Part 2 – Exercise 7: still life with natural objects

For this exercise I chose a sea shell and an orange to begin to create the composition I was after. I made several sketches of the sea shell from various angles and peeled the orange which had the effect of making it look somewhat ‘shell-like’.

I sketched out some illustrative images on an A3 sheet of cartridge paper using a graphite pencil B. I also made an arrangement for the chosen composition which I sketched on an A4 sheet.

Exercise 7 - still life with natural objects - b/w sketches 1 (click on image to enlarge)

Exercise 7 – still life with natural objects – b/w sketches 1 (click on image to enlarge)

Exercise 7 - still life with natural objects - b/w sketches 2 (click on image to enlarge)

Exercise 7 – still life with natural objects – b/w sketches 2 (click on image to enlarge)

Exercise 7 - still life with natural objects - chosen composition b/w sketch (click on image to enlarge)

Exercise 7 – still life with natural objects – chosen composition b/w sketch (click on image to enlarge)

I scanned the sketchbook pages, printed them out on A4 paper and then used Sennelier oil pastels to mark in colour suggestions based on the original objects.

Exercise 7 - still life with natural objects - coloured sketches 1 (click on image to enlarge)

Exercise 7 – still life with natural objects – coloured sketches 1 (click on image to enlarge)

Exercise 7 - still life with natural objects - coloured sketches 2 (click on image to enlarge)

Exercise 7 – still life with natural objects – coloured sketches 2 (click on image to enlarge)

Exercise 7 - still life with natural objects - chosen composition coloured sketch (click on image to enlarge)

Exercise 7 – still life with natural objects – chosen composition coloured sketch (click on image to enlarge)

I took a reference photo of this chosen composition.

Still life with natural objects - reference photo (click on image to enlarge)

Still life with natural objects – reference photo (click on image to enlarge)

I had already prepared a Gerstaecker 20 x 20cm square canvas board, which I think suits the composition, with a white ground and a turquoise blue/green acrylic wash. I used a neutral mix of light Burnt Umber/White for drawing in the shapes and shadows – I quite like the almost abstract feel – it’s quite similar to a wood-cut or litho-print image.

Still life with natural objects - drawing in paint (click on image to enlarge)

Still life with natural objects – drawing in paint (click on image to enlarge)

For my first attempt at this fairly simple natural still life composition I decided to try out chalk pastels, which I have never used. I found the blending of colours good, but noticed that producing fine lines and detail was quite tricky.

Other than the layout of the shapes and maybe the shadows, what I ended up with ‘colour-wise’ was quite different from the original/reference photo. My squinted eyes gave me a ‘purply’ background/foreground drop that was obviously more intense than the reality of the arrangement?

Having produced a canvas, I decided to shake/blow off the remaining chalk and then spray it with fixative (I used Daler & Rowney Perfix Colourless Fixative).

Exercise 7 - still life with natural objects - finished (click on image to enlarge)

Exercise 7 – still life with natural objects – finished (click on image to enlarge)

I’m not sure that the fixative spray did the still life any favours – despite my best efforts of removing remaining chalk, the spray seemed to move fragments of chalk about and ‘muddy’ the canvas. I should have used my portable hoover to suck off the excess chalk, and I should have taken a reference photo of the chalk image before spraying!

I have been tempted to attack this image with indian ink to pick out the details, shadows and highlights – but have so far resisted this!

The final image is kind of abstract in its composition and to be honest the more I look at it through  squinted eyes, the more I see suggestions of shapes and tonal relationships as opposed to detail.

Exercise 7- Still life with natural objects  ← click the link to download a .pdf version of this page

Stuart Brownlee – OCA 512319

27th January 2014

PS – OK so I couldn’t resist it – I have also attached an image of the finished still life as an A4 canvas coloured print.

Still life with natural objects - colour print (click on image to enlarge)

Still life with natural objects – colour print (click on image to enlarge)

And then the last image with Faber & Castell PITT indian ink highlighting and shadows (restrained!).

Still life with natural objects - reworked with indian ink on top (click on image to enlarge)

Still life with natural objects – reworked with indian ink on top (click on image to enlarge)

In the final analysis, from my point of view, I still like the original ‘first attempt’ with its lack of detail, but I know my eye is also caught by the reworked image with added indian ink picking out a bit more detail – how to get a happy balance?