Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Art 1-Still Life Drawing- A+


Still life on a 2nd-century mosaic, with fish, poultry, dates and vegetables from the Vatican museum

Over this unit, we are introduced to the concept of observing and depicting inanimate real-life objects. Still life is a genre of Western art emerged early since Middle Ages and ancient Greco-Roman era, and still remains a predominant work of art nowadays. With subjects easy to access in everyday life such as either natural flowers, fruits, plants, rocks, or artificial containers, tools, furniture, books, musical instruments, still life drawing is an intrinsic stepping stone to develop art skills to challenge to a higher level.

The following are some key terms and main ideas introduced in this unit:

The composition is the organizations or grouping of the different parts of a work of art so as to achieve a unified whole.

Thumbnail sketch is a quick, concise description of drawing/sketch small in size.

Local shadow is the shadow on the object itself.

Highlights are the area of most intense light on a representative form in painting.

We primarily learned about skills to analytically observe objects in composition, shape, dark and light values and to be able to illustrate them.

The above figures are thumbnails sketches that I illustrated over this unit, this could be a very simple sketch which determines the approximate outline with full consideration of its proportion. It works as a reference or draft for the final drawing.

Pencil-based still-life drawing of a distorted coffee can

Material Used:
2H, 2B, 6B, 9B pencils
1 piece of sketch paper
1 coffee can

This is the first drawing of my final project. This pencil-based still-life drawing wasn't a challenge for me since I already have 3 years of experience. The first step is to determine the approximate shape by repeatedly sketching light outlines. According to the shaded area, find the optimum contour outline which maintains the correct shape and proportion of the original object. The following step is to fully erase the redundant lines and build on details on top of the previous step. Eventually, cast the shadow on the object itself in accord with the source of sunlight and depth (distance) of the different parts of the object. Erase wherever necessary to create highlights.

Reverse still-life drawing of a glassware on a black background using white chalk

Material Used:
White chalk
Black paper
1 glass

The second drawing was a challenge for me since I have totally no experience in chalk drawing, especially when the paper is black instead of lightly colored sketch paper. However, I interpreted the skillset to complete this drawing by following the similar steps as the previous drawing. Just like the previous one, I firstly used chalk to outline the object and erase the redundant traces. Since the object is a glassware, its edges and corners yield a darker color while the rest primarily highlight. I shaded the highlight area and erased wherever seems comparatively darker. Subsequently, I realized that the property of glassware is highly reflective of light and is translucent. As a reverse, the shaded areas of chalk become highlight rather than shadows as in pencil sketch.

I am proud of both of my drawings in this project. I have put lots of efforts into it and I believe I did well figuring out the accurate shape and composition as well as casting the shadows correctly. I am especially excited about this project because I got to uncover the property of still-life drawing, acquire essential skill sets and techniques.

Although the second drawing was quite challenging for me, it helps me understand that the principle of dark and light values is universal and never changes. With a great source of application and extension in other drawing methods, this still-life project is a great opportunity for me to experience various source of drawings such as chalk other than just pencil.


For our second project, we practiced drawing still life objects. The techniques that we learned included positioning objects using compositional devices, rendering, outlining, shading, highlighting, and using erasing techniques. Our first part of the project was learning how to quickly render object's general outlines onto paper, while the second part of the project included shading, highlighting, and more refining.

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.


Still Life - Drawing
In these projects we worked on the different stages of still life drawing and produced two works- a contoured drawing on white paper and a conte drawing on black paper.

There are three main steps when working on a still life drawing:
Gesture: a gesture is identifying the shapes involved in the object you are drawing and loosely drawing them on the paper. When doing a gesture you want to draw very lightly and go over the shapes several times. This will help to have an idea about the size and general shape of the object.

Outline: drawing an outline is the next step of the process. It is very different from the gesture because you want one single line and you are aiming for accuracy and not just general shapes. While drawing an outline it is important not to ignore the object right in front of you- after all, it is the object you want to draw and not what you think the object should look like.

Shading/Highlighting: depending on what color paper you are drawing, shading and highlighting will be different (see light and dark examples below). Regardless, shading and highlighting make up the substance of what you are drawing and help it to become 3D for the person looking at it. When filling in highlights and shade it is important to remember that many of the light and dark areas won't be obvious; they will be more like subtle gradients throughout the object. One way to start the step of shading and highlighting would be to identify the area that is the darkest and the area that is the lightest. This helps to establish the range of values that you will be working with on the object.

Practice Sketch
(first two steps of the drawing process)

Difficulties and Successes
The practice sketches, and in particular this one, I found difficult. As can be seen from the drawing, I had difficulty in maintaining correct proportions when outlining . Also, exact shapes were hard to replicate . Sometimes, it may look good when I draw the gesture, but I draw the contour line freehand it is much more difficult as a lot more hand eye coordination is needed. Saying so, I think I did well with the gesture part of the drawing drawing and establishing the shapes that would make up the drawing.

White Background Drawing:

Steps taken:

Darkened the paper- used a sandpaper to dust black over the paper and spread it around the paper. This was done so that we would not worry about making errors, particularly while drawing the gesture
Gesture (description above)
Outline (description above)
Shading and Highlighting- since we were drawing on a dirtied white paper, we would show highlights using an eraser and we would show darker areas with B pencils and charcoal
Erase surrounding dark areas
Spray with fixative because charcoal was used
Difficulties and Successes:
One difficulty I had was that at the beginning of shading and highlighting was that I didn't recognize the subtle gradient around the object. I saw white reflections that the object gave from the lighting but then it took some help for me to realize that there were other, much more subtle, light areas around the plastic pear. Another difficulty I had, again with the shading/ highlighting, was being unsure how to portray a bump on the plastic. It was a little bit confusing because I was tempted to just draw the bump like I would draw the contour line. However, I instead tried drawing the shading cause by the bump, even though I had some difficulties with that too. Lastly, as can be seen from the picture, I unknowingly drew the pear shading with hatch marks, like one might do in a cartoon, instead of focusing on the lighter and darker values. Eventually I shaded over those marks, those it still looks a bit odd.

Black Background Drawing:

Steps Taken:

Place white object on black sheet of paper, to create a contrast to see easier
Gesture (description above)
Outline (description above)
Shading and Highlighting- since we were drawing on a piece of black paper, our darkest shade would be made with an eraser and our lighter shades would be made with chalk pencils and white pastels
Spray with fixer because chalk was used
Difficulties and Successes

Overall, I would say that I had more success with the lightened drawing than I did with the shaded drawing. There was, though, one difference that was slightly confusing, and that was that the black paper was not slightly lightened like the white paper was slightly darkened. So, I was confused on how to shade in the cup since I had to draw a white object was black. This was resolved by simply shading in the object with a light value that I would go back later and alter.

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