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.