Exercise 11: Study of light reflected from one object to another
Arrange two or three objects, at least one of which has a shiny reflective surface, side by side with a small space in between them. Place a light source to one side of them, to cast clear shadows. Sit so that you can easily see the shadow on one side and the light on the other. Draw the main shadow pattern created by your light source. Then add the reflected light and shadow patterns.
I chose two objects, a dark blue glass orb and a brushed metal tin, and placed them on a sheet of white paper. I then set up the light source to the right of them, casting shadows to the left. The viewpoint as shown in the photo above is pretty accurate, although I may have been sitting very slightly higher up whilst drawing. I started by making a very rough sketch of the two items, just to get the feel of them.
My intention then was to make a second sketch, in 6B pencil, mapping out the dark and light tones, before moving on to the final drawing. However, I became engrossed in drawing the orb and eventually decided to stick with it as my finished piece.
Contrary to my expectations, the metal tin was much harder to draw than the orb. I think this was because the brushed metal surface of the tin didn’t give much to work with, compared with the sharp details apparent in the glass orb. Also, having patted myself on the back for drawing a passable circle for the orb, I proceeded to draw a decidedly dodgy ellipse for the tin lid – I think I took the top edge up too far. Also, the tin itself is a little too tall. In general, though, I was pleased with the relationship between the orb and the tin. Using my pencil and outstretched arm, I measured the width of the tin to the width of the orb – I also measured the ‘height’ of the ellipse of the tin lid, but I think that went slightly awry during the course of the drawing.
I used a paper stump to soften the shading on the tin, in an effort to replicate the brushed metal surface, which was less distinct than the glass surface. I also paid attention to the hard and soft edges. One thing I found difficult was to get a crisp highlight with the putty rubber. It’s so flexible that I found I kept creating somewhat uneven lines in the highlight.
Initially, I drew the cast shadows as too narrow and too round, when they should have been more oval and extended further to the left. I remedied this once I spotted it, a while after finishing the drawing.
The areas of reflected light, especially from the white sheet of paper as reflected on the orb, were far more distinct in real life than they appear in the photo (top of the page). The rectangular shape just above the centre of the orb was a reflection of the kitchen skylight – the slightly curved shape at the bottom of it was my head! I was holding a drawing board on my lap, the top edge of which can be seen here – as can the shadow of the board impinging on the edge of the table. I enjoyed looking for the distorted reflections in the sphere of the orb, and found that it pays to include very ‘dark’ dark tones (however nerve-wracking it may feel), as they create a far more realistic sense of form. Again, my original photograph doesn’t quite distinguish between the two darkest tones on the orb, but I drew them as I saw them. The reflected light on the tin was more diffuse.
I struggled to get a clear photo of the finished drawing, so scanned it instead. However, this meant clipping the edge off the drawing in this shot, as I’d drawn it on an A3 page which was too wide for the scanner. Also, the scan made the surface of the drawn objects look much ‘rougher’ than they actually look in real life, so I edited the photo to reflect that. It’s as close to how it actually looks as I could reproduce here, but does differ very slightly from the real thing, here and there.
Overall, an interesting exercise. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed drawing a highly reflective surface. The next drawing calls for two such objects, and will be drawn to a larger scale. I’m curious to see how that shift in scale will affect my drawing…