Still Life Drawing Project Part I
The materials used for this piece were as follows: 4B pencil, cow stuffed animal, light bulb, football, and a large piece of drawing paper.
Human's brains are divided into two hemispheres: the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere. The left hemisphere controls speech and rational thinking, while the right hemisphere is where creativity and spacial cognitive functions come from. In order to accurately and realistically portray still life objects, we need to ignore the left side of our brains that tell us "no, this is what a light bulb looks like" and tap into our right hemispheres that view objects for what they are. That is why, when artists draw still life objects, they actually have their eye on the object 80% of the time, barely glimpsing down to check their own work.
Before we were to tap into our right hemispheres, however, we first had to determine our dominant eye. When we use our eyes for target or aim related functions, most of us have a dominant eye that we use to "zone in" on the object. To determine our dominant eye, we created a triangle by connecting our thumbs and index fingers, then, with both eyes open, center an object in the distance in the middle of the triangle. Then, we close one eye at a time and see with which eye the object remains the closest to the middle. This is then determined to be your dominant eye; mine is my right eye.
The next step was to choose three objects and place them in "visually interesting" positions using compositional devices. There are four main compositional devices: triangles, rule-of-thirds, cropping, and framing. Triangles are when you place your objects along (stable triangle) or around (unstable triangle) the three points of the triangle. Rule-of-thirds uses a similar photography concept to divide your picture into thirds both horizontally and vertically, then placing the objects at the intersections of these lines. Cropping ran objects off the page to create a more dynamic feeling of depth, and finally, framing had the other objects frame and surround the main object.
We had folded and divided our large canvas paper into four drawing spaces, so our aim was to make one drawing for each of the compositional devices. For my chosen piece (displayed below) however, I chose to use both cropping and a stable triangle. After placing our objects accordingly, we then proceeded to quickly render the objects onto the page. The objective of this was to ignore fine details and focus on the general shapes and outlines of each object. For example, when drawing the light bulb, I simply drew a circle first, then connected that circle with a rectangle-like shape on the left. The key with this technique was to use very light pressure with your pencil and to just make a very rough and general sketch of each object's position. Following this, we would then use our dominant eye and the pencil to "connect" the objects to one another and then compare that angle to the objects on our paper. This allowed us to draw the objects accurately in accordance to each other while maintaining each object's proportions.
After around 30 seconds to a minute of quick rendering, we would then use more pressure on our pencils to outline each object. We would start on an easily identifiable point on the object, then use our eyes to "track" the outline of the object while our pencils moved. During this process, our eyes are to be on the object most of the time. Mr. Laurence said to "imagine that there's a tiny ant crawling across the edge, and that your pencil is trying to follow it". Only once in a while would we glance down to make sure that our pencils were in the correct place. After this outlining, we could have done more to refine the drawing. However this was meant to only be an exercise, so for now, our exercise was complete.
Some challenges that I faced during these rendering exercises included creating the general shapes of some difficult objects. At first, I had actually chosen the cow stuffed animal, a pear, and a shoe. While the pear was made up of simpler shapes and was easier to render, I had the most trouble with the shoe. I tried simplifying its shape, but it ended up looking like a elongated rectangle. It was very difficult to also draw the other structures on the shoe, especially since rendering was meant to be a quick and rough sketch. For some reason however, I didn't have this problem with the seemingly more complex cow stuffed animal. This could perhaps be credited to me having more practice drawing people and animals. But I think it also had to do with how the cow could be simplified into circles and ovals much easier. In the end, I decided that I shouldn't run before I walked, so I traded the shoe out for a football. I wanted to draw something similar to a pear, so I traded out the pear for a light bulb.
Another problem I faced was outlining. I was accustomed to rendering and often refined it with more "detailed" and darker rendering on top of that. That was why outlining came as something entirely new to me. However, it was just a matter of taking my time and practicing it before I kind of got a hang of it. I found that the trick was to outline slowly and to not be afraid to glance down more often to check your pencil's position.
Still Life Drawing Project Part II
The materials used for this piece were as follows: 4B pencil, fake apple, vine charcoal, charcoal sand paper/shaver, paper towel, white chalk, eraser, blending tool, and a piece of drawing paper.
Like in the first part of the project, the second part also included rendering and outlining. However, the main differences in this certain piece were that there was only one object and that we were to incorporate shading and highlighting. For this piece, we didn't have to worry about compositional devices (as there was only one object), but we did have to worry about refining the still life drawing so that it was more realistic than the practice ones we did before.
We first began with the vine charcoal and used the charcoal sand paper to "shave" a scattered surface of charcoal on the white paper. Mr. Laurence explained that many artists are sometimes afraid to "mess up" a perfectly blank piece of paper, so by intentionally "messing up" the paper, that fear is prevented. This shaving of charcoal was then followed by crumpling up our paper towels and smearing that black dust around in circular movements. We now had a cloud of smeared charcoal in the middle to work with.
Next, we followed the same steps of rendering and outlining on top of that charcoal surface. Once we achieved a general outline of our object (an apple for me), we then used out erasers to erase outwards from the outline, making the positive space of the object pop out. Then, using the vine charcoal, I looked at the apple and created a dark shadow below it, making sure to have the values darker near the start of the shadow and lighter as it extended outwards. It was very important for us to keep observing our object when we began shading, because we wanted the shading to be as accurate as possible.
Using a similar technique as our second piece in the two point perspective drawing, we added in dark and light values with the vine charcoal and white chalk. One thing that Mr. Laurence asked us to pay extra attention to, however, was shading and highlighting along the shape of the object. For example, the shading on my apple would be rounded like the actual object, not in vertical or horizontal lines. There were also different shades of dark value, so I had to change the pressure on my vine charcoal and white chalk according to whatever intenseness of value there was. If a medium value was required, I could use the blending tool to smear a surface of medium gray in whatever area I needed to. During this process, we also had to continuously redefine and the object's outline using the eraser.
Some difficulties that I faced during this project included shading and highlighting the stem of the apple. Unlike the rest of the apple, the stem was in an area of depression. I found it especially difficult to identify different shades and tints of value near and in the depression since my brain was naturally distracted by the apple's color. However, I finally achieved a relatively decent stem and depression by creating a dark surface first, then building up or taking away shaded value from that area. The blending tool also helped me a lot creating the value on the actual stem.
Another area that was difficult for me was creating the highlights and the shadow. The left hemisphere of my brain kept on thinking "no, this isn't what the shadow should look like" or "that doesn't look very right", so I had a habit of creating whatever my brain thought was a proper shadow or highlight instead of what I really saw with my eyes. This problem took a little longer to solve, but I eventually found that, by constantly reminding myself to actually look up at the object, I could successfully ignore that rational part of my brain. The key thing was to just put down whatever you saw, and then later decide if what you drew looked like an apple.
In the end, my apple came out pretty nicely, and I was proud of my work.