Part 2 – Exercise 8: still life with man-made objects

In an attempt to try and simplify my compositions, for this exercise I chose three man-made objects: a copper pot; a vegetable ladle and a black soup bowl.

I took an initial reference photo for an idea of the composition with four objects to check back on:

Still life with man-made objects - reference photo (click image to enlarge)

Still life with man-made objects – reference photo (click image to enlarge)

Considering this, I reckoned that the brass jug on the left was out of place and unbalanced the overall composition, so I removed it.

I then made several sketches of the objects from different angles, sketching 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 8 - still life with man-made objects - b/w sketches 1 (click on image to enlarge)

Exercise 8 – still life with man-made objects – b/w sketches 1 (click on image to enlarge)

Exercise 8 - still life with man-made objects - b/w sketches 2 (click on image to enlarge)

Exercise 8 – still life with man-made objects – b/w sketches 2 (click on image to enlarge)

Exercise 8 - still life with man-made objects - chosen composition b/w sketch (click on image to enlarge)

Exercise 8 – still life with man-made 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 8 - still life with man-made objects - coloured sketches 1 (click on image to enlarge)

Exercise 8 – still life with man-made objects – coloured sketches 1 (click on image to enlarge)

Exercise 8 - still life with man-made objects - coloured sketches 2 (click on image to enlarge)

Exercise 8 – still life with man-made objects – coloured sketches 2 (click on image to enlarge)

Exercise 8 - still life with man-made objects - chosen composition coloured sketch (click on image to enlarge)

Exercise 8 – still life with man-made objects – chosen composition coloured sketch (click on image to enlarge)

I chose this composition because I liked the image of the copper pot handle stretching out, with the wee bit of mysterious interior darkness marrying up with the black ceramic of the soup bowl.

I knew that the ‘copper’ colouring was going to be a real challenge. It’s not too badly depicted in the sketches, but for the painting?

I had already prepared a Gerstaecker 30 x 30cm square canvas board, with a black gesso ground.

Onto this I added a Burnt Umber/Ultramarine Blue with white mix for the right-hand background.

On the left-hand background I used the same mix but with the addition of a Naphthalene Carmine/Payne’s Grey/White bluish mix on top.

For the foreground I chose Buff Titanium with a touch of Iridescent Green/Yellow, allowed it to dry and then applied a wash of Payne’s Grey with a White + bluish mix.

For the ‘drawing in paint’ I selected a neutral mix of Ultramarine/Green/Mid-Yellow.

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

Still life with man-made objects – drawing in paint (click on image to enlarge)

Following feedback from my Tutor on Assignment 1 work, I decided to attempt to become a bid bolder in my choice of final colours and application – so I decided to restrict myself to the original three primary pigments that I had previously tried out: Primary Magenta; Primary Yellow; and Primary Cyan, with White and Payne’s Grey as the only additional pigments on the palette.

From the three primaries I attempted to mix all the colours that I needed for this still life, using White and Payne’s Grey only where necessary to achieve tints and shades of tone. In the end I started with blue and the split complementaries yellow-orange and red-orange to try and capture the background/foreground and the object colourings effectively.

As an indication of ‘work in progress’ I took a reference photo (see below), showing the more adventurous/abstract approach being taken.

Still life painting with man-made objects - stage 1 (click on image to enlarge)

Still life painting with man-made objects – stage 1 (click on image to enlarge)

I have used palette knife’s and a broken end of a blind slat to lay down the background colours and am interested by the surface effects created. I am trying here to focus on paint handling, and as this progresses to the next stage, on tonal contrast in the composition.

Building on the background and beginning to mark in the main objects resulted in this next stage of composition development.

Still life painting with man-made objects - stage 2 (click on image to enlarge)

Still life painting with man-made objects – stage 2 (click on image to enlarge)

I will need to make some corrections to object outlines in the next stage, but I feel that painting is beginning to come together. I have certainly used more robust paint application with a continuing combination of palette knife and fan brush work as well as small size 2 filbert and round brushes.

My finished study shows some reworking of shapes and also minor background arrangement behind the pot and overall colouring.

Exercise 8 - still with man-made objects - finished study (click on image to enlarge)

Exercise 8 – still life painting with man-made objects – finished study (click on image to enlarge)

For the finished study I also used some touches of indian ink pen to pick out lines and added some modest highlights.

Overall I think that the format suits the subject – square canvas board – and that the interest for the eye is drawn in by the back/foreground cloth. I’m not so sure about my handling of the left hand ground, it kind of looks like an afterthought, although the blue is picked out across the rest of the composition, so maybe it does work in a way.

I feel that I have managed to create an interesting, even quirky, composition – I feel you could almost pick up the handle of the pot to see what is inside (one idea I had was to fold a bit of lobster claw over the edge of the pot – but hey, that’s just spiralling!).

This piece took quite some time to complete, mainly because I wanted to take the time to really think about:

→ the composition and positioning of the objects – all three objects were quite challenging in their colour makeup and overall I feel I captured my feelings towards them – copper, stainless steel and black (but I restrained this to more of a dark blue).

→ use and management of colour – I used a minimum palette, which is a first for me, challenging, but in the end enjoyable and I think I learned a lot in my colour mixing – and use of palette knifes, objects, brushes and pens to create the image in a multi-media approach.

→ the handling of tones – I think the lights and darks of colour are an improvement on my previous still life studies, especially in the shadows.

Of my still life paintings so far, including from assignment one, this one for me is the most successful. I like elements of them all, but I think in this one I am beginning to pull learnt skills together a bit better and more consistently. My tutor commented on my ‘naive’ (my word) shadowing in my first assignment and I think I have definitely learnt from this, particularly with this exercise.

With regards to what more there is to improve on at this stage in the course:

→ I think my drawing skills could be improved with more practice, for example lines of perspective.

→ More practice with the ‘colour wheel’ to balance colour relationships better.

→ Less constrained use of paint/pastel or whatever medium in it’s application.

Exercise 8- Still life with man-made objects  ← click the link to download a .pdf version of this page

Stuart Brownlee – OCA 512319

1st February 2014