Check and log: Drawing fruit and vegetables in colour
Your composition should occupy most of the paper’s surface. How much space do you have left?
Still life with hatched tone: I chose a close crop for this picture, so there isn’t a huge amount of extraneous space. However, I did try to create interesting negative shapes, breaking up the largest area of negative space by arranging two chopping boards at diagonal angles to one another.
Using marker pens/dip pen and ink: this appears to have quite a bit of negative space – but my aim was to occupy some of that space with shadows (from both the fruit and folds of fabric). I think there was a degree of success in this, but room for improvement.
Using oil pastels: As with the pen exercise above, my intention here was to see the shadows as integral parts of the composition, so although there might appear to be quite a bit of ’empty’ space, it’s really only the violet blue background that is empty. This felt necessary so as to allow the picture some room to breathe. I see the composition as broken into ‘thirds’ – background, subject, shadows.
What have you learned from drawing the details of fruit and vegetables?
Close observation pays off. Whatever I thought I knew, the subject matter would always show me something unexpected if I paid close enough attention. Subtle shifts of colour, light or plane could make all the difference.
I also learned that shadows are one of the most vital elements for creating depth in a drawing. This sound obvious, and of course I knew it before. I just know it better now.
Shapes offers a great deal of information. For example, the folding back of the banana skin in the ink drawing makes suggestions about the texture (that it’s soft and pliable, for instance).
Texture can be suggested in a number of ways. Highlights tend to be sharpest on shinier subjects, such as on the pepper or tomatoes. Similarly, they are more diffuse on duller skins such as potato or carrot. Mark-making is another way to evoke texture – the meandering lines of the Savoy cabbage, the pitted lime peel, the slightly gnarled texture of the garlic base, and so on.
When using hatching, it helps to follow the direction of the form you are drawing – the curves and crevices can be described far better this way.
Layering colour lends a far greater sense of energy and liveliness to a picture. Rather than using only reds for the pepper, for example, I used orange, blue and purple, incorporating green in the shadows. These combinations help avoid flatness.
Closely cropped compositions tend to feel more dynamic. They draw the eye in, and lessen the chances of the subjects appearing isolated.
Preparatory sketches are valuable in discovering the particularities of different subjects. Also, they offer the opportunity to test different media before committing to the finished picture.
What did you find most challenging about this part of the course?
The time it took. Especially with coloured pencil. Building up layers of colour is immensely time-consuming. It worried me so much that I’ve had to take the step of setting time limits, in order to have any hope of moving through the course at a reasonable pace. Therefore, if the time is up, the drawing will have to stop where it is. I’m hoping that this will foster a looser approach over time.
Related to time management is my apparent obsession with having to produce ‘finished’ drawings. Not that there’s anything wrong with them, of course. However, focusing so intently on ‘finishing’ takes a long time, and frequently results in stultified, over-worked pictures. I’m aiming for a greater feeling of looseness and space in future. I also need to remind myself that I am still learning (the early stages of learning, at that), so experimentation is more important than ‘finish’ at this stage.
Backgrounds tend to be tricky. I’ve kept them simple in this section, whilst trying to set things in context. My preference for working close up means that background is often minimal, anyway.
Oil pastels are still very new to me – I’ve only done this one drawing using them. I found that they tended to pick up colour from one another, when I didn’t mean for them to do so. Hopefully practise will help.
Lastly, not that it was challenging as such, I will be glad to draw something other than fruit and veg…