Project 2: Exercise 3: Creating Shadow using Line and Marks

Basic Shapes and Forms

Before starting this exercise, I wanted to experiment using lines and marks to create shading on the basic shapes (circle, square, rectangle, ellipse and triangle) and forms (sphere, cube, cylinder and cone), as shown below.

I rather enjoyed doing this activity, but found it rather hard to keep some of the shapes looking flat (such as the circle / stippling) and to create enough depth in some of the forms (such as the sphere / stippling).  I tried to imagine the light’s direction coming from the right, casting shade to the left.  One thing I noticed here is my reluctance to let go of an outline in my work – for example, the circle / line and cube / line combinations did not feel obvious enough without the outline to the right-hand side.  Thinking back, I think I should have perhaps just added a little bit of delicate shadow from the right-hand side of the shape / form heading inwards to show the outline, or created a bit of delicate shade to the right of the outline, heading outwards.  The latter of the two would be the most realistic in real life I believe, as it would be shown in the detail of the background.  I really like how the cylinder / line and cylinder / cross-hatch combinations work – the end of the shape does look very flat and blunt, which I think is quite a success.  I was not too keen on the stippling as this took quite a toll on my hand, but I was able to let my tremor help quite a bit with creating the dots, which I found rather humorous!  I came to decide to only use stippling in small areas in future to avoid over-straining myself.

Single Object

I decided to work quickly for both parts of this exercise; not focussing on the finished piece fully resembling the real object or even realistic in appearance at all.  For the first part of the exercise, I chose a frosted glass vase and to work in pencil, willow charcoal, drawing pens and oil pastel.  I divided a page in my sketchbook into four and chose to draw the vase purely based on tone, using lines (both straight and curved), cross-hatching and stippling. 

I then went on to do a similar activity with three different mini plant pots.  I chose a different media (drawing ink, soft pastel and ball-point pen) for each plant to help me choose which media I preferred for the second part of my exercise.  I was quite frustrated with this part of the exercise.  My skill with the ink and pastel are somewhat limited and I found it hard to manipulate them well enough.  I was pleased with the outcome of the ink in the end as I think I managed to salvage the piece – I love the contrast between the darkest tone of the side of the pot and the lightness of the front of the pot and how it has come together to look like the actual shape of the pot instead of just flat on the page.  This is something I would like to work on and improve on.  I think I need to try a few more experiments with ink and pastels in the future to improve this skill.

With regard to the soft pastel, I was rather disappointed with this.  Again, my skill in this media is somewhat limited and requires practice.  Regardless, I allowed myself to use line freely and the end result does resemble the actual object somewhat. Again, I will work to improve my skill in this media.

The ball-point pen, however, I really enjoyed and allowed myself to get lost in.  I fully allowed my eye and my hand to go wild here.  I used line to show the wall reaching upwards in the background (perhaps I should have been lighter to avoid drawing the eye from the main focus of the plant).  I used cross-hatching on the vase to create a smooth appearance, but also to add depth and tone, whilst using a mixture of stippling and free movement of line to create the plant and shadow.  I think I should have done stippling for the shadow on the ground as there appears to be too much outline around the shadow which I believe makes it slightly unbelievable.  I decided to attempt that for my final piece for this exercise.

Group of Objects

I decided to create the final part of this exercise in drawing pen as this was a mix of ink and pen, together with a slight wash to help practice my ink skills some more.  I chose to work in expressive marks for the flowers and did not focus on the actual shapes in the flowers, but allowed my hand to just flow as it felt necessary.  I tried to recreate the cross-hatching for the vases and uses stippling for the shadow on the middle vase and a mix of stippling and expressive line for the soil in the first vase.  I thought the water would mix quite well with the ink, but was disappointed to find that it only lifted the ink very slightly.  Again, I put this down to a learning curve!  I was also rather disappointed with the mild shadow coming from the plants / vases and up the wall.  I think I had, again, included too much outline instead of blending them better.  I drew the objects first for this piece as they were my main focus, however, I think I should have mapped out on my page what should go where first as when I included the lines for the joining of the ledge to the wall behind it, I noticed it did not tally up with the real objects in some places.  I think by doing this I will also increase my skill of scaling and placement. 

This exercise strengthened my belief that my skills with charcoal and ink are still at a very novice stage and require more practice, which I will carry forward with me, whereas my strength in drawing pen and ballpoint pen is rather more advanced.  I don’t believe I have fully mastered the concept of light and reflected light, but have just been recording what I have seen.  My least favourite part of the exercise was definitely the stippling due to its demands on my arm and hand, so I do not think I will use this often in my work going forward, however, I do find it much easier with looser and broader media, so perhaps if I were to do more work in charcoal or ink (with a brush), it would be less demanding.  I have also learned that I need to stop drawing what I think should be in the piece (shadow’s outlines) and simply draw what is actually in front of me.

Finished group of plant pots

Project 2: Exercise 2: Observing Shadow using Blocks of Tone

I decided to begin this exercise with a quick rough sketch using charcoal to depict light and shadow on the basic shapes and forms, magnifying my favourites to enable broader strokes. I really like the sphere (bottom right) with only a touch of the lightest tone and think I have created depth rather well in this object considering it was only a very quick, barely controlled sketch! I was rather disappointed with my cubes as

Quick sketches of basic shapes and forms in charcoal

Since starting this course, I have been obsessed with the simplicity and tonal range of the lamp in my dining room so, seeing this as the perfect exercise to experiment with this object, I wanted to begin by playing with four different media; HB pencil, drawing pens, oil pastels and soft pastels.  I decided to do this experiment in my A4 sketchbook.  I had some A1 black paper so decided I would choose my favourite of the four experiments and invert the colours for my larger piece to use the page’s natural darkness for the areas of the piece which held the deepest shade and to add in the rest with the lighter colours.  I thought my favourite pieces would be the oil pastels or soft pastels due to their easy blending capabilities.

Dining Room Lamp

When creating my pieces, I soon realised my previous belief that the lamp and its surroundings were simple due to there being only three or four parts to the composition was very much misled!  It soon became apparent to me just how difficult the most basic of shapes, tone and composition can actually be to recreate!  I was actually really surprised by this revelation but decided to persevere regardless.  I found the pencil and the drawing pen the easiest to manipulate into going where I wanted them to go when drawing a rough guideline of the shapes and shadow placements, and also when finalising the solid outline of the stem of the lamp.  However, the pencil did not allow for any very deep and dark shading which was rather frustrating – it felt that no matter how hard or vigorously I pressed, the page just would not darken beyond a certain point.  The drawing pens, I found, were fantastic for the deep darkness I was yearning to achieve; however, I did not think the shading worked to best represent the smoothness of the walls and the lampshade.  I suppose I could have used just lines, but I still do not think this would have been good enough.

Looking at the two media I had originally thought would be my most successful, I was frustrated with the inability to create solid, sharp edges.  The shading of both was brilliant as I could blend them really well (the soft pastels much better than the oil pastels), but I loved the warmth the soft pastels gave off.  The whole picture just looked cosy and inviting (if slightly distorted in the piece) – precisely how I feel when I think of my home.  I decided this was the winner by far.

I carried out my inverted piece and was rather pleased with the end result.  I don’t think it was immediately obvious that it was a lamp – in fact, I even posted the picture in a group on social media and received a comment from someone believing the piece to be a glass!  I found this rather comical – I could have been upset or offended etc, but I actually thought it quite amusing and intriguing that someone had seen something in my piece that I had not intended to be there or even seen myself.  It gave me a brief insight into just how differently people interpret artwork.  I was, however, slightly disappointed in the final outcome due to having, ironically, an inverted issue with not being able to get the intensity I desired, this time in white.  I loved the blending of the colours and did this using my fingers to really get into the piece.  I think perhaps I could have used fixative and then built the deepest white areas up layer by layer to intensify their vibrancy.

I looked at the exercise again and saw there was a requirement to use two or more objects, so decided to create another piece.  I wanted to work quickly on this piece and without too much restriction on myself – I have seen this whole process so far as just quick, rough experiments as opposed to official, structured drawings.  I have been more concerned with the process than the end result.  I chose three light coloured items: a food dish, a tissue and a candle and placed them on my kitchen worktop.  The lighting was poor in the surrounding vicinity due to it being night-time and the only lighting was high above.  My kitchen worktop, however, had spotlights just underneath the overhead cupboards, so I thought this would work much better in casting shadows, if only from an angle I was not so accustomed to. 

I had a play on an A2 sheet with willow charcoal and, due to the warmth and ambience of the night-time around me, decided to smudge the edging of the piece.  I chose to do this after seeing the result of my earlier piece of the lamp’s glow and the warmth that held. 

Besides a few issues with the structure of the objects, I was actually rather pleased with the final result as I think I caught the shading rather well.  I had a comment as to the kitchen tiles and that they were rather obvious in their description.  I noticed when looking back at the end that the shape of the square bowl could have been much better laid out and made to look much more realistic with some more lighter and darker areas due to the reflective surface which, again, I think is a result of not measuring or taking time and care in the planning of the piece. I also think there is a large element of ‘practice makes perfect’!

Overall, I really enjoyed the process of not so much drawing the piece, but drawing it through the block colours and shading and just adding the finer details of the outline in the end.  I will definitely use this again further on in my journey as I have always generally drawn first, added detail and then added shade and light, but actually found it rather refreshing to reverse my methods.  Even though my initial piece was misconstrued by a member of the public, I won’t see this as too much of a mistake but more a learning curve of perhaps asking myself how I can try and portray the piece more realistically and tell the viewer what its actual purpose is clearer, or to even work on enhancing the lack of instant recognisability dependent upon the piece I am creating and the purpose it is to fulfil.