Posted in Coursework, Part 1

Project 2: Basic shapes and fundamental form

Reworked following part 2 tutor feedback.

Ex 1: Groups of Objects



  • What subject to choose?
    • The examples imply kitchen and household objects, but that isn’t stated as a requirement. There should be some simple geometric forms and others that are more complex.
    • Despite not requiring household objects they do fit the brief very well, and there is plenty of scope for interest.
    • An alternative might be ceramic materials. Maybe a bag of clay, some glaze buckets and ingredients etc. This could make for an interesting composition. There is then scope to incorporate a concrete floor or the bench behind it.
  • What surface to use?
    • It is stated A2 or A1, but encourages an imaginative use of materials.
    • Might be worth trying some of the paper we use as packing. Quite a robust material and probably suitable for use. In this case it would probably be worth having ripped edges rather than neatly cut to emphasise the “utilitarian” nature of the materials.
    • Similarly I have some yellowed wallpaper off-cut (I think its an underlay) which might make an interesting utilitarian material.
  • How to “loosely describe” the objects? How to achieve representation of “weight, transparency, shine, etc.”? How might the contents help in the depiction of the form?
    • The sample image is a line drawing, but the assignment doesn’t specify that it must be. Definitely could be lines with basic shading etc.
    • In this case I like the start I made in my practice drawing: Light outlines, then darken for the visible lines and lastly a bit of shading and context using a variety of line strengths etc to provide the interest.
    • The answer to the follow-on questions clearly relates to what is being drawn. In the case of a plastic
  • One colour is specified, but not the mark making material. What would fit the subject? What would I like to work with?
    • This partly depends on the material I’m drawing on. If I’m using a utilitarian surface then the mark making material needs to work with that. There
  • What context should the items be placed in? (What sitting on and in the background.)
    • For kitchen items the kitchen itself would make most sense. Possibly the worktop and back wall, for example.
    • For the clay materials the best context is the pottery or glazing/kiln room depending on whether I am drawing the making or firing.


I’ll need to do some preliminary drawings, but at the moment using a utilitarian drawing surface to depict the firing process and including the kiln, glaze ingredients, buckets and possibly a bag of clay seems like a worthwhile approach. There should be plenty of scope for interesting, as well as depicting regular and irregular forms. The next step would be to play with some basic composition ideas. Mark making material would then be charcoal, conte or graphite stick.

Trying it out

With that in mind I produced an initial “Conceptual” sketch, and then tried some basic compositions using appropriate objects. Finally, I found the packing paper, ripped some off and tried some experiments with it.

The packing paper works better than I expected. It has an interesting texture to it, but is fairly robust for mark making. The pencil (in the middle) doesn’t show up at all, and only the charcoal seems to behave correctly with the eraser. The ink pens and sharpie work better than I expected, with no bleeding into the paper. All of the charcoal, conte and ink work well in terms of how they look on the page, but the most the pencil could be used for is layout lines.

The next step is to experiment with describing the objects, and working out how to get an interesting picture that describes them well. One of the objects, for example, is a glaze material in a wrapper and then a plastic bag. That might be quite interesting to represent – even loosely.

Ceramic tools

Followed through the idea to a first full size image. There is quite a bit I like about it, but much room for improvement. The worst point is that the ladder to the right of the kiln is well out, but there are more subtle issues as well. I think I’ll move on to the next exercise for the moment, as I’m in danger of running out of time. It would be worth coming back to this idea if I get the time though, as I think there is scope for a very interesting image.

Its possible I need to treat this as a more formal perspective exercise for the initial mapping out. I could then add the details in a more free hand way. The would solve some of the projection issues.

Ex 2: Observing shadow using blocks of tone



I made a start with the next exercise despite not being fully happy with the last one yet. The featured image is the result.

I started by considering the assignment’s key features:

  • Lit from one side with a lamp;
  • 2 simple shaped objects.
  • Light and dark study. Shadow and shading considering reflected and direct light.
  • Large format drawing.

I decided to start with a white mug and coffee filter. Started by trying a series of positions and viewpoints. It was interesting to observe the way the reflected light on the cup.

I’m finding conte a challenge at the moment, as usage is somewhat different to charcoal. There are a number of errors in the ellipses, as there were in the other images so far. I also started by outlining the elements – which might have been a mistake.

My wife also made an interesting observation: I keep choosing odd and complex objects when simple ones are requested. I’m going to try a tea pot – as that might be more recognisable in general. I’m not sure I want to try toilet rolls again.


Two pots

Tried again with a new set up. Placed a ceramic vase and bottle on a board against the wall. Using the A2 sketchbook paper again, which is slightly yellow in tone with some tooth. I started the drawing by placing the objects and main shadows with a 3H pencil. I considered using light Conte strikes, but that has left lines that have become edges previously, and I wanted to avoid outlines.

From this pint I followed through the instructions with a 2B black Conte stick. Interestingly I’ve noticed these are more waxy than my others even though they are the same make.

I also used a stump and putty rubber. Without the stump the particles of the Conte weren’t going fully into the tooth. Extra pressure helped, but made the result very dark before the pores were filled.

The stump gives quite an interesting effect initially wit the black Conte – almost watery. After the forms and major shadow mid-tones were in place I tried to work with texture somewhat. The bottle had more of a glaze covering than the vase, which was interesting to render.

The shadows had a rich pattern of tone within it, which I tried to reproduce in an interesting way. I’m finding edges hard to get definition in without any outline. Eventually the black isn’t pulled up by the putty rubber any more.


As always there are some technical inaccuracies.  I do, however, quite like the final result. The worst of the technical errors is that the line of the shadow form the board they are placed on “dips” between the two pots. It should be just slightly higher to match the shadow right and left. The streaking of the background is (in many ways) an error, as observation didn’t show this. I do, however, like this one and think that it adds to the interest in the image.

Overall, I am beginning to enjoy the drawing of still life in this way. I can’t see me putting the time into it that Morandi did, but am finding the whole process interesting. A good job looking forward to part 2. This image also gives me a better concept of Odilon Redon’s work. Even a couple of pots becomes quite atmospheric when working in deep tomes of black like this.

Ex 3: Creating shadow using lines and marks



Experiment with using ball pen and line. I find the use of line for shading a bit of a challenge at the best of times, and so have practised this quite a bit previously:

Thus, this practice was partially to get back into the idea as a whole.

Line work

Trying different ways to represent shading and subtle details with line. This includes ball pen, pencil and fine liner.



It’s being a challenge, with quite a few variations to play with. In the two images above, for example, the major difference is the addition of a few ‘edge lines’. This makes the form easier to read, but interferes with the feeling of a 3D image. The image can be read without the separation lines, so it probably isn’t worth adding the lines.

Also I didn’t do a pencil outline before drawing the shading lines. In these last two images I did and rubbed them out late in the inking process. Was anything lost by taking this approach? I’m happier with the form that way.



Drawn on a train journey, based on a collection I had in my bag. The container has coffee powder in it. The shadows could have done with more work, but I got to my destination. I considered doing more from memory later, but couldn’t remember the shadows well enough.

Ex 4: Shadows and reflected lights


Trying to work out how best to approach this exercise. As an experiment I placed an A1 white sheet at the back to give a different look to the drawing. The back was curved so as to avoid a sharp line.

Key briefing elements:

  • use two objects with reflective surfaces
  • interesting interplay of light and shadow.
  • Charcoal and putty rubber
  • Use A1 or A2 paper with a tooth
  • bold strokes using the side of your charcoal
  • Show the reflected light and shade of one object falling on another
  • leave as little background space (‘negative’ space) as you can
  • Draw the basic pattern of shadow first
  • sweeps of charcoal and/or hatching marks and spots.
  • Observe the reflected pattern of light and shade and work it into the surface of the object.
  • Lift out the smallest lightest tones with the point of a putty rubber…
  • …use the sharpest edge of the charcoal or conté stick to add the smaller finer marks.

I tried various reflective items to see what worked. A crystal glass and Champagne bottle looked interesting, with the glass reflecting in the bottle and glass facets showing the bottle. I tried a subset of the image on an A4 page in my sketchbook as an experiment, and the featured image is the result. I didn’t mark in an initial outline in pencil.

img_4989My first issue is that the approach needs quite a bit of vigour in working and the page was moving too much. I taped the pad together to let me keep working, and will use a drawing board next time!

There are technical issues, such as the glass being lopsided, but my biggest problem with it was match to the brief. This states “Use A1 or A2 paper with a tooth so that you can do bold strokes using the side of your charcoal” and this subject will need fiddly and subtle manipulation to be successful. The reflection on the glass in the bottle is barely seen. The faceting and reflection in the glass will not go well with “bold strokes”.

I also started by giving the paper a light grey tone throughout using charcoal and stump, and then hoping to lift the charcoal to produce the lightest tones. Where the charcoal is stumped into the paper it isn’t lifting so well, and so producing the lightest tomes will require not putting the charcoal on them in the first place.

For my next attempt I tried a couple of more classically reflective items: A pan and a chopping knife. For context I placed them on a chopping board, but left the white paper described above in place. I played with the positioning of the objects for a while and found a position where I had some interesting reflections to drawn. In some ways it looked a bit like a smiley face.

This time I worked at A2 and didn’t use an initial wash of charcoal. I still didn’t use an initial pencil construction. The image below is the result:


First of all: The smiley face composition was definitely a mistake. As my wife said: It looks like a demented cyberman head. which was not the look i was hoping for. The lack of initial pencil outline is making this more challenging – as the charcoal lift is limited any mistakes in construction are hard to properly rectify. This means that early observational issues are hard to fix. To be honest the off-white paper used in Ex 2 is earlier to work with in many ways.

Looking at the example image and going back to the brief, however, neither pencil outline or the use of a stump is implied in the brief. In the next attempt I’ll try without either. The result will be less technical, and so I will need to focus on “good enough” technically and make it as expressive as possible.

The pan and knife work fairly well, but I don’t think the chopping board or the white paper help. In the former case it isn’t really adding much to the “reflected light and shadow. In the latter case it is causing the shadow to be distorted in a way that just makes the drawing look wrong – rather than adding interest.

I’ll remove those and trying again on the composition. I’ll also try to get more of the page to include the main subject items, and the “leave as little background space (‘negative’ space) as you can” instruction has pretty much been skipped. So, try again…

Try again

A2 Off white sketchbook paper with charcoal. I used the stump somewhat less, and tried to concentrate more on the overall feel rather than technical accuracy. To be honest I quite like the end result. There are definitely issues that I would try resolve if I get time to redo it. A significant one is that the brief calls for minimising negative space, whereas I went for a more balanced composition.

Technically the one that concerns me most is that I’m not totally happy with the angle if the pressure cooker’s handle. It looks slightly bent compared to the cooker body. Need to be slightly more careful on considering placement to fix that. The back curve of the pan lid also doesn’t quite fit.

Overall, however, I think I need to move on to the Assignment and come back to this if time allows.

2 thoughts on “Project 2: Basic shapes and fundamental form

  1. Hi David. I like how you’ve captured the shapes of the objects and reflections on the coffee cop. In particular the way your pen marks move around the objects give us a real sense of the items. Thanks for sharing. Georgie


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