Exercise: Composition of natural objects

For this exercise I chose a plain white plate, two red chillis and a green chilli, together with a spray of small orange/red roses. I was aiming for simple red and green colour palette. I experimented with the composition as follows:

  • using a white plate and white background to create a light, airy image; using a darker background to create contrast
  • with the position and arrangement of the flowers and chillis, e.g. red, green red, or two reds together for the chillis, whether to keep components separate or overlapping
  • explored the different play of shadows
  • using the whole plate or part of the plate
  • using the chillis on their own.


Then I decided I didn’t really like any of the compositions because a still life of chillis and roses somehow wasn’t making sense. I’d settled on a preference for the arrangement of the chillis and then replaced the roses with a sprig of basil and did another thumbnail, which I was happy with as the earlier work had helped to develop my ideas. I added a dark background because  I liked the stark contrast with the plate and added some red into the background to reflect the red in the chillis.


Final picture:


This final picture uses sketching pen and watercolour pencils (with a wash over). It was lit from the right. The picture is darker than I had intended and I think perhaps had I worked more in my preliminary sketches on the areas of light I might have avoided this. But I’m not entirely unhappy as there are  elements that work quite well.

  • the sharp contrast with the plate
  • use of a different hatching technique for the background
  • the red chillis even though quite dark have definite form and shadow.

Things that could be better:

  • the green chilli looks blobby because I’ve not captured the shadow and light patterns well
  • the shadow cast by the chillis on the plate is too dark and could perhaps have been done with a finer pen and wider spaced hatching. This would have lightened up the picture and improved the contrast.

Note to self: dig out the finer sketching pens I bought last year as using different pens for different areas  will help to create variety in shaded areas.


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