A garden project
Vegetables seem to be a main theme all through my exploration of the exercises for still life. The variety of colours and shapes is quite incredible, they are easily available and easy to just eat when the drawing is finished. I love visiting local markets and discover new varieties. Gardening and vegetables are also themes that seem to be discussed wherever I go.
Now I am in my partner Andre’s apartment in Lisbon, and he is just starting to create an inside garden in his city flat, as a small urban permaculture project. This gives me a beautiful opportunity to observe and document the transformation of the room, and the development of the small plants, although I might not be here long enough to see some actual vegetables growing this time around. I like the idea of the place changing with this indoors garden.
At the same time, as a mirror, I want to observe some decay, in the same vegetables that will be growing here as new and fresh little plants. In a way I am rushing ahead, or messing with the time line, as I will observe the sprouting and growing, then shrivelling up and dying of the same species of vegetables.
The very beginning- new ceramic pots arrived today:
A very messy start ..
So here are pots and earth. It is still far from a new design of the room. This is a phase of extracting seeds, sprouting seeds, growing seedlings.
I study the extraction of seeds from a chili pepper more in detail:
I am not really sure yet where this is leading, but I love the process. Every time we prepare food there seem to be something to keep and re-use, the seeds, the compost, the coffee grind….
The tomatoe seedlings are already growing, and many extracted seeds are planted. The pots have found their place. I start doubting if it is on this trip that I will document how the garden looks, it will take a long time for it to be lush and green , but I also enjoy studying the small parts. Today a sack of worms joined the family…
A baby palmtree and a garden glove, a view of the pots ready on the balcony- I see potential for still life in everything:
This morning , I came into the kitchen and there was this incredible light shining from the window on the starts of Andre’s urban garden: a blue spray bottle for the plants, a blue little plate with newly extracted seeds, a plastic cup with avocado seeds for sprouting. I had some other ideas on how to get started on this assignment, but this was just too beautiful to miss.
I had to be quick to at least sketch out the light before the sun moved, so no preparatory sketches and planning. I grabbed the A3 block , moved the composition around a bit and started.
What really made up the composition here are the dramatic colorful blue and green shadows, and then the surprising contrast with the bright orange carrots.
I used a Sennelier turquoise ink for the blue bottle, plate and shadows , and some Liquitex sap green ink for the other shadows. I added some detail and depth with blue and purple colour pencils. I also used colour pencils for the plastic cup and the avocado seeds and the small tomato seeds. I like using the colour pencils for more subtle details.
For the carrots I chose the brightest orange and purple felt tip pens I could find, Giotto turbocolor from the supermarket, painted on top of the turquoise and green inks that shine through in places. To create a really deep and dark background, I used oil pastels , black and purple. Finally I added some highlights with white Liquitex ink. I am happy I chose the ink for the transparent bottle and plate, it looks light and transparent.
This drawing really gave me a chance to try out a lot of different media again and mix them together. I loved the spontaneity and playfulness of the process, and I think for the first time ever I stopped in time, not overworking the details.
I enjoyed drawing the carrots, and continue exploring mixing different media with a new composition, including one carrot that I just love. It is shaped like the thighs of a woman, I could almost draw a nude with it. But finally I decided to place it “on it’s head”, an elegant headstand, with another supporting carrot and a beautiful purple mini artichoke.
This time I include more of the surroundings with the window behind the table with the still life, and the curtains. The light comes straight from the window so the long shadows are a main part of the composition as well.
I used a very luminous orange Uniball pen for the carrots, with some yellow and reds in coloured pencil. I love the Uniball pens that I discovered through the OCA blog. The artichoke and the shadows are drawn with a purple Bic pen.The tree in the background is with sap green Liquitex ink by brush, the curtains with pink aquarelle and light blue coloured pencil.I love the freedom of mixing and matching. I think again this drawing is spontaneous and free in it’s character, not too detailed but with lots of different brush strokes and marks. I am happy with the placement of the objects as well. Most often I wish I had cropped the image more, but here I like the relationship to the surroundings. I reminds me of a scene in a theatre, with the vegetable actors on the stage.
I am just fascinated by the shapes of the carrots and decide to explore them further by drawing on the brown paper bag I bought them in. I place them in a simple row with a strong backlight. That lightning with long shadows in the front appeals a lot to me right now- I just realized this is the third drawing backlit 🙂 I want this very simple subject and composition on a “simple” background.
The orange colour doesn’t really stand out well from the brown background in pen or pencil, so I decide to paint white acrylic as a base, and then use both pen and coloured pencils on top of the acrylic. The long black shadows are painted in acrylic as well, black, then white, then wiped off while wet to show more of the paper bag again.
I quite liked drawing on the crumpled background and will explore this further in some way. I think it really fits the vegetable/garden theme.
Gardening on our minds….:
Scandinavian still life
This week I leave Lisbon to visit family in a beautiful house in the Swedish Gothenburg archipelago. Everything in this house is very light or white with sleek Scandinavian design and a lot of bright, open, calm spaces. I have struggled through a few days of “quick sketches around the house”, so today I decide to draw a Scandinavian design inspired still life instead.
I choose to keep it all very white or light, except for one colour accent and definitely want to include these little white round flatbreads that my grandmother used to bake. When I drew the stillife of the “Portuguese dinner” for the exercise with blocks of colour- with the pumpkin and cheeses on a chair- I much preferred the various stages of the drawing with accents of colour on the objects and white background, to the finished drawing. So placing one colour accent in the midst of the white here, I will recreate that situation.
I like the chair and the breads, but the ham looks too flat and shapeless, and I will choose tomatoes instead of the cucumber to have a bright red colour accent. Originally I chose the cucumber for this because I wanted that diagonal pointing to the breads, but if I put a hard cheese there instead of the ham, that can serve the same function.
I used Caran D’Ache Supracolor soft pencils on A4 ( travelling lighter this week). Ellipses- oh dear , oh dear. I am happy with the contrast of the almost monochrome surroundings and the surprising colouful tomatoes. It could all have been better kept a tone lighter though, the white and light grey colours got a little too dark when shading. I will continue to experiment with this. I am happy it feels like it really reflects the surroundings here.
Back in Lisbon and the vegetable garden project. I can’t believe what has happened on the decay part- in just a little over a week my carrots are completely shriveled up and covered by fluffy mold. They look more like some small shrimp-like creatures than like carrots.
Here I try some different compositions:
I decide to stay with only two carrot creatures engaged in conversation, place them on a brown paper bag on a white table with natural light from above and slightly behind the objects.
The drawing is A3 with mixed media: I used turquoise and sap green ink with a brush for the “far” background, watercolours for the paperbag and table and shadow, then the Caran D’Ache colour pencils for the carrots and acrylic paint on top for the mold.
I think I managed to render the shrivelled up and moldy character of the carrots well, and I liked experimenting with using so many different media in one drawing. I really enjoy the creature like shape of the carrots. I like the contrast of this more subdued drawing to the flashy one in pink and orange when the carrots were still fresh and glowing. I could have zoomed in more, but chose not too, as I think the surrounding elements add to the right mood of the drawing.
I want to explore this carrot a little further by drawing it directly onto the paper bag again, with the idea of doing a collage opposing this shriveled up old carrot and the fresh new carrot seedlings of our little urban garden.
This is the brown paperbag with a coloured pencil and acrylic carrot and uniball pen shadow.
This is the A3 drawing of the pots and glasses with the really young carrot seedlings growing and a garden glove.
This is the final collage with the paperbag on the A3. I show a few green leaves in the background to emphasize the garden feel. The garden glove is not really necessary for planting these small pots, but I liked the element of “work” and “human” it adds. It looks like a hand pointing diagonally towards the young carrot plants. I think the real paperbag adds an element of realism that I like.
It is really really hot here and so easy to let a little something dry out and look like this after even a day of too little water:
Unfortunately I have to leave this garden here as I am traveling to Taiwan tomorrow and after a few days on to Bali . It feels like I still wanted to explore so much more and always so little time..
Home-sweet home! I will stay here for a month straight ( well just a few days Kuala Lumpur sometime half way) and it is such a great feeling to be HOME! And I don’t have a studio, but I have a table in my room that I can mess up and just leave. These past months it feels like I have been packing and unpacking art materials more than I have been using them 🙂 ( And I was dragging along drift wood and beach finds for a month and ended up not using them!)
I decided to sketch some simple everyday items I am happy to see again: My motorbike helmet, the keys to my house, some Indonesian money and my Indian purse for it. I actually miss my motorbike when I travel 🙂
I wanted to create something quick and a little wild with ink and brushes, but this got a little wilder than planned when I accidentally spilled the water on the bottom of the page and the whole table and stood up abruptly so all the still wet blue ink flowed and smeared. At first I was bummed because I was quite happy with the shape of the helmet, but then I remembered an OCA blogpost about “the happy accident” and continued with the other elements in this rough smeary fashion. I quite like the style although it feels very different from how I would normally draw. So I decided to explore this a little further on the next sheet that also got a little spotted by the previous blue ink:
And yet another version by first using Uniball pens to draw the items so they are somewhat more defined:
And then added watercolours for the background:
I like the combination of the scribbly and the blotchy, I like that the Uniball pens add more detail so the objects are easily identifiable, but then the ink and watercolor keeps the more flowing, looser style.
I have been sitting by this table for far too long struggling to do the exercise “at home” looking over the back of my blue chair to the kitchen beyond it, and wishing to rather just have a play with a still life and this back of the chair instead. So here we go 🙂
One aspect of being back in Bali is the amazing fruit and another is the DARK! It gets pitch dark really early evening, so I wanted to draw that with more contrasts and dramatical lighting. I wanted to keep the composition really simple and focus on the mood. Trying a single papaya with or without limes.
Going for the simplest version- just the dark, the chair, the papaya half in shadow.
Here on A3 with coloured pencils:
I like the simplicity, but it lacks the dramatic light and dark I was aiming for.
I use water to change the intensity of the coloured pencils:
This feels closer to what I was aiming for. I like this more painterly character.
Now I try with oil pastels on a black page, unfortunately I could only find A4 in black so it is a little small.
I really like the luminosity of the oil pastels on the black page. This was much more the dark and light effect that I wanted. I am happy for this discovery and will experiment more with black paper. I like the contrast in light and also in size between the chair and the papaya.
While still in Taiwan last week, my friends and I went to this very bare and austere diner, where you picked up little black plates of various vegetables at a counter, and then sat down at a shining white table where a big pot of rice was already waiting. We were three persons and when we all placed our array of little black plates on the table , it formed this beautiful very clean and clear stilllife. I took a picture , so this still life is drawn from that photograph on a newspaper I brought back from Taiwan.
I first covered the newspaper with a thin layer of white ink, to make it less absorbent and to let the characters fade into the background a little. Also I collaged a bit to cover the pictures so as to leave only text on the page. I then experimented with all kinds of combinations of media. I decided to draw the black plates in ink because I liked the opaque and shiny effect, and then to draw the veggies in watercolour. I liked the more fluid painterly character of the watercolor, and that they don’t stand out too much from the plate. The main focus of the composition is the contrast between the white table and the black plates.
Here is the full page of the newspaper. I drew it a little “too big” with the intention of cropping it. This is my final version:
I think the drawing really reflects the “no nonsense” simple character of the place and the scene. It was so bare you could hear every sound echoing in the space. Also I like that the Chinese newspaper places the scene in the cultural context. Drawing ellipses is not my forte, but drawing on the newspaper allows it to be more imperfect than if I had drawn the scene on a crisp white page. I prefer drawing from life than from a photograph, but this was an idea I just couldn’t quite let go without trying.
Fish on the road
Today when I was riding home on my motorbike, I saw something glittering on the road, and thought it was a snake, which is quite common here. But as I drove past I realized that it is a huge FISH just lying on the road. I continued driving and my mind was racing with thoughts of what? why? how? from where? should I pick it up?
So I came home and of course started sketching it.
I guess this is pushing the subject of still life a bit far , but then if fish on a plate is acceptable, so why not play around with drawing fish on a road… And as I have some beautiful newspapers in Arabic from a day in Dubai last week (on my way to Taiwan), I decided to draw this rather surreal subject onto them. The subject has absolutely nothing to do with anything Arabic, but also the subject had nothing really to do on that road, so this is just to push the weird factor a bit further.
I tried the road in ink and in watercolor and will stick to ink which looks more like asphalt. Unfortunately my glossy pencils don’t want to draw on the ink nor the watercolor, so I will draw the fish in white acrylic first and then draw the fish with watercolour and pens on top.
This is the whole newspaper page. I wanted to show a lot of road to place the fish in the weird context, but in the end I prefer to crop it down a lot to really place the fish at the center:
The fish became a little too “cartoon like”, but for this weird subject, that is quite fitting. I had a lot of fun playing with this today and feel some relief after all the “At home” perspective drawings.
Finished / Unfinished
After having had a play with newspapers , I want to go back to exploring some more “technical” still life, with balancing colouring and leaving items “unfinished”. I am thinking of for example Cezanne’s still life where some parts are painted in detail and some are just left as rough sketches. I will also include a little more of the surrounding interior scene ( as this is a technical challenge for me)
I will use the colourful corner of my sofa that I drew for the last exercise of “at home” as a background of some not colorful items, and then reverse the idea with very colourful items on a neutral unfinished background.
As the background of the turquoise sofa and rainbow coloured pillows is really explosively colourful, I decide to place some white and plain items on the bright green little traytable and explore this contrast .
I am slowly colouring the background with watercolour/ink , and observe the pattern made by the finished and unfinished parts. When do you stop?
When left unfinished, the drawing looks like it is still in process, something will still happen, it adds some dynamic, some element of time.
On another page , I try to let the whole background explode in colour (watercolour/ink) and leave the objects in the center just scribbled , once in purple ink and once with a simple blue biro pen.The finished background is all pop, a bright and flashy coulisse. I don’t add much details or shadows because I like this cartoon like style again, it’s not real. And the plate and bowls don’t pretend to be real either, It’s just paper, a scribbly drawing.
Here I change to coloured pencils for the same exploration of finished/unfinished. The drawing left with more space left unfinished definitely has less weight, its lighter and dynamic. It looks “done” and doesn’t leave the expectation to go on drawing.
This is how it looks on A2 aquarell paper. This paper is amazing- I am ashamed to admit that I have gone this far in the course before discovering what a difference it makes to have great paper- after so many bubbly drawings! I start with the background and leave the white items out to start with.
Then I decide to go for the scribbly blue Biro:
The background is watercolour, except for the turquoise which is Sennelier ink, just because the colour is so incredible. I could have gone on with shading and highlights for another kind of drawing, but here I want that unreal, pop feeling. The plate and bowls and squeezed out lemon (left over from the meal that is no longer on the plate? just a little hint at the classical stillife) are just scribbled in blue biro- saying- hey we are just paper objects scribbled here.
These “paperobjects” remind me of paperdolls with changeable paper clothes. I have this vision of a paperdoll family with paperdoll lives that can be placed in different interior settings, like playing house. I would love to explore this but wow- this seems like a massively unappraochable project for me who is not only struggling so much with drawing interiors , but then adding human figures to that- Ha! – even stickfigures have to be somewhat in proportion. Lets see how pressing this idea grows…
Here is the result of the second approach of the same subject: A3, Caran D’Ache supracolor pencils. I start from the “other end” here, focusing on the white objects first: ( ellipses- urgh! but just to say I chose this on purpose to explore another weakness!)
I like the softness of the coloured pencils. Here the “unfinished” parts stand out as highlights, and it just looks light and airy, but without the “unfinished” sense of the watercolour drawing.
Both the watercolour version and the pencil version are still too “controlled” though, a little stiff. I know this is partly due to being seated on the sofa itself while drawing and being quite conscious about balancing drawing board and water and colours and all without spilling it everywhere. It wasn’t as comfortable a choice as I had thought when first choosing this viewpoint.
Finished/ Unfinished – Market day
Back to vegetables! Today is market day and I came home with this irresistible bunch of bright red radishes, a big bunch of two kinds of parsley and a transparent bag of pink/white beans. I want to explore a colorful subject in the unpolished, unfinished background.
I want to leave quite some space around the objects, to have a balance between this finished and unfinished. Here I explored some different versions of media and compositions in my sketchbook. Here on A3 in Caran D’Ache Supracolour pencils and Uniball pens.
I chose the quite large space around the objects, but then decided that I want to try and come closer anyway. So one more A3 version:
Here I used the Uniball pens much more and freely, and draw much less detail for the parts in coloured pencil. The radishes themselves are in oil pastels to really give them that shiny bright red tone. I much prefer this version. It has the more alive, more spontaneous and fresh quality I was aiming for. The Uniball pens were perfect for that rough “hint” of the shapes without them being too finished.
I was struggling so much with the “at home” drawings, that drawing furniture or the room doesn’t really appeal to me. But I want to challenge myself here, so I chose to explore a chair for this still life.
A long and windy path of approaching chairs..:
I hung my colourful bag on the blue chair and added my headphones to the scene. The light is incredible -lighting up the chair from the background and reflecting the blue legs on the floor.
I included a piece of the bed and the stone lining in the floor to place the chair in the room, but it doesn’t really do the job of making the idea of the space clearer. I used oil pastels for the bag as I was hoping for the bright luminous colours like on the radishes before. Then I regretted that as the oil pastel seemed so out of place in this more subtle drawing, tried to scrape it off which made a mess and then covered it again. I was actually quite happy with my crooked chair but then feel like I messed it all up with the wrong media and colours.
So here another go. A3 again. I really wanted the lit up chair to stand out from the darker background, so here I approach it in various green and blue inks:
I draw the bag in subtle colour pencils this time, and wet the pencils for the watercolour effect:
So this is much closer to the drawing I wanted. The chair is far far far from ideal and it seems even to tilt a shoulder under the weight of the bag, but I am still happy I confronted this subject that seemed daunting to me 🙂
A while ago we took a ceramics class with my daughter, and as a result we have lots and lots of colourful bowls. I experimented with a colourful still life of these bowls ( dreaded ellipses!) and added a bright pink dragonfruit to the turquoise one.
I wanted to draw again with Uniball pens and watercolours, but in a more subtle, dreamy way.
Here are the result on A3 with ink, watercolour and Uniball pens:
I am really happy with this little series, just because of its poetic subtle colours. There is no real depth or meaning or process involved, but a happy experimentation 🙂
I decided to use these bowls again and explore the “finished-unfinished” again, with a looser more scribbly style using Uniball pens inks and watercolour.
First I scribbled with the colour pens, then I tried using a white oil pastel for the highlights, so the watercolour or ink will not stick there, last watercolour with a waterbrush.
The oil pastel for highlights is an idea to remember!
Here I wanted to avoid the “coloring in”, so I started with the shading in watercolour and ink, then scribbled on top.
I like it better when the bowls are “only scribbled”- I am trying out some different compositions with this:
This is the small one I choose to continue drawing :
Three versions on A3:
As much as I tried to draw loose and scribbly, this still looks stiff and not spontaneous. I liked the thumbnail, but it doesn’t work in a larger size. The composition looks boring. After all this preparation I am quite disappointed. So I try to add some veggies and scribble on:
This really shifted it! Now I like the spontaneous loose scribbles in contrasting colors. The fruits and veggies are still transparent as you can see the bowl under it. The drawings became more alive and interesting.
Contemporary stillife – Wayne Thiebaud
During the Foundations course I discovered the work of the American painter Wayne Thiebaud. He placed similar common objects like cakes, icecreams, hotdogs etc in a row , on white background, lit from the side.Inspired by his work, I want to try out some more “contemporary” still life.
The Milky Way bars fit the subject of cakes/ ice creams etc well, but to reproduce the painterly character I would have to use oil pastels, and then have a real challenge with the detail of the label. Actually I realized Wayne Thiebaud doesn’t use objects with letters or labels. So I like the pen version best, but thats not in the right painterly style. It reminds me more of Andy Warhol Campbells soup can, but then he used print and no shadow.
Anyway I try out the line of Milky Ways on A3 with scribbled pens as a contemporary still life:
I like that it is very different from what I have explored so far and opens up a lot of new possibilities .
I try a line of strawberries to get back to the oil pastels:
All the strawberries are of different shape, so I don’t think Wayne Thiebaud would have chosen these either. His art really mostly shows very similar man made candies/cakes/objects. I will continue experimenting with some filled cookies instead:
Here on A3 with oil pastel:
I had the belief that I would be struggling less with the oil pastels when the format was bigger and the subject so simple, but it is still a media I don’t know how to deal with at all. I like the painterly character and the luminous colours of the pastels, but its just such an imprecise smeary mess when I use them. Something more to work on.. I am not at all happy with this drawing, but again it opens up some new paths to explore.
I give it another go on A3 with 5 cookies and coloured pencils:
And with drawing over with water to turn the pencil into watercolour:
I prefer this version- it looks painterly and still has detail. The page looks way to empty though. These cookies are just not the ideal subject for this composition.
It is time to send in Assignment 2. This has been an incredible chapter for experimenting and it feels like I could just go on and on. It was a surprise for me to see how much I loved drawing still life. The “at home” part really highlighted many weak points, so it is also something I have to practice further.
I will take a look at Chapter 2 from the point of view of Assessment criteria. In this chapter I find several of the still life that I did for the exercises better than the ones for the assignment. I think I need to spend less time on exercises in future, and more time on the final assignment.
Demonstration of technical and visual skills- materials, techniques, observational skills , visual awareness, design and compositional skills:
This chapter has been an opening to a lot of experimentation with new material and techniques, so I have approached a lot of subjects without the technical skills but with a lot of will to learn. It has also highlighted a weakness when it comes to drawing perspective, so that is definitely something I worked on and will continue working on.
Quality of outcome- content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, descernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.
As I have explored a lot of different approaches, the quality of outcome is varied too. But although varied, I think the path is quite clearly documented and communicated in the log. I don’t always do enough preparatory work, but as the chapter progressed, it got better.
Demonstration of creativity- imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice.
This chapter has allowed for a lot of imagination and experimentation with new media and new approaches. I believe the personal voice will emerge after continuing this research and play for a long time.
Context reflection- research, critical thinking ( learning logs ).
Considering how much time I spend on this log, I would give myself a high grade for it 🙂 I could always do more research of course, but it is a fine balancing of spending time researching or drawing. This chapter I discovered some artists new to me- Yann Kebbi, Ginny Grayson. I could see Cy Twomblys work in the flesh, as well as Paula Rego’s, which has definitely influenced my approach to this chapter.