Life Drawing Class: Week 4

Pen, brush and ink.  1 min to 30 minute poses, all A2.

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JMW Turner – Adventures in Colour

I visited this exhibition in January at Turner Contemporary, Margate.  The exhibition explored Turner’s use of colour, his experimental techniques, his engagement with colour theory and use of new paint pigments.  I was hoping to see his watercolours and sketchbooks and was not disappointed.  I wrote about two of the pictures in my sketchbook.

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One of the things that came out of this exhibition for me was how the simple nature of the marks in his sketches would still make the image recognisable and how he could capture the atmosphere of the place by his use of colour.  These are both aspects I need to incorporate in my own sketches in order to remove that feeling that I need to produce a perfect image of the visual appearance.

Proj 2, Ex. 2: Still Life using colour

For this exercise I had an idea in my head about how far removed we are from our food sources.  I know things have got better in the last few years for some people in knowing where their food comes from but I think there is still huge proportion of the population who for one reason or another (often linked to income) have no idea what goes into their food or the source of that food.  As I was looking at my beach finds I kept looking at the shell of a crab I had picked up.  I then thought about crab sticks and how some time ago how I overheard someone saying how they like the taste of the crab in the sticks.  Crab sticks contain little or no actual crab meat but are mainly made of surimi (ground and processed meat of white fish – usually pollock) and starches.  I decided to combine crab and crab sticks into a drawing.

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I decided to use coloured pencils for this drawing on A3 paper.  I put the crab on top of the crab sticks to provide a link between the two but to place them on the end of a shelf and draw them high on the otherwise empty page so the viewer would question why they are balanced in that manner.  Is it about the two or about the perilous state of our food chain?  I wanted the viewer to construct their own narrative.

When I viewed the image against the brief for this exercise I realised it did not really meet the brief of adding layers of colour, varying my marks and working quite spontaneously.  I therefore decided to draw another image using these criteria.  I had collected egg cases (catshark, ray and whelk) on the beach and thought the image would show that life goes on.

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I used A2 paper and Conte crayons for this image, using both the side and ends of the sticks.  I also tried to vary the marks, be more energetic and layer the colours more in order to fulfil the brief.  This has worked better on the catshark egg cases on the left than on the ray and whelk cases to the right.

Proj 2, Ex. 1: Still life using line (Extension)

Whilst undertaking my research into the still-life genre I came across this image by Juan Sanchez Cotan.  What intrigued me about this image was the unusual composition with the items tiered into an almost hierarchy.  It did not depict wealth or status like many of the Dutch still life of the similar period, but rather, just a tiered arrangement of items which work both as individual items and as a group.  Cotan made a series of similar images of objects in boxes with some suspended.

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Juan Sanchez Cotan, Still Life with Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber, c1602 (290 cm x 239 cm)

I decided to recreate this image using my found beach items.  The first decision was to select the items to display.  I wanted a mixture of organic and non-organic items and eventually choose a partial crab shell, a large bi-valve shell, a crushed beer can, a crushed top of a sports water bottle and a spiral piece of piping.  I made a display box out of black foam board and started to play with the arrangement of the items.  After some time I made a decision to have the organic items hanging from the thread (to symbolise that life in the sea is hanging on by a thread with climate change, sea pollution, over-fishing, etc.) and the non-organic firmly placed on the shelf, representing that these things come from the land (terra firma).  After hanging the items I found that the crab shell was not big enough or the right shape so I substituted a different shell.

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I wanted to use predominately line for this drawing and decided to create the background first.  Initially I was going to create the whole image using a free hand hatching technique, however, due to the size of the drawing and the large amount of dark background needed, I decided to use a ruler for the lines of the background, box and shadows, varying the number of cross-hatch lines to create the areas of different tones (whilst the floor of the box is lighter in my image than in reality I made this choice to make a clear distinction between the various areas of the image).  This left the space for the actual items, in an almost reversal of the positive and negative shapes.  I liked these clear white areas and whilst originally I was going to draw the items in a gestural manner in ink, to contrast with the ruled background, I decided instead to just draw them with a light pencil lines to suggest their main internal structure.

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Whilst this was just an extension of the exercise I liked the result, especially the background and the shadows.  The almost reversal of the positive and negative spaces make the drawing different and interesting.  The items themselves have no external drawn outline as the shapes are created by the ruled lines of the background.