Exercise: A drawing with textures

Vintage evening bags - fabric, sequins, beads

Three vintage evening bags: fabric; sequins; beads.

I chose three vintage handbags for this exercise – one made from embroidered fabric, one sequined and a beaded bag. I started by looking very closely at each of the objects to understand their characteristics, study the light and shadow and consider the colours and drawing mediums that would do the job best.

  • All three bags are old, probably from the 50s, they’ve seen a bit of life and are from a glamorous age. They are delicate and very detailed. I didn’t set myself an easy task here…
  • The fabric bag has an embroidered gold pattern that is very slightly light reflective. Some areas are a bit grubby. Looks like it was someone’s favourite and that it went to a lot of parties.
  • The sequined bag has lost much of its shine and gloss with age but the blue sequins still shine bright.
  • The beaded bag has shiny diamante studs and lovely shadows where it falls into folds. The beads create pleasing, regular lines.

Colours – a muted palette of beige, gold, old white, dark blue, silver grey. Nothing too bright and vibrant as the colours have faded with time and wear.

bags-compositionMy next step was to consider the composition and I did a couple of rough sketches to help me decide. I opted for the second approach because of the way it filled the space and I felt I could follow the complex patterns more easily (without my head spinning too much) if the bags were not angled. I put the bags on a low table so that I was looking down at them.

bags-experimentsThen I experimented with how I might create the different textures.

For the beaded bag I used pencil lines hatched to represent fabric and a drew the pattern stitch by stitch by horizontal stitch with a drawing pen. I used a charcoal pen to create shadow and the marks of wear and put a very dilute yellow ink wash over, taking care to retain areas of light. I dabbed a second layer of yellow here and there to give a little more intensity as a highlight where needed.

For the sequin bag – I drew the sequins in pencil, outlined the beaded edges with drawing pen and then used charcoal pencil for shadow and a yellow / blue ink wash over.

For the beaded bag I drew the individual beads in pencil for the white and drawing pen for the blue. I put a water wash over the white beads and a greyish/blue ink wash over the darker beads. In the final picture, I used a putty rubber to lighten some areas of the white beads to create the folds. This technique worked even if it was hard to make myself rub out a lot of the beads I had so painstakingly drawn! 

I got quite nervous about messing this picture up as I was working on it and was glad that I had developed an approach to the different textures in my sketch book. I would have been really cross with myself had I gone wrong with bag number three. This took about 12 hours in total, much more time than I had planned to put into this exercise and I’m running well behind my schedule as it is. But, I liked working on these evening bags and thinking about the places they had been and they people they may have adorned. It was an absorbing project.

I  feel the end result represents the different textures and characteristics of the bags reasonably well. Looking at this now, I wish that I had experimented more with the background in my sketch book. The shadows created with charcoal pencil look a bit rough and ready compared to the the bag… but then again, maybe the contrast works. I’m to close to this picture to be able to tell.

Check and log

Have you discovered any new ways of using your drawing tools to depict surface and texture?

Yes, I found a multi-media approach using pencil, drawing pen, charcoal pencil and ink wash helped me to depict surface and texture. I also discovered that I could draw both under and over the ink wash for different effects. E.g. very subtle weave of fabric in pencil under the ink wash and deepening of shadow and areas of wear  using pencil, pen or charcoal pencil, over the ink wash.

How successful were you at implying the form with little or no tonal hatching?

Reasonably successful. The exercises and preliminary work were useful to develop a range of different ways to depict form. I found using colour helped too. Areas of reflected light on textured objects can be very subtle but they are also important and I tried to capture them in my texture drawing.

What are your impressions of frottage as a drawing technique?

I love frottage. I have been experimenting with it for use on backgrounds in my assignment. In fact I decided not to use it as it was overwhelming my pencil drawn image, so there’s a lesson in that. But I think there’s incredibly exciting scope to use frottage in collage, to create complete pictures and to integrate interesting areas of texture in other images. It’s more controllable and flexible than I originally thought. I’d certainly like to weave some frottage into my future work, or should I say rub some in!


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