Research point, part 2: Drawing in the style of Patrick Caulfield

On the face of it, attempting a drawing in the style of Patrick Caulfield  would seem a relatively easy task.  His work is notable for its apparent simplicity and lack of fussy detail.  The greatest challenge for me was that his work leaves me cold.  I can appreciate his innovation and his ability to reduce scenes to their bare essentials.  And the recurring suggestion of human presence departed is a moving one.  And yet, still, his pictures fail to engage me.  To my surprise, that very fact actually made tackling this drawing rather interesting – to work in a manner so far removed from anything I would have attempted of my own accord.

preliminary sketches

preliminary sketches

I began by making a series of preliminary thumbnail sketches of a small glass ornament set in front of a window.  There was a long shadow, cast by bright low winter sun.  The shadow felt important as Caulfield seemed to focus so much on them in his work.  The glass was green in reality, but I opted to use blue, as it appears in his pictures so often.  Another quality that strikes me in Caulfield’s work is the way he plays with ideas of reality and artifice.  For that reason, I decided to make the window black and the shadow white.  It also felt more visually striking that way.  Once I had worked out the composition, I had to decide which medium to use.  In the thumbnails, I’d used felt tips, which resulted in a patchy effect.  I decided to try Inktense water-soluble pencils, and tested several shades of blue before opting for Bright Blue.

water-soluble pencil version

water-soluble pencil version

I had hoped that, if I built up the pencil strokes as smoothly as possible, the final wash would result in a relatively flat effect.  However, as is obvious, it didn’t go according to plan!  The patchiness aside, I like this as a drawing.  The white elements do much to describe what’s going on here, and hopefully echo something of how Caulfield approached his subjects.

Feeling somewhat disappointed with the finish of the colour pencils, I tried again, using watercolour.  It did give a flatter finish, although still not perfect.  But I prefer the drawing of the pencil version.

Watercolour version

Watercolour version

On reflection, I think that the only way to get any real kind of flat finish would be to use acrylics.  As time is short, I won’t do that just now, tempting as it is.  I thought there might be more to be gleaned from posting these imperfect attempts, anyway.

What have I learnt from studying Patrick Caulfield?  The strength of simplicity.  The importance of light.  The benefits of seeing negative space clearly.  Not bad for an artist whose work initially left me feeling so indifferent.

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