Exercise 2 – Still life in tone and colour
For this exercise I decided to draw something different and after looking around I noticed the fruit in a Spanish dish with its complimenting colours, and set them in natural light (coming from the left). I chose soft chalk pastels, using an A3 sketchbook. I broke my pastel sticks in half so that I could apply them using the side and squinting my eyes started by observing the darkest areas of the still life. Picking out the darkest parts, I worked with the dark brown chalk pastel first. I also selected the burnt brown, red, orange, yellow and a tiny bit of light green ready to go in a bowl. From the start I did find this exercise fun to do because I enjoyed the challenge of building up the colours in reverse.
I think this technique of applying the darker tones first and picking out and then using the mid tone to light colours is not an approach I have tried before. Starting so boldly with the darkest tones, in the further pictures I used black pastel and using the negative space to help see the basic shape of the composition. However, as I applied more chalk pastel I noticed the image started to get too heavy and I found myself overusing the darker shades.
I also had a little play with using coloured pencils on their side, to try blocks of colour and build tone from dark to light, but it was not as free and as effective a result, so I moved onto oil pastel. Again, picking out the darkest areas starting with the black and working backwards towards the light areas of tone. It was liberating to use the oil pastel in this way but this image too, started to get a little over worked and ‘muddy’. The loss of tone created an image that had too much brown so I scratched out some areas, and lightened which also created texture with the overall look. However, this was not the brief so I went back for a couple more pastel drawings.
As with all the mediums I used, I resisted the urge to blend, except for the first one which I note on the sketch. I deliberately wanted to force myself to see and work from the dark tones, through to the medium and light tones separately, and yet build the picture as a whole. In the end I made seven still life drawings (not including one so bad I binned it!), and the last which is in my sketch collection, but it was not until my last effort and taking a step back, that I used the background of the paper to help the image to come through a little more. I did keep checking the shadows and overall image and even though the drawings are not perfect I did end up sitting down the next day and using my pastels with a little bit of water as a wash in the background to chill and make a more detailed still life, (with the addition of oranges, fresh bananas and little rosemary), using the exercise of tone and colour to help.
Above is the next day still life drawing.