Once I had decided on a still life arrangement, which took some time and experimentation, I realised that I would have to use some licence with the flowers and leaves because try as I might, I could not get them to ‘behave’ and fill the space in a totally pleasing way.
I did some composition sketches to consider how I might frame the overall picture and the placement of the individual flowers in particular. While all the elements of my final picture are drawn from my still life arrangement, I shifted the ivy leaves and the individual flowers around on the paper to make better use of the picture plane / negative space.
I experimented with using oil pastels and ink, and coloured pencils and ink. The coloured pencils gave a rather ‘botanical look which wasn’t what I was aiming for as I wanted a more expressive, loose picture. My experiments showed that the oil pastel/ink combination could work, particularly for the texture in the statue. I feel I chose the right media and after several attempts (not shown here) I have come reasonably close to the outcome I was aiming for.
Both the oil pastels and the inks were very unforgiving. I found I could only outline the very broad shapes in pencil without marks showing through so I had to draw with the oil pastel. This has helped to give the picture some fluidity but it was only with trial and error that I was able to bring all parts of the picture together.
Frustratingly, I feel that my original quick study is the better picture (with the noise cut out) and try as I might I could not reproduce all the elements of this as well as I would have liked – such as the statue showing through the ivy leaves and the negative space between the statue and the flower.
Other issues with my final picture are that the nose of the statue is a little long – I found from my earlier attempts that making corrections using this combination of media tended to make things worse so I left it alone. I found myself wondering whether there was too much ivy in the foreground and whether the composition might have worked better with some of this cropped out, as per the photo on the left.
However, looking at my final picture again I feel there is a nice balance between the three main elements (flower, statue, ivy) and they interlink in quite pleasing way. In my experiments with composition I had considered dropping the picture frame completely…
My decision to retain the picture frame was based on creating a sense of depth and also as a clue to the fact that the second statue is a reflection. I deliberately did not include any reflections other than the statue as I felt these would have been overwhelming.
I had already had two abortive attempts at my final picture so I resisted the urge to draw it again to resolve the issues identified, both because of the approaching deadline and also because I felt my work was becoming more rigid and I was losing the spontaneity of the first version.
I put a lot of energy and time into this picture and I’m pleased that I have had a go at using techniques that have taken me out of my comfort zone even if I’ve some way to go to hone my skill. I used some frottage for the mirror frame and I feel this works (even though the jury is still out in my mind as to whether I should have included the frame). I’ve learnt to be sparing in the use of the technique as a little goes a long way as illustrated in my initial study.
How well have I met the requirements of the assignment?
- An understanding of the use of colour in drawing. I’m reasonably happy with the use of colour. Initially I was troubled by how to pull the colours together across the complete picture. The original flowers were pink but I made them more rose/orange in order to make the overall colour palette cohesive.
- An understanding of the most appropriate choice of medium for the subject and skill in using it. Oil pastel/ink was a good choice of medium but not easy to work with as discussed above. I discovered many things during the learning process including:
- Very textured paper did not give the right balance of ink and oil pastel (the ink took over as it was absorbed readily by the paper whereas the oil pastel sat on the top layer only)
- It is difficult if not impossible to add oil pastel highlights after over painting with the ink because they appear grey and dull. This meant I had to include the highlights during the initial drawing even though I couldn’t see them until applying the ink later.
- My cheap oil pastels worked better with the inks than more expensive ones which were oilier and stickier, better for blending but not so good for a wax resist technique.
I certainly had more skill at the end of the exercise than at the start but there’s plenty of room for development. In particular, I found focusing on drawing in oil pastel and ensuring I captured the highlights, at the same time as attempting to retain the integrity of the overall composition was very difficult.
I feel this still life arrangement could work as a more subtle and detailed picture drawn simply with pencil but this assignment was about using colour.
- The ability to set up an interesting composition. I think this does succeed in being an interesting composition (more so than my past efforts) although I am still undecided about whether including the mirror frame was the right decision or not. I feel there is a good balance between the three main picture elements and that the dark areas are not wasted spaces but quite an integral part of the picture.
- Variety in mark making, depth, contrast, tone. I did struggle with shadow and light, partly because of the difficulty in controlling the outcome with my choice of media, and as a consequence the sense of depth is not great. Also there could be more intensity of colour in the ivy leaves. Capturing light on the ivy leaves was difficult as every leaf is at a different angle and some lie flatter than others, with the result that the light patterns are different for each leaf.
- Accuracy and demonstrable understanding of form. Reasonable (I hope) – I drew the flowers quickly with the oil pastels aiming for fluid lines rather than exact botanical representation and I hope I’ve captured their character if not fine detail. The very top flower looks a little wooden – that may be to do with overplaying the light on the left petal.