Part Two: Project Four: Exercise One: Quick Sketches Around the House

For this exercise, I looked at different areas of my home in several rooms; the living room, dining room, kitchen and my bedroom. My home is very minimalistic and so I do not have anything in the way of ornaments etc. As a result, I presumed my work would be rather boring and with little content.

To begin with, I sat myself in the middle of my living room floor and looked up into the corners of my rooms, however, there was not much interesting detail in several of these, so I simply chose to pick out parts which interested me and work on a close-up scale, sometimes closer than others, depending on the subject matter chosen. I also tried to alternate between landscape and portrait. I had divided my sketchbook pages into four triangles for each room and filled each with the subject matter I found most appealing.

Because this was an exercise to work quickly and not to be too concerned with fine lines and details, I decided to use willow charcoal, which I was also able to blend somewhat to create depth and shadows briefly.


I was rather pleased with the end results of this exercise and was surprised as to how much I actually enjoyed myself whilst doing it. However, I was rather disheartened by how easily the charcoal would smudge as I used it. Looking back, I think I may have done better having used a Chinese brush pen and ink to create these sketches, however, the blending did come in handy sometimes when I needed to quickly smudge out any errors. I think my favourite room sketchings has to be the kitchen as there is plenty to see and draw, yet without too much fine detail, which is something I tried to avoid when creating these quick sketches. I will definitely try to use this exercise going forward as it really did help me to see things I did not even imagine were visible and taught me some lessons about the home I thought I knew so well and now feel I have never really taken the time to look at fully.

Part Two: Project Three: Exercise Three: Experiment with Mixed Media

For this section, I was asked to use both traditional media (such as ink, pencil crayons and charcoal) together with non-traditional media (such as highlighters and wax crayons) to create a mixed media piece. 


Firstly, I decided to get stuck right in and be messy and experimental with several different media and support. I used two pieces of work by two very different artists (the citation for which can be found by clicking here) as a guide. I decided to use different aspects from each piece to experiment with; the collaged supports from the top image, the wash over the support from the bottom image, but also from a ceiling I came across in a local cafe.

Mixed Media Experiment in Sketchbook Page One

I was really pleased with some of the results in this experiment; I really liked the way the colours intensified or weakened depending on the support.  I really liked the effect on the kitchen roll, especially the charcoal.  I was rather surprised to see how well the charcoal mixed with other media.  I also liked the way the masking fluid rubbed away somewhat on the white card when the ink was applied.

Mixed Media Experiment in Sketchbook Page Two

On the next page, I rather liked the result of the ink and soft pastels merging together and may use this going forward.  Also, the soft pastel and oil pastel merged rather nicely too.

Final Piece

I struggled finding a muse for this part of the course, so decided to search the internet for the best fitting image.  I decided upon a bunch of beetroot on a wooden surface due to the multitude of colours, vibrancies, textures and surfaces.  I chose to work with a sheet of A2 sketchpad paper as a base for my piece.  I then used some textured brown packaging paper to represent the wooden parts of the image.  Next, I chose some grey tissue paper for the skin of the beetroot.  I left the base of the insides of the beetroot as the plain white surface of the paper, but applied a layer of PVA glue.

Once everything had dried, I began working in some of the detail of the objects; I tried to work in the darkest shadows in charcoal.  I then added some of the colours I could see in the beetroot skin with soft pastel, trying to recreate the purples, pinks and blues I could see as well as the grey.  I also tried to bring out the lightest parts of the skins by adding a very light grey and white soft pastel.  I used ink for the flesh of the beetroot, with a layer of wax crayons and oil pastels on top to add in the veins of the layers.  I finished the piece by using oil pastels to add in the deepest shadows again as these became somewhat lost with the layers of soft pastel etc.  I used black marker for the gaps in the wood and a brown conté stick on its side to add texture as if grains in the wood.

Final piece – Beetroot


Overall, I am very pleased with this piece and think I have captured the different types of surfaces well. I think the shadow on the bottom middle beetroot could be slightly more prominent as it looks somewhat unreal compared to the others, or maybe I have simply overworked the others? I am not so sure. I also noticed a bit to the left-hand side of the bottom beetroot which is still white which works to spoil the illusion I am trying to recreate. I really enjoyed creating this piece and the methods used are definitely something I would like to consider incorporating for my final piece for this Part, but also in future parts too.

NB: Citation for images used in my sketchbook can be found by clicking here.

List of Illustrations

Fig. 1. Bunched Beetroot, Organic (500g) [photograph] At: (Accessed on 29 April 2019)

Part 3: Project 3: Exercise 2: Still Life in Tone Using Colour

To begin this exercise, I decided to have a play in my sketchbook with two different objects (one natural and one man-made) using several different media before deciding on the ones I would use for my final piece for the exercise.

I settled on a picture of an apple and a pear together and also a sunken, ruined car which is in the bottom of our fish tank.  I chose these three objects because the colours were very bold and contrasting, but also allowed for a lot of mixing with my colours.  The colours in the fruit are both very natural (green, yellow, red, pink and a touch of white), whereas the colours to the car are completely different (blue, pink and purple).

Firstly, I quickly drew the pear and apple using watercolour markers and then used a wash of water over the top of them.  I actually really liked the outcome of this and the background created by the bleeding colours.

After this, I used pencil crayons to recreate the pear.  Whilst I liked the colours, I was able to create with this medium, I was a bit disappointed with how round it actually made it, instead of creating the natural misshapen bumps to the object. 

I then used soft pastels to create the pear and apple.  I loved the boldness of the colours in this and the ability to blend them but still retain the smooth but rough-looking texture to the objects.  I ran a little water over the shadow on the table and really liked the effect.

After working in several ways with the apple and pear, I moved on to the sunken car and recreated it quickly using pencil crayons, ink and oil pastels.  The pencils just did not pull through the vibrancy of this object, just as I had found when I used them in my preliminary work for this section.  The ink was fantastic in bringing through the colours, but the oil pastel was, once again, by far my favourite medium to use due to its ability for blending, messiness and vibrancy of colours.

I then carried out one final experiment in my sketchbook, using a statue of a robin on a log, the same object I used as my final piece for Part 2: Project 2: Exercise 1: Still Life using Line.  I used marker, soft pastels and oil pastels.  The markers were great for their intense colours and the detail of the bird’s feathers.  The soft pastels were by far the easiest to blend, but the oil pastels did blend and did still show through some of the markings of the bird’s feathers. 

Final Piece

For my final piece I decided to recreate the apple and pear again, but using pencil crayons.  I chose this medium because I liked how they had worked in my preliminary work and, whilst the pear and apple are vibrant in their colours, I think they are also very natural objects, so my work should reflect the naturalness instead of using artificial intense colours. 

Final Piece – Pear and Apple

Taking note of my tutor’s feedback on my scaling issues, I decided to try using a grid to help me measure the items out better. I found this unbelievably helpful and feel the likeness and scale are really good compared to my earlier works. However, I made a rookie error and did not remember to rub out the grid before I began colouring! I tried to remove the grid afterwards and then recolour the patches. I decided not to colour the full background of the table the fruit was resting on which, again, is something new for me as I am trying not to create ‘pretty pictures’ so to speak.


Whilst I really do like the end result and see it as somewhat of an achievement for myself as it is nowhere as bold as my usual pieces, I think I still managed to overwork the medium because there are sections of the page where I have pressed too hard trying to urge the boldness of the shadows through (where the apple and pear meet).  Also, I am somewhat disappointed in myself for not noticing something so simple as the grid still being in place before colouring.  I will put this down to trial and error and will try to learn from it going forward!  I also really like the shadow on the table because I put the black down first and then went over it with brown and a very dark red which gives the shadow depth and warmth and adds weight to the objects.  I was also rather surprised by the fact that yellows and blues on the green for the pear really worked, as did yellow, orange, pink and purple for the red of the apple.


Below are the questions in my course textbook, which I have decided to answer at the bottom of both exercises, as opposed to both together:

What aspects of each drawing were successful, and what did you have problems with?
The parts of this exercise I thought successful were the mixture of colours to create a solid three dimensional finished object. The problems I encountered in this piece was definitely my error in not removing the grid prior to colouring in the piece. This is something I will have to consider going forward – perhaps I can use water-soluble colours to draw the grid to make it easier to cover over and reduce the need to erase the lines.

Did you manage to get a sense of depth in your drawings?
What elements of the drawings and still life groupings helped to create that sense?

The depth in this piece was achieved by the mixing of the colours. I was able to include shadow in the correct places and use the contrast between the lighter and darker colours to show the natural ‘line’ found in real life as opposed to the cartoon-like outline of my previous piece. The movement of the colouring and the placement of the shadows helps to shape the objects into understandable information for the viewer to process.

What difficulties were created by being restricted to line or tone?

On reflection, I think I have not stuck to using block tone and have, again, focussed on it looking like a picture. I think if the image was purely blocks of different tone, there would be no real depth, direction of the object’s movement or clarity as to the object’s identity to be found in the piece due to the lack of line. I think I have inadvertently realised that the two generally must go hand in hand!

How did using colour affect your working method?

Using colour in this piece as opposed to just line, I found I was a lot freer with my movements and had the ability to lift or darken the colours in the piece to suit, assisting to create the sense of depth and direction of the shape’s movements to suit my will. I found it much easier to portray shadows with colour than with just line, however, I think I could use cross-hatched lines or – if considering the methods used on a map or in an illusion for instance – distance between the lines to assist in shadow and depth formation, for example I could put the lines closer together, they would appear darker than those which were spaced further apart, thus tricking the viewer’s mind into seeing something I wish them to see.

Part Two: Project Two: Exercise One: Detail and Tone

To begin this exercise, I decided to look closely at a bunch of flowers and use several different media to interpret the differing tonal ranges within them in my sketchbook. I decided not to be too precious about the marks I made, but to just try and recreate the flowers roughly as I wanted to investigate them more than draw them.

Observation of bunch of flowers in different mediums

Whilst I was aware I was meant to be focusing on natural objects, I was drawn to the different areas of tone and differing areas of shadows overlapping each other due to several different lighting angles and also the marbling detail to the object.

I created the piece very gradually and stayed rather delicate throughout, allowing patience and delicacy where I wouldn’t normally. After my tutor’s comments regarding my issues with perspective, I realised I needed to work on it somewhat. Whilst I do not think I have recreated the perspective completely accurately here, I am rather pleased with the overall shape as I do think there is a good depth to the shape. I began by putting in the darkest areas of tone with a 4B pencil (behind the object in the divide between the wall and shelf and also at the base of the object) and then gradually got lighter and lighter, moving my way gradually through the grades of pencils until I finally filled in the lightest areas of tone (the front top left of the holder and the shelf it is sitting on. I then used the putty rubber to work in some finer, lightest details to the object and the surface it sat on.


I am glad I began the exercise by being experimental in my sketchbook. I think doing so allowed me to get the initial burst of energy out of my system, leaving me somewhat contented and able to relax into a more delicate piece.

I really enjoyed working from darkest to lightest and found it really did help to screw my eyes up to see the darkest areas. I found it quite foreign to begin with the darkest areas at first, but then began to rather enjoy it. As I said above, I think my perspective may have been off slightly, but overall I think I have improved slightly in this area. I also feel this will increase as the course progresses, but hopefully it is a step in the right direction. Having taken a step back since finishing the piece, I think I have overused the rubber somewhat too. I considered going back and adding the detail back in, but decided to leave it be and put it down to being a learning curve for future reference.

Part Two: Research Point: Today’s Artists’ use of Positive and Negative Space

What are Positive and Negative Space?

All pieces of art consist of positive and negative space. ‘Positive’ space is the area of a piece which contains understandable visual information; a person’s features, a flower’s petals, leaves and stem, and so on. ‘Negative’ space is the area of a piece which contains no understandable visual information, such as a background and is a very important tool in the construction of all pieces of art. The balance between positive and negative space is meant to be rather equal and complementary to one another.

Whilst artists may work in different ways (such as expressionism, cubism or surrealism), positive and negative space is always there. When you first think about creating a piece, you are presented with a blank page with no visual information at all. This is completely negative space and creates no visual stimuli whatsoever. If you were to draw the outline of a circle, the outline would become the positive space, with negative space both around and inside it. By adding tone by drawing or painting to the inside of the circle, you would be creating more positive space in the piece and changing the ball into a sphere or a hole, if coloured in completely and depending on the styles used. If detail was added to the outside of the circle, this would then become the positive space, leaving a hole inside the circle in the remaining negative space.

Artists, whether in drawing, painting or sculpting, have used positive and negative space throughout the history of time, a few examples of which are shown below.

Comparison of Works

I came across a few artists whose work really caught my eye, (as shown below) and compared their styles. The results of my findings are as shown below:

Fig. 1. Caulfield, P Pitcher (1981-1982) Fig. 2. Hume, G Waterpainting (1999) Fig. 3. Durrant, J Watercolour (2013) Fig. 4. Bar, N Pointed Sense (unknown)
Patrick Caulfield was a British artist who was renowned for his bold colours and simplified images.  His work has often been linked with the Pop Art movement, but he was not happy about this as he viewed his work as more formal in nature. Gary Hume is a British artist who is associated with the Young British Artists (‘YBA’) generation.  He works with only a small selection of colours and simplifies the visual information within his pieces.  Hume has made comment about how his pieces are all religious. Jessica Durrant is an American artist who specialises in the fashion, beauty and lifestyle genres and illustration.  She also uses positive and negative space regularly within her work.  Whilst I cannot find any religious connotations in her work, Durrant uses a very strong focus on the female form and in empowering women. Noma Bar is an Israeli graphic designer and illustrator who works with simplified images without excess visual information to avoid distraction and the strong use of positive and negative space.  Whilst I cannot see any references to religion in the pieces per se, I know Bar follows the Jewish religion, so I believe his upbringing in this religion will have some form of impact in his work, even if indirectly.
This piece appears somewhat differently to the rest.  Instead of using the negative space to imply an alternative image, this artist appears to use the negative space as part of the positive image by carefully placing certain shapes in precise locations so as to help the viewer’s brain create an imagined outline and thus the complete object.  This piece is fascinating in a completely different way to the others, but I think it very clever in its own unique way.  This piece was created using screen print on paper. This piece appears to be the silhouette of a woman (or several women, perhaps) who are moving either towards the ‘lens’ or away from it.  The piece is monochrome in colours and simply consists of what appears to be a background of green and a white continual line drawing of the woman / women layered on top of each other in white.  The piece was created using household paint on an aluminium panel, as is the artist’s preferred method. This piece appears to be the side view of a woman’s face in the negative space.  It appears as though the positive space in the piece is the watercoloured part as it is the only section with visual information, but yet is the background of the image.  I think it rather fascinating as I find myself constantly questioning which part of the piece is the positive and which the negative!  The piece was created with watercolours, but I also wonder whether the artist used masking fluid to ensure there was no bleeding of the colour. This piece appears to be computer-generated, having a green negative background and the positive foreground silhouette of a moving dog who is exiting through the right-hand side of the piece.  When looking again, what originally appeared to me as a negative background can actually be interpreted as a positive foreground of the silhouette of the front end of a moving dog entering the piece from the left-hand side.  This piece is fascinating to me as I am constantly pulled between the two silhouettes as to which is the ‘real’ animal.  Perhaps it is actually a pack of dogs / wolves etc caught mid-prowl?
The colour in this piece makes me consider that the contents of the pitcher must be hot or at least warm – perhaps coffee? The overall colouring of the piece is warm in nature, so perhaps it is actually misleading and the pitcher is actually filled with cold juice? In this piece, I can see the woman / women moving around the piece.  The movement appears chaotic and frantic to me due to the many overlapping lines. This piece reminds me of cold, running water and wonder if perhaps she is in the shower washing away her tribulations of the day? In this piece, I can hear a dog barking, imagine being able to stroke its fur and tail.  I imagine a very strong, confident dog.  The simplicity works rather well in the sense that a dog’s life is rather simple; he eats, drinks, sleeps… There are no worries for the average dog about working, paying bills etc.
This piece differs from the rest in the way it uses the negative space, allowing the mind to complete the outline of the pitcher, whereas the rest show the outline completely and do not require the viewer’s mind to fill the blanks.  Similar to Bar’s piece, the colours and shapes are made of solid blocks of colour. This piece is similar to Durrant’s piece as it seems to focus on women, showing an appreciation for their form, as well as only using two colours.  This piece is similar to Bar’s piece in the sense it has several perspectives instead of one single one. Again, this piece is similar to Hume’s piece as it focuses on women and also the contrast between the white of the page and the blue paint. Similar to Hume’s piece, this has more than one perspective; showing the front end and then the back end of a dog.  This piece differs from Durrant’s piece as it has only flat, solid colours, similar to that of Hume’s and Caulfield’s pieces.
I find the white space in this piece to be the main point of emphasis, but also rather confusing and frustrating as I cannot see the need for it to be there.  The background is a completely different colour, so this cut out space appears to be solid.  If trying to imagine holding the pitcher up, I can only imagine hitting something such as a solid piece of plastic or ceramic etc, which I find really frustrating.  I really just want to colour the section in to match the rest of the background.  Perhaps this was done by the artist on purpose to create such frustration? The points of emphasis in this piece are the lines used and the eyes, lips breasts of the woman / women. For me, the strongest point of emphasis to this piece is the divide between the positive and negative space; between the white space and the coloured space.  There are strong, dark features to the face in the eyes / brow and lips. The black in this piece is much bolder than the green, which is rather mellow, so is the main point of emphasis to this piece.
Due to the bold, solid shapes used in this piece, I cannot see any expressive marks here at all. This piece is full of expressive qualities in respect of the constant flow of lines and the mass of faces. The running colour and the hair in this piece provide quite a nice amount of expressive quality. Due to the solid shapes in this piece, there is not much in the way of expression, which appears only available in the quiffs of the fur.
Whilst I find the colours in this piece somewhat soothing to my eye, I am also increasingly frustrated due to the handle. I find this piece rather chaotic and frustrating and too much visual information for my liking. This piece makes me feel inspired and empowered as a woman.  However, I also feel somewhat sad; perhaps this is because I question what the character in the piece may have endured and what the ‘tears’ may represent. This piece also makes me feel emboldened as I cant help but feel as a member of the pack would; needed, on a mission, determined to continue their current mission, perhaps to find prey.
This piece is very successful in the fact it is able to request the viewer’s brain to fill the blanks due to the perfect placement of the shapes used.  As stated above, however, I do not like the space inside the handle and find it rather disappointing and frustrating. I think the successes of this piece are the contrast between the green and the white and the movement.  As stated above, I do not enjoy this piece as much as some of the others as the eye is pulled in too many directions all at once and I find it rather confusing and chaotic. I really like the outline and separation of the two sections in this piece, as well as the contrast between the two.  However, I think the several spots of paint on the face of the woman let the piece down somewhat.  I think it would be better if it had been created without this inclusion. This piece offers a strong double-meaning within it and also the movement.  However, I think the face is too large for the rest of the body.
For this piece, I would use markers and collage on coloured paper. If I were to recreate this piece, I would use masking fluid with watercolours acrylic or ink creating an overlay before removing the masking fluid. For this piece, I would use ink over masking fluid.  Whilst I know this piece was created with watercolours, I would be interested to see what results could be achieved using the same method but with inks. For this, I would use a black marker on a muted coloured page.


I decided to experiment in my sketchbook in different media with the concept of positive and negative space.

Experimentation with Positive and Negative Space

I first tried to use PVA glue and the wax of a candle to create the ‘negative’ space when layering over the different media.  I was rather disappointed with the PVA glue as it did not provide as much resistance as I thought it would.  If anything, it reminded me of the trail a snail would leave; rather shimmery in appearance.  It was interesting, however, as it seemed like a hidden message within the piece which only became visible when looked at in a certain way – this started to remind me of my research into Redon’s Two Trees and the fact that the average viewer would generally glance at the piece quickly and then move on without giving enough time to actually see the hidden message.  I think I may potentially use this again moving forward; perhaps to show a hidden message, or maybe to add a sort of pearlized shimmer to certain objects.  The candle wax, however, provided a fantastic amount of colour separation and a clear negative space, however, the grease in it seemed to ruin the page on the other side of my sketchbook in places and due to the fact it reset rather quickly with cooling, I think I could only really use this method on rather thick material or material I do not wish to use the other side of and only for places I wish there to be expressive marks made as the lack of control is to temperamental to try and use for a specific shape or object.

I then came across something called masking fluid, which I had never heard of before.  I decided to experiment with it by drawing around my hand on the page over the different mediums and then adding a wash of diluted ink over the top before removing the masking fluid to reveal the surface underneath.


I think I have found a real appreciation for the positive and negative space within artwork and how important a role both play in all pieces. I’ve realised there is a delicate balance between the two and getting them both right can lead to phenomenal results.

I was actually really pleased with how easily the masking fluid was removed and how crisp the lines were underneath in my experiment.  This is definitely something I really want to use again in my future pieces and perhaps also my final piece for this part of the course.

NB: Citation for images used in my sketchbook can be found by clicking here.

List of Illustrations

Fig. 1. Caulfield, P (1981-1982) Pitcher [Screenprint on paper] At: (Accessed on 13 March 2019)

Fig. 2. Hume, G (1999) Water Painting [Household pain on aluminium panel] At: (Accessed on 19 March 2019)

Fig. 3.  Durrant, Jessica (2013) Watercolour [Watercolour paints] At: (Accessed on 19 March 2019)

Fig. 4. Bar, N (unknown) Pointed Sense [Computer-generated] At: (Accessed on 20 March 2019)


Fussell, M (unknown) ‘Positive and Negative Space’ In The Virtual [online] At: (accessed on 11 March 2019)

Tate (unknown) ‘Gary Hume born 1962’ In [online] At: (Accessed on 11 March 2019)

Jessica Durrant (unknown) ‘’[online] At: (Accessed on 12 March 2019)

Dutch Uncle (unknown) ‘’[online] At: (Accessed on 11 March 2019)

Wikipedia (2019) ‘’ [online] At: (Accessed on 12 March 2019)

Tate (unknown) ‘’ [online] At: (Accessed on 13 March 2019)

Wikipedia (2019) ‘’ [online] At: (Accessed on 12 March 2019)

Wikipedia (2019) ‘’ [online] At: (Accessed on 11 March 2019)

Part Two: Research Point: Still Life Genre

Still life, or nature morte in French, refers to where artists have created a piece of work where the subject matter is inanimate, whether it be man-made objects or organic objects and things which used to be alive.  Common items used for still life pieces include flowers, fruit and other household objects such as chairs, however, other items such as skulls and dead animals are also used to add a sinister touch to the work.

Still life has been used throughout history and notably by the Ancient Egyptians in the 15th Century BCE, who would paint food and meat at burial sites as an offering to the gods. The Greeks and Romans created still life pieces in mosaics and frescoes (a painting done in watercolours onto wet plaster so the colours become embedded during the drying process).

During the Renaissance (14th to 17th Century), flowers became a well-used item for still life pieces as artists were becoming more and more interested in recreating realistic imagery in their work as well as the use of colours. In the Middle Ages (around 1500AD to 1600AD), still life was used by artists for religious purposes as both symbols and as decoration around the border of manuscripts. The 17th Century also saw rise of the Dutch Golden Age and the interest in flowers develop with the creation of ‘vanitas’ works, which would focus on reminding the viewer of their own mortality and the fleetingness of time.

Fig. 3. Van Ultrecht, A Vanitas Still Life with a Bouquet and a Skull (1642)

The 18th Century saw a rise in notable French artists whose focus in regard to still life was similar to that of vanitas works, but which would focus on the wealth and bounty of the aristocracy and would leave out the moral messages found within the vanitas pieces. Still life was seen as a lesser importance than religious and mythical depictions.

Fig. 4. Meléndez, L Still Life with Apples, Grapes, Melon, Bread, Jug and Bottle (circa 1771)

The 19th century brought about the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists who were more interested in experimenting with the vibrancy and exaggeration of colours and methods of applying paint as the invention of cameras had reduced the call for realistic painted pieces.

Fig. 5. Van Gogh, V Sunflowers or Vase with 15 Sunflowers (1888)

Fauvism (the emphasis of bold colours over realistic values) and Cubism (the deconstruction of objects into geometric and abstract shapes) was developed in the 20th Century.

Fig. 6. Picasso, P Compotier avec Fruits, Violon et Verre (Bowl with Fruit, Violin and Wineglass) (1913)

The 21st Century has seen the rise of many interpretations of still life pieces, with artists using such things as computer rendering and sculpture to show their personalities within their work.

Fig. 7. Tran, G A Completely Synthetic, Computer-Generated Still Life (2006)

Experimentation with Works Throughout History

I decided to compare a few of the pieces I found above from different times in history to their predecessors and successors, as well as two of the artists my tutor suggested in my feedback for Part One.  My findings are as shown below:

Pre-Twentieth Century

Fig. 3. Van Ulrecht, Vanitas Still Life with a Bouquet and a Skull (1642) Fig. 5. Van Gogh, V Sunflowers (1888) Fig. 8. Cezanne, P Curtain, Jug and Fruit Bowl (1893)
Flemish artist (from Antwerp).  Work created in Belgium.  Piece created when a new type of still life was emerging. Dutch artist during the Post-Impressionism stage. French artist.  Piece created in France during the Post-Impressionism era.  Cezanne’s work was later seen as the bridge between Impressionism and Cubism.
Piece consists of a vase of flowers, a human skull, gold and silver coins, several vases, a book and a pocket-watch. Piece consists of numerous sunflowers during various stages of their lives in a vase. Piece consists of a jug, curtain, a piece of material, fruit and a bowl.
The term ‘vanitas’ translates to ‘empty’.  These pieces were used by Christians to show how earthly goods are pointless and meaningless as we all will face our mortality regardless of our wealth or stature. There does not appear to be any religious significance to this piece that I can find, however, it is well known that van Gogh was raised in a very religious household. This piece does not appear to have any religious connotations; however, it does show fruit and a jug, which could be found within pieces depicting religious offerings to gods or even in pieces such as those depicting The Last Supper.
This piece causes me to smell the sweetness of the flowers, whilst also the stench of death.  I hear the clock ticking and the coins jangling, reminding us of our greed, indulgence and gluttony, as well as our eventual fates, whether as a direct or indirect result of our greed. Whilst initially I sense the freshness and happiness of the bright and colourful flowers, I am then filled with a sort of confusion I imagine the sweet taste of the apples, feel the weight and coldness of the jug and bowl, as well as the softness of the cloth.
Created with oil paints on canvas.  To replicate this piece in drawing, I would use markers for their bold but controlled colours and lines or pencil crayons for their delicacy. Created with oil paints on canvas.  To replicate this piece in drawing, I would use oil pastels for their bold colours and expressive mark-making qualities. Created with oil paints on canvas.  To replicate this piece in drawing, I would use oil pastels for their bold but expressive colours or pencil crayons for their delicacy.
The successes in this piece are that it is realistic, has a strong message to portray and has strong contrast in tonal values.   There is actually nothing in this piece I would change or improve as I think it is almost too realistic. I really like the stages of life depicted in the sunflowers, however, I am not a huge fan of the colour yellow, so this piece does not appeal to me as much as others.  I think the perspective of the vase is slightly off, sliding slightly too far down to the right of the piece and the blue is rather contrasting in comparison to the rest of the colours used in the piece.  Perhaps this was intentional, but it does take away some of the realism of the piece. The depth of the fruit and jug in this piece are fantastic and something I will try to replicate and consider going forward.  I think the perspective of the drawer and the table are slightly off.  However, this could be intentional – the table does appear old, so maybe parts of it do not stand as they would have when first created due to the wear and tear of time.
The perspective of this piece appears to be at eye level, looking forward at the banquet in front of me. This piece seems to use the Rule of Thirds, most notably in the divide between the table and the wall being the bottom horizontal line and the vase and tallest flowers being placed centrally within the composition. The perspective of this piece appears to be at eye level.  If looking at the piece with the Rule of Thirds in mind, the front of the table is along the lower horizontal line, the body of the objects in the centre of the piece and the tops of the jugs along the upper horizontal line.  The blue fabric is located in the left-most column.

Twentieth Century Onwards

Fig. 9. Giocometti, A Still Life with an Apple (1937) Fig. 10. Morandi, G Natura Morta (1952) Fig.  7. Tran, G Glasses (2006)
Alberto Giocometti was a Swiss artist who was heavily influenced by Cubism and Realism.  He enjoyed debating philosophical questions relating to the human condition and phenomenon. Morandi, who was of Italian descent, was heavily influenced by the works of Paul Cezanne. Gilles Tran is a contemporary French artist who specialises in rendered art.
This piece consists of a single, almost insignificant apple sitting on a desk in what appears to be a study or an educational setting perhaps and was created with oil paint on a canvas.  This piece consists of simple blocks of colour and objects.  This piece was created with oil paint on a canvas. This piece consists of several different types of glass objects, such as drinking glasses and two dice.  This piece has been generated completely via a computer, using POV-Ray.
From this piece, I see a lot of darkness, moodiness and expressive marks.  I find the piece surprising as the focus appears to be on the apple, but it is also rather insubstantial within the piece.  I think the apple may represent the humbleness and delicate beauty of nature which is not always bold and intense enough to be deemed ‘beautiful’ instantly, whereas the desk (which could potentially have been made using the wood from the same tree which grew the apple) is bold, majestic and grand, indicating the greed and manmade ‘beauty’ which can usually be appreciated much sooner than that of simple, humble fruit. I find this piece to be calm and peaceful, having been created with a muted palette.  I like the simplicity of the objects and their gentle colouring.  I have struggled to find anything within this piece which represents any symbolisation, but feel the muted colours could perhaps represent a calm within the painter himself.  Perhaps he has tried to view the world as a child would; purely basic shapes and colours, leaving the intricacies and finer details of the objects / life for others to be concerned with. This piece firstly fills me with thirst due to all of the drinks!  Secondly, I am filled with amazement that this is actually a computer-generated image.  It is so realistic and well created, however, I do not think there is much expression in the piece except, perhaps, for the brightly coloured dice which stand out in the piece. Again, I cannot find any hidden symbology within this piece, but can only conclude the artist was very interested in recreating real life, almost as though considering himself a supreme being in his own right.
The perspective of this piece appears somewhat different to that of the other pieces, which seem to rest at the same level as the object, whereas this piece seems to focus on the objects from a distance.  However, it is somewhat similar as it does contain fruit. 
The piece also appears to contain something natural and something which is manmade.
Again, this piece appears to be created from a little distance from the objects, but still at the same sort of level as the objects.  These objects are all manmade and the artist has opted for a very muted palette as opposed to previously seen bold and intense colours and detail. Again, this piece appears to contain only manmade objects and focuses on bold, intense colours, but does have a few muted colours as well.  The perspective of the piece is once again rather close up and at the same level as the objects.
On first viewing this piece, my eye was drawn to the middle to the apple, then the desk as a whole and then to the drawer to the right as these all appear to have the most visual information and lighting. In this piece, my eye was naturally drawn to the middle of the piece and then up the neck of the bottle as this seemed to be where the information is mainly held and none of the colours really battle for the viewer’s attention. For this piece, my eye was instantly drawn to the bold, bright colouring of the dice, then to the green of the glass stem and then just around the rest of the piece generally.  Whilst there is what appears to be a glass of red wine in the piece, the red is not an intense shade and does not really battle for your attention in comparison to the blue and the green.
For this piece, I think the apple appears very fresh and ripe, whereas the wood of the desk appears to be old and almost an antique, which does counter the thought that maybe it could be from the same tree as the apple. The body of the bottle within this piece seems to remind me of crinkled paper and not so much of a bottle, even though it is clear as to what it is meant to be. The objects in this piece were almost too realistic.  I imagine a party taking place and, similar to a vanitas painting, the dice may represent the gamble with our lives we take when drinking in abundance and enjoying the intoxication of life’s frivolities.
The successes to this piece as the age of the wood and the depth created with the paint.  The placement of the apple, whilst almost insignificant, is done very well and intensifies the depth to the desk.  However, I feel the cupboard door has been overworked and is rather close to spoiling the piece. I think the successes of this piece are the muted colours and the depth created even with the lack of other details.  I do think the outline to the objects does let the piece down slightly as they are somewhat less realistic as a result and there is an apparent lack of shadow to the objects, which is somewhat strange I feel. I think the realism of this piece is fantastic, as are the shadows and reflected colours and light, however, due to it being so realistic, I do not think there is much personality to the piece or a fingerprint of the artists so to speak.
If I were to recreate this piece, I think I would use oil pastels due to the expressive nature of the marks made, as well as the boldness of the colours used. For this piece, I would use soft pastels or pencil crayons to recreate it due to their soft and calm nature, not to mention the ability to create a muted palette best of all the mediums I have experimented with so far, but also for their ability to create the finer lines for the outlines of the objects. Again, I would be tempted to use pencil crayons for this piece due to their ability for fine detail, but would also be tempted to use markers as they are also able to produce finer lines, but also would add the boldness of colour that the pencil crayons would lack.

Other Works Compared

List of Illustrations

Fig. 1. Maler der Grabkammer des Menna, Ackerschreiber des Königs, Szene Opfergaben (circa 1422-1411 BCE) [Mural] At: (Accessed on 13 March 2019)

Fig. 2. Glass bowl of fruit and vases (around 70AD) [Roman wall painting in Pompeii] At: (Accessed on 12 March 2019)

Fig. 3. Van Ultrecht, A (1642) Vanitas Still Life with a Bouquet and a Skull [Oil on canvas] At: and (Accessed on 12 March 2019)

Fig. 4. Meléndez, L (circa 1771) Still Life with Apples, Grapes, Melons, Bread, Jug and Bottle [Oil on canvas] At: and,_Grapes,_Melons,_Bread,_Jug_and_Bottle_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg  (Accessed on 14 March 2019)

Fig. 5. Van Gogh, V (1888) Sunflowers or Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers [Oil on canvas] At: and (Accessed on 12 March 2019)

Fig. 6. Picasso, P (1912) Compotier avec Fruits violon et verre [charcoal, chalk, watercolour, oil paint and course charcoal on papers and cardboard] At:,_violon_et_verre.jpg and,_violon_et_verre.jpg (Accessed on 12 March 2019)

Fig. 7. Tran, G (2006) A completely synthetic, computer generated still life [computer-generated] At: (Accessed on 12 March 2019)

Fig. 8. Cezanne, P (1893) Curtain, Jug and Fruit Bowl [Oil on Canvas] At:,_Cruchon_et_Compotier (Accessed on 12 March 2019)

Fig. 9. Giocometti, A (1937) Still Life with an Apple [Oil on canvas] At: (Accessed on 13 March 2019)

Fig. 10.Morandi, G (1952) Natura Morta [Oil on canvas] At: (Accessed on 13 March 2019)


ArtNet (2018) ‘Phillips London’ [online] At: (Accessed on 13 March 2019)

My Modern Met (2018) ‘How Artists Have Kept Still Life Painting Alive Over Thousands of Years’ [online] At: (Accessed on 11 March 2019)

Omeka (Unknown) ‘WUSTL Digital Gateway Image Collections& Exhibitions: Vanitas Still Life with Flowers and Skull’ [online] At: (Accessed 13 March 2019)

Tate (unknown) ‘Giorgio Morandi’ [online] At: (Accessed on 13 March 2019)

Tate (unknown) ‘Still Life’ [online] At: (Accessed on 11 March 2019)

The Met (2019) ‘Still Life with an Apple, 1937’ [online] At: (Accessed on 14 March 2019)

Time Trips (unknown) ‘Still Life: A History’ [online] At: (Accessed on 11 March 2019)

Wikipedia (2019) ‘Alberto Giacometti’ [online] At: (Accessed on 13 March 2019)

Wikipedia (2018) ‘Adriaen van Utrecht’ [online] At: (Accessed on 13 March 2019)

Wikipedia (2019) ‘Gilles Tran’ [online] At: (Accessed on 13 March 2019)

Wikipedia (2019) ‘Paul Cezanne’ [online] At: (Accessed on 13 March 2019)

Wikipedia (2019) ‘Rideau, Cruchon et Compotier’ [online] At:,_Cruchon_et_Compotier (Accessed on 13 March 2019)

Wikipedia (2019) ‘Still Life’ [online] At: (Accessed on 11 March 2019)

Wikipedia (2019) ‘Sunflowers (Van Gogh Series)’ [online] At: (Accessed on 12 March 2019)

Wikipedia (2019) ‘Vanitas’ [online] At: (Accessed on 13 March 2019)

Wikipedia (2019) ‘Vincent van Gogh’ [online] At: (Accessed on 12 March 2019)

Part Two: Project One: Composition Research

Reason for Research

Composition is mentioned within this part of the course, so I decided to do a little research of my own to enrich the actual Research Point for this project, which requires me to look at and compare approaches of traditional and contemporary artists in their still life pieces so I would have a better understanding of what I should be questioning.


Composition is the arrangement of objects and their placement on the canvas in such a manner as to be both aesthetically pleasing to the artist, but also the viewer.  Composition has been a key part of all artwork throughout history, whether to increase the sense of balance in the piece or to work against it and, although our course manual advises there are no specific rules to follow, I found that some artists do, indeed,  follow some basic instruction or attempt to challenge the ‘rules’ others may generally follow, the ideas of which I will explain below:

Rules of Composition

There are several rules artists have followed throughout history to improve their responsiveness to the viewer.  Some of these rules (notably ones I wish to look into further in the future) are:

Rule of Thirds

Fig. 1.  Rule of Thirds (unknown)

This rule means dividing the page into nine equal squares / rectangles.  Images are then placed on or close to vertical and horizontal lines as these are meant to be the most aesthetically pleasing to the viewer.

Rule of Odds

Fig. 2. Rule of Odds (unknown)

It is thought that uneven numbers of objects are more pleasing to the eye than even numbers. 

Triangles have also been used in many pieces throughout history due to their uneven number of sides.  Triangles may be included in art as such things as apex roofs or even a group of three people sitting together in a hypothetical triangle shape.

Rule of Space

Fig. 3. Hornblower, K Rule of Space (2016)

This rule is used when the artist wishes the viewer’s focus to be drawn in a specific way or to create the idea of movement such as the subject of the painting looking towards a certain direction with a lot of open space toward the same direction or the subject’s eyes following the viewer as they move around the room.


Fig. 4. Hornblower, K Simplification (unknown)

I quite like this rule and believe I have used it quite regularly myself already without knowing the significance.  Being someone who does not really enjoy fine detail within their work, I tend to simplify backgrounds and other details of my work (such as simplifying writing and other finer details) anyway.

Geometry and Symmetry

Fig. 5. Niaz Composition with Cloud (2008)

This is another rule I think I use somewhat without realising within my work.  I rather enjoy symmetry within my pieces, but also enjoy challenging this (sometimes without meaning to if I haven’t measured my objects out correctly before beginning working into them and they then run off the page in places).


I decided to carry out some quick experiments with some of the rules and composition in general within my sketchbook, as shown below:


I find the whole concept of ‘rules’ rather daunting and understand why the course implies there aren’t any formal rules, but I have found that some of them do actually help me when considering how I want to display my pieces. This is definitely something I will try and consider moving forward, specifically the Rule of Thirds and the Rule of Odds. I think concentrating on too many of these ‘rules’ at once may become overwhelming and lead to a bit of a messy and overly complex composition.

NB: Citation for images used in my sketchbook can be found by clicking here.

List of Illustrations

Fig. 1. Rule of Thirds Landscape (unknown) [Photograph] At: (Accessed on 15 March 2019)

Fig. 2. Rule of Odds (unknown) [Photograph] At: (Accessed on 15 March 2019)

Fig. 3.  Hornblower, K Rule of Space (unknown) [Watercolour painting] At: (Accessed on 15 March 2019)

Fig. 4. Hornblower, K Simplify! (unknown)[Watercolour painting] At: (Accessed on 15 March 2019)

Fig. 5. Niaz Composition with Cloud (2007) At: (Accessed on 15 March 2019)


Naghi, L (2017) ‘Rule of Thirds’ In: [Online] At: (Accessed on 15 March 2019)

‘Rule of Odds: Three’s Company’ In: Composition [Online] At: (Accessed on 15 March 2019)

Hornblower, K (2016) ‘Hornblower Watercolours: The Ramblings of an Artist’ In: Keith [Online] At: (Accessed on 15 March 2019)

‘Composition (Visual Arts)’ In: At: (Accessed on 15 March 2019)