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STILL LIFE 1
A set of notes to help those setting out to do a picture from a three dimensional object.
Many of these points will also assist those doing portraits from life
and the notes take more time to look at the drawing process
STILL LIFE Drawing basics 1 The PICTURE FORMAT
To get a good example of the scene or subject in front of us, we need to develop some basic skills in looking at the subject and assessing the best format, size, and content for our picture.
I will look first at the essentials and give some pointers towards getting the necessary techniques and then go on to look at specific examples.
An upright view of the picture is called ‘portrait’ and is the usual shape for taller subjects -
A wider and shorter view is called ‘landscape’ as this is the usual format for
views of the countryside.
This is not to say that all portraits are tall and thin and all landscapes are short and fat !
The decision over the shape of the picture depends a lot on what elements we wish to include
and how we wish to focus the attention of the viewer
I don’t want to make too big an issue over this,
but from the two pictures seen here you will
quickly see that sometimes a ‘landscape’ looks good
in portrait format, and sometimes a portrait can
look better in a landscape format !
The way you show the viewer your selected scene will make a huge impact on the success of your work. If you think back to how you take a photograph, you will remember that -
Even if you were to take a wide angle view and include a lot of the scene, you can still crop down the picture later to make a better picture.
This use of the viewfinder /screen on the camera is a very convenient way of looking at all your picture options and if you don’t have a camera available, you can make a simple frame to aid your selection of the best view and the most suitable format. You can cut an aperture in a piece of scrap card as shown below
It can help if you mark the inside edge of the cut out area into thirds at the top and quarters at the bottom and similarly at the sides.
This identifies the quarters and thirds of your scene, and using the thirds marks enables you to keep your main focus point near one of the the golden section points.
If you want to know more about this, follow the link
STILL LIFE Drawing basics 4 -
1. Assess a critical focus point from which distances across the object will be measured.
2. Look for shapes within the object
3. Make sure you keep a constant position so that the eye line remains the same to the subject
4. Take a digital photo if you can
How does all this work in practice?
For example...... select the image such as that seen below and look at it as if
it was still a collection of separate three dimensional objects
A good point to start might well be the lighter coloured egg
and the edge nearest the centre of the picture where the edge
of the egg meets the diagonal line of shadow in the cloth.
A. Note that the egg is not circular -
the shape is oval -
that is not exactly a mirror of the lower edge of the egg seen below it.
A good place to start might be to draw the curved line at the top of
the egg and try to establish the two lower lines.
Draw them in lightly and use a turquoise pencil for the lines
where the egg meets the satin and a pale grey line for the shadow edge
Make sure that all your initial lines are drawn in lightly -
Next we will look at that diagonal shadow. Consider the angle from vertical -
Now let us see if we can place the next ( left hand ) egg.
The egg is also oval in shape and the axis of the oval follows the red dotted line shown here
The next steps all build on the shapes we are assembling, so we need to keep comparing the shapes we have drawn with the original solid items.
This is why it is essential to keep a constant position -
Check to see that the gap between the two eggs is correct and that the fold in the material falls at the correct place.
The space between the two eggs is described as a Negative Space and the correct drawing of this will determine whether the two eggs are correctly positioned.
We look at Negative spaces in more detail below in part 5
STILL LIFE Drawing basics 6 Getting the distances and the angles right
Working with coloured pencil, we have an instant ruler in our hand to check measurements
The pencil itself.
If we hold up the pencil in our eyeline ( between eye and subject ) we can assess the first measurement across a critical part of the subject. Here it could be the first apple and the vertical measurement across the centre of the apple.
Check this by moving the fingers up the pencil so that at a comfortable point between you and the apple ( one that it is easy to go back to ) you can fix the distance from top of the pencil to your fingers as the distance across the apple from north to south.
You can now take this exact measurement to the paper and check your drawn apple size.
This will be the master measurement that will enable you to get all the other measurements correct
The first step in all following measurements will be to check that first length from the artwork to the apple
That makes sure that your hand is exactly the same distance from your eye as when you took the first check.
Now, without changing the distance of pencil to eye, check your next measurement and mark the distance on to your paper.
By rechecking that North-
You can also use your pencil guide to check angles where there are critical lines within the picture.
For example in this egg picture,
We can easily check that the diagonal
fold is at the correct angle in our
picture by taking the line of the pencil
from the subject and checking it against
Is our subject to be a single item ? -
or a collection of items, so that we can examine the relationship between them ?
For the apple -
If we do, should it be plain or patterned ?
Do we want one or two apples or a collection of different fruit?
What about the angle from which we view the apples ? Is a flat view or a more overhead view best ?
All the answers to these questions are a matter of opinion, but I will look at the options with you
A is a little forlorn sitting up there on it’s own near the top of the picture.
B is better, it gives stronger light and shade but the apple is too central
C is better still as it has two apples overlapping and the plate has a pattern which matches the background.
The cold blue is a good foil for the warm reds and golds of the fruit. The viewpoint is lower so we see more of the side of the fruit and I think this is an improvement.
D compares a single apple on the blue plate from a higher viewpoint,
E two apples from the higher viewpoint and
F the reverse layout with two apples.
For the moment we will proceed with version F
and see where it gets us.
SEE SECTION 7 Below
for next step to this
part of the topic
WHAT ABOUT OUR VIEWPOINT ?
IS IT IMPORTANT ?
Is your VIEWPOINT ideal , Can you make the composition better by moving yourself or some of the subject elements around ?
Sometimes it is easier to assess the subject if it is not too close to us . The shape of objects placed very near can change dramatically with just a small change of our seating position -
or even just change in position of the head.
Your SITTING POSITION is vital when working a picture of a small three dimensional object placed fairly close to you. Any major movement to your head will result in the sight line changing and the possibility of confusion in what you should be showing in your picture.
For a landscape where the subject is some distance away, your head position is not so vital.
You would not want to move your seat though !
If you are working on a small still life in a larger studio enviroment, you may be able to identify the best position to look at your subject and then -
Are you COMFORTABLE ? -
Is the SUBJECT likely to change ? -
though if you take too long recording flowers they may fade and die before you finish.
With Landscape you need to be aware of how the scene will change during the day.
The sun’s position will change, people and cars will come and go, ...... at the seaside, the tide will come in and go out.
A camera image will certainly assist later if you need to complete your picture at home.
If you are working a portrait, ensure that your sitter is comfortable and has the chance to relax from time to time and also easily return to the same sitting position after a break.
How well can you SEE your subject ?
That sight line is vital.
Are you looking at the subject AND the working surface on the same plane ?
By this I mean that if your sight line from your seat is straight ahead to the subject of the picture, your sight line to the working surface should be the same.
If you try working a landscape on a flat table top and have to change your sight line up to the subject to check on details and position, and then back down to the horizontal work surface, your resulting picture may well suffer from major distortions. This is even more likely when working portraits and still life subjects.
For this reason art colleges supply upright easels for studio work so that the student’s eye line is constant between subject and artwork. There is minimal head movement.
You need an easel that will provide a reasonably upright position for the work surface.
Table top easels need to be stable and heavy enough to take your working pressure of pencil or pastel without moving. Many are only suitable for brush work which applies much less pressure to the working surface.
A sloping drawing board is the very least you should be working on.
Working a landscape picture flat on a table when the reference subject is vertically in front of you, opens up the possibility that your picture verticals will be distorted when you view the finished picture on a wall
STILL LIFE Drawing basics 3 -
StILL LIFE Drawing basics 5 NEGATIVE SPACES
When we work from life, we have to be aware that the subject may well comprise a number of elements and the picture is not merely the transfer of those solid parts of our picture to the paper, but also the correct placing of negative spaces -
What do I mean by this ?
When we look at the elements of our picture, our eye goes to the shapes that are defined by clear edges and we tend then to examine the objects within the shapes.
For example, If we look at the fruit in the picture here,
our eye and pencil hand would take a first
check on the fruit themselves.
These are positive spaces
When we draw from the actual objects,
we need to be aware of negative spaces
as well, as getting these exact shapes fixed
in our minds enables us to position the
positive parts of the subject in the
These are Negative Spaces
STILL LIFE Drawing basics 8
SHOWING VOLUME AND SHAPE in a STILL LIFE
In order to show a three dimensional object in two dimensions, we need to be aware of the ways in which the viewer’s eye can be convinced of the shape of the items in front of them. This knowledge helps us select the right articles for our subject and also how they will be displayed
We can do this by using light and shadow and the various stages in between
Let us go back to our apple
The shadow at the lower left of the fruit
contrasts with the lighter area to the top and right
and the bright highlight confirms the roundness
of the subject.
The Apple looks solid even though it is
A photo on a flat surface
If we have a suitable subject, we can use patterns and lines on the surface of the subject which follow the shape and show how it curves.
You can see here how the designs on the vase
take the eye around the shape
and the perspective of the lower bands
also show the curve in the side view
you can see how the shadows and marks on the carrots
the lines on the onion skins
and the gills on the mushrooms all enable us to
Give volume and shape
to the images by using pattern and shadows
STILL LIFE Drawing basics 7
GETTING THE IMAGE THE RIGHT SIZE FOR THE PAPER
So if we now have the subject in an ideal position with the right lighting and the shadows as we would wish, We can now look at the paper the artwork is going on to.
I will assume that we have suitable paper for the medium either in pad form or attached to a board.
Is the board comfortable to work on ?
Where do we start and how big is the image to be ?
A good approach is to decide on a picture sited well within the paper edges -
Let us go back to our apple picture.
I will select the two apples in this picture to work on
And because it is taller than it is wide, I will select portrait format
I will now do a diagrammatic image to show what I mean about sizing.
Assume the paper is the dotted line rectangle shown below
and I start off with the first apple lined out on the paper ( 1 )
I then add the second line for the second apple ( 2 )
Then I add the plate outline ( 3 )
I think the word here is ‘ Oops ! ‘ -
If we had lightly marked out the size of
the outside rectangle frame which we thought
we would need first,
Within the edges of the paper,
We could have completed the image outline
and simply adjusted the frame to suit
It is always best to work well within the outer edges of the paper
It enables you to re-
This section completed in 2011
STILL LIFE Drawing basics 2 -
GENERAL COLOURED PENCIL TECHNIQUES
|Glossary of CP Terms|
|Introducing step by steps|
|sbs basic shapes|
|sbs fruit bowl|
|sbs polperro B|
|sbs rectory garden|
|The Bowerman Stone|
|sbs to come|
|Price and Content|
|Papers for Wax type pencils|
|Papers for Watercolour pencils|
|Papers for Pastel pencils|
|Papers for mixed media with CP|
|Black Paper Fade|
|Non standard papers for wax pencils|
|Application of colour|
|Density of Colour|
|Results on Different Papers|
|Ways of using Aquarelles|
|Why Underpainting ?|
|Backgrounds with Aquarelles 1|
|Backgrounds with Aquarelles 2|
|A Brush with W/C Pencils|
|Foliage in W/C Pencil|
|Step by Step - Coventry Canal|
|Cottage Garden - Step by Step PDF|
| Italian Street step by step 1|
|Italian Street step by step 2|
|Brokken Bridge Step By Step PDF|
|Coventry Canal 2|
|CP & Pastel|
|CP & W/c Pencils|
|CP & Other media|
|Archway - Mixed Media sbs|
|Cottage Entrance Mixed Media sbs|
|Annecy Reflections 1|
|Annecy Reflections 2|
|working on coloured paper|
|Still Life Points|
|BURNISHING, Blenders and Burnishers|
|Landscape Tutorial- Grand Union|
|clouds & skies|
|Brick, Stone & Tile|
|Brick stone and tile 2|
|Colour and complementaries|
|Boats & Water|
|Form & Space|
|Drawing from Life - introduction|
|using a camera|
|transfering an image|
|keeping a record|
|printing 2 - layout|
|Life Drawing 1 - the basics|
|November 2011 Landscape SBS|
|July 2012 - Kitten Step by Step|
|Old Blog Posts as at Dec 2014|
|Aix En Provence series|
|New input ( from Dec 2014)|