Exercise 27: Using hatching to create tone
This exercise asked for a still life where the tone would be created using hatching. From the limited experience I’d had of hatching, I knew that this would be likely to take quite a while.
I began by making individual studies of the elements I intended to use in my final drawing, paying particular attention to basic shapes and planes. To start with, I drew a couple of the vegetables using coloured pencils. In the first study I used Inktense pencils, and found the colours worked really well in recreating a golden onion. I didn’t have much experience of working with coloured pencils, so this was a test in more ways than one. I found that no matter how sharp I kept the pencils, they still felt very soft. However, I enjoyed looking at the subject closely, trying to discern the different colours it contained, and then building them up in layers. One discovery I made was that yellow can be very opaque. This resulted in the loose papery skin being too dense. Adding more pale yellow only made matters worse. That aside, I really liked the colours in this onion, and enjoyed adding hints of more unexpected colours such as violet in the dark shadows.
In the second study, I used Caran d’Ache pencils, and found they felt harder than the Inktense ones. I used touches of blue and brown to give greater depth to the dark tones of the pepper. Similarly, I used a little red and dark green in the cast shadow.
For the cherries, I decided to try marker pens. I have relatively few colours of these, and so had to blend them using hatching. This resulted in a less than subtle effect! Shifts in tone felt clumsy. However, I can imagine this medium might work better on a slightly larger scale.
For the bulb of fresh garlic, I used Neocolor crayons. Again, I had a limited choice of colours, and so used a little artistic licence. Frustratingly, the crayons kept breaking however lightly I used them. I got the overall shape first and then added the darkest tones. In adding the mid-tones, I forgot to reserve enough white space, so the lightest tones were largely lost. As with the marker pens, I think these crayons would suit a larger scale, as they are unsuited to fine detail.
In my last study, of a red onion, I returned to the Inktense pencils, this time using a light partial wash of water for the base. This time I made sure I saved the lightest areas. Once the paper was dry, I began hatching the different tones. Again, I found the softness of the pencils made it hard to achieve crisp edges. In contrast to the shades of red and purple, I used touches of green in the main cast shadow, and also in some of the darkest tones of the onion.
Next, I made some compositional thumbnail sketches, working out which arrangement might be most engaging. As suggested in the course book, I paid particular attention to negative space, trying to balance the retention of interesting negative shapes whilst not leaving too much of the paper empty. I also focused on how all the colours and textures worked together. The composition I decided on was a fairly tightly cropped vertical arrangement. It felt quite striking and bold, and I liked the visual flow from one subject to another.
I chose to work on an A3 piece of paper, and opted to use colour pencil as I had liked the pencil studies. I started by making a simple graphite pencil sketch of the arrangement, and then began the lengthy process of adding colour. The light was coming from quite high up on the right hand side thus casting strong, if minimal, shadows.
I learned quickly that it takes a long time to build layers of colour using colour pencils. In a way, the process was not unlike that of putting down initial blocks of colour in oil painting. This meant that these early stages felt almost mechanical. However, I knew that creating a good ground of colour would serve me well later on. This exercise certainly offered plenty of experience in hatching – much needed! Hatching was the main form of mark I used, apart from some squiggly lines on the basis of the garlic bulb.
Having spent the best part of a week on the initial studies and thumbnail sketches, it then took me another full week to complete the finished drawing. Although I was relatively pleased with it, I grew increasingly aware that I needed to make changes in my approach, looking ahead to the rest of the course. However, I’ll write about that in a separate post. As it is, I set out to make a detailed drawing in colour pencil, creating tone through hatching, and in that I think I succeeded. Concerns about time aside, the other main stumbling block was the building up of the darkest tones, particularly on the red onion and the cast shadows. After a point, the pencils seemed to slide across the surface of the paper, without adding any extra colour. This could have been because of the waxy bloom that builds up when adding layers of colour. Whatever the reason, I would have liked to strengthen those darker tones.