale background. I cannot see detail in the paintings, just the space around where the painting occupies. The room is filled with shadows, but very soft shadows, not really with either a beginning or an end.

Q. Stand in a room that is well lit. What can you see?

A. Going straight from the darkened room into the well lit one it takes a while again for your eyes to adjust. Initially they are overwhelmed by the fact that there seems to be too much light, so you end up squinting, to reduce your iris size and therefore reduce the amount of light entering your eyes. You can see just about everything, the shadows in this room are very well defined and very stark, not at all soft like the room before. Colours are very vibrant, with bold colours like red leaping out at you.

In the first situation, the darkened room, I am more aware of shadows and my eyes are grabbing at what little light available there is, I am not aware of colour at all, just shades of black. More aware of a sense of shade. In the lit room, I am less aware of the shadows (although I know they are there) however I am aware of the colours in the room, so more of a sense of light.

“Chiaroscuro generally refers to the graduating ones, from light to dark, in a work of art, and the artist’s skill in using this technique to represent volume and mood.” Drawing Light and Shade, 2006, Search Press, Civardi, G., p.3.

Well I have finally caught up with all the tv programmes in this series now of The School of Saatchi. I can’t say whether I was disappointed with the final outcome or not, just curious really. The students were set a variety of tasks, create something contemporary that could be displayed in a historical setting, ie a stately home. With each week I liked something that each student created, but rarely did I like all things created, but that is just a matter of taste. Saad, who created along with another student the Ghostly Huts at the coast were quite wonderful, with a beautiful serene elegance, however compare that with the chapatis in the stately home and I was totally lost. We saw during the final programme that they had to create something that would be put on display at the Saatchi Gallery and they had to organise the event and invite the “right” people to see their work. Each week a visiting artist would call by to discuss their ideas with them for that weeks challenge and suggest ways the piece could be tamed or have a bigger impact, depending on their opinion of how it needed to be tweaked. The winner on the night was Eugenie Scrase, 20 years old and currently in her first year at the Slade School of Fine Art. Her winning piece was a piece of a tree (image at link here) that had fallen and become embedded in a metal spike topped railing. She convinced the owners that she should be able to remove both the log and the section of fence intact and that along with another unrelated item would become her two exhibits. Matt Clark, another student with more experience than Eugenie, came second. He in contrast spent a age creating a caravan, and fitted it out to illustrate the life of this mad professor who gave lectures inside his caravan to no one! The whole piece was built from scratch from recycled materials, with so much time being taken up by finding each piece and setting the scene. You could not deny that the amount of thought and physical work that went into it was enormous. Eugenie’s winning piece on the other hand was something she “discovered” on route to somewhere else relating to her first piece, she saw the log on the fence, became fascinated with it and saw an opportunity to make this her second artwork.

Her work went on display at The Hermitage in St Petersberg as part of the Saatchi Travelling Exhibition. Her studio which she had won access to for three years, went in the first year to Matt Clark who came second. Eugenie offered it to him, while she went back to University to complete her degree in Fine Art.

What I found most fascinating about this, was 1) I have created 3D pieces of art before, and there wasn’t magic or special powers in terms of how they came up with their ideas, their approach was no different to how I approached a similar challenge. I am not suggesting I could take their place, simply that it is about having a way of seeing, finding the ordinary and making it extraordinary! 2) Putting in hours of work into a piece does not necessarily mean that you are guaranteed a good mark. If it has been done before, as was the case with the caravan, this theme had been explored quite a bit in the past, you are simply re-treading old ground. What made Eugenie’s piece stand out was how different it was, not how much work she had put into it. Not marking the technical ability, more the seeing and knowing eye! I applaud her courage.

Today I had to write to my tutor to request an extension. All my good intentions of getting lots of work done over the Christmas holidays were blown out of the water! Thankfully my tutor agreed, my new deadline is the end of this month.

Even though I may not be drawing everyday, well what I am supposed to be doing for my course, I am constantly thinking about art, about colours, they way things go together, ie shapes and how they fit. Watching tv programmes on the subject of art, reading magazines. Its just putting pencil to sketchbook that seems to be eluding me!

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