2.2.2 Still life in tone using colour

Still life in tone using colour

For this still life I wanted to create a colourful composition with some natural and some man-made objects that would allow a variety of colour and tone.

I started with the pieces of the baguette, still on the wrapping paper , and then continued on this theme of a French simple dinner, adding fruits and carrots and an empty bottle of wine. I let the bottle and the wrapping paper continue out over the edge of the paper. I was planning to light it strongly from one side, but then decided that the dramatic effect of backlighting it with long shadows towards the viewer looked more interesting and created a beautiful shine around the bowl of apples and short cooking bananas.


A3 drawing paper with soft coloured pencils. The focus of this drawing was to identify and sketch in the different tonal areas, so I sketched in the shapes very ligthly and then went straight to using various coloured pencils. I did not work the outlines, but instead moved quickly with lots of different colours over every area, . My marks are of different shapes and patterns in many different layers of colour.

I am really happy for the energetic and spontaneous character of this drawing. I have a tendency to fiddle too long til the image gets stiff, and I think I managed to avoid that here. Also I have definitely learned something about colouring and I enjoyed mixing so many colours on every object. I really tried to look and let every colour I could percieve come through rather than think “apple is green and red” and limit myself at that.

I am happy with the colours and the spontaneous feel of this drawing.



I am in Portugal now , and wanted to create a still life with produce that I see here all around. It is the time of walnuts and pumpkins and an abundance of cheeses in the house. Lemons in all sizes and shapes as well as oranges are available at every fruit stand and I use them every day here . I chose to stick to lemons for the drawing because the shape is more interesting and as a hint to the lemon always present in the classical Dutch still life

Sardines is another recurring theme, but I will save that for another drawing.

All the objects are in a similar colour scheme this time -a range of orange and yellows, standing out from a quite cold grey/ bluish background: pumpkin, cheeses on a crumpled brown paper, lemons, walnuts.

I have been watching the You tube videos from OCA with examples of sketchbooks from other students and realize that I definitely lack planning and conceptual approach. So here I take the time to plan the composition more carefully.

I know I want to chose a slightly higher viewpoint to see the round cheeses from above, so I place the still life on a chair to the side of me.  Closer or further away? I want to see more of the chair to create a context, but add a towel casually thrown over the chair so it is not too much empty space in the back.

I move the light around so lighting is more from side/above than strictly from the side, as I like the shadow cast by the little stem on the pumpkin and the depth it adds to the drawing when the cheeses are half lit.

I chose to go on with the furthest view to make the chair really clear, and twist it a little to have a corner of the chair pointing to the corner of the page, which feels more dynamic.

A3 sketching paper and my brand new birthday Caran D’Ache Supracolor soft colour pencils.


I start by sketching in the outlines very lightly with pencil 3B as I just want to make sure the composition fits onto the page. Then I sketch in blocks of tone- first purple for the darkest  shades and blue for the midtones. I chose to use colours complimentary to the main orange/ yellow colours of the motive because that is what I see.


I continue with the pumpkin, just filling in colour upon colour as I see them, letting myself be surprised by the variety, and just sketching quickly and loosely .


I continue with the cheeses and a lemon and nut in the same way, just adding colours in all directionswith different lengths of marks. I really like this way of sketching. I like the way the “unfinished” parts of the drawing step back and the very colourful objects  stand out. It reminds me of Paul Cezannes work where he left some fruits unfinished and others coloured and I am tempted to stop here. I will keep this in mind for the drawings for the assignment- the interplay between finished and unfinished.


Here I completed drawing all the objects and JUST managed to overwork it all 🙂 It feels like I just added the few lines that makes it all a little too stiff and realistic.

I am worried to spoil it further by going on to the background…



In the end I like the contrast between the warm colours of the objects and the cooler tones of the background. It is far too realistic though and lost all spontaneity and messiness.

I spent 5 hours only  working with the coloured pencils, as I did the composition and rough outlines yesterday. So this is obviously too much. ( and the cheeses are getting very smelly).

I need to draw more spontaneously and rougher. I have watched the works of Ginny Grayson, Yann Kebbi and Edouard Vuillard as recommended by Joanne, and still this is how stiff it gets when I draw now. My next attempts will be to loosen up!

I have bought some oil pastels (my luggage is getting ridiculous!)  and will try using them by coming back to this theme of blocks of tone. I hope that the pastels that allow for less detail as they are larger than the colored pencils, will help me to draw less painfully controlled.  So oil pastels on A3.

Here a simple still life with a blue toned vase, some lemons and a very orange bowl.

I start by patching out the darkest tones in purple and the mid tones in a lighter blue:


I only realize after I did this that I chose the same colours for the darks and mid tones as in the previous drawing in colored pencil- this is how I see them if I look carefully.

I add the high lights in yellow:


Then I continue adding layers of all the colours I see. It is only when the yellow of the lemons mix with the blue and purple beneath that I realize that blue and yellow become very green and purple too brown. I needed to choose another lighter colour for mid tones.


I found it quite difficult and messy to work with oil pastels , but I really like the way all the colours blend. I will explore this media more and learn how to blend colours better to create the nuances I want.  I think this drawing fits the exercise better because with less detail, the patches of different tone become more apparent.





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