Posted in Coursework, Part 2

Project 3 Ex 2: Still life in colour and tone

My wife says that this set of still life images has given me a vegetable fixation. Between the research on cabbages in art and the following I suspect you’ll see her point:

As part of thinking through a composition one of my first steps in to take photos from different angles and viewpoints to see what I like. These images are some of the ones I’ve taken along the way.

For various reasons the colour and tone exercise came to the fore before the line exercise. Specifically, colour worries me – and rightfully so. Work I’ve done in colour hasn’t always gone so well. The last exercise is possibly a case in point, and you can see the path of my other colour work on my blog.

Working on it

Following on from that exercise I ended up settling on the single broccoli stem as an idea. A large element in this choice was that it was complex in itself, without being overly so.

The experiments and set up for these exercises go back quite a way, as can be seen in the composition blog post previously. I’ve then been doing experiments with different media and paper.

The following shows some of my experiments:

With the pencil experiments I’m beginning to understand the focus in paper. I tried drawing on Bristol Board, but it doesn’t pick up the coloured pencil properly. Normal sketchbook paper picks up some of the pencils but not others, so I decided to go with the multimedia paper for this study: The tooth in the paper picks up the colour well.

My next big challenge was around range of colours. I’ve already mentioned my watercolour pencils, but I want to work dry for this. In the end I decided to pick up some Prismacolor pencils, as the previous ones I had weren’t working that well.

Next came breaking points, which I initially thought might either be that the pencils were damaged in transit or that my sharpening approach was poor. Over time, however, it happened less and less – so I guess it was the operator’s fault!

I worked in a more structured fashion for this image. Setting in a light outline, partially using a grid, and then working left to right and top to bottom. The broccoli got slightly ahead of the background – but I found I was smudging the image if I tried to work in a random fashion.

I also found that the colours don’t really blend in the way that pastels so. You can hatch different colours next to each other, but not really blend them. Also colours don’t work that well on top of each other. They are waxy, and the second layer doesn’t really lay down – which takes a bit more planning to get the result you want.

The following shows the result of the work:


I’m happier with it than I have been with previous works, though still feel I have a way to go. I tried to stick with a realistic look without heading to photo-realism. I done some “in situ” editing of the composition, as you’ll see if you compare it to the earlier photograph. The idea was to do something more like Louisa Matthíasdóttir than the other cabbage artists.

I  started out using hatching and cross hatching, but wasn’t achieving the depth of colour I wanted and so had to work with quite a bit of pressure on the point. That combined with a side on pencil was part of the reason for the broken leads. I think the choice of multimedia paper was also sub-optimal. My search for a good paper will need to continue for future pencil work. I also found that the pencil colour lifts off the paper somewhat, and so had to protect the work more during working on it. (Don’t let a cat scent against a partially complete picture. It leads to rework.) I also decided to use fixative on the final work.

The feel of the form and depth of colour both need further work in future images which I’m trying to get depth. Both are somewhat believable, but not as strong as I would have liked. The head of the broccoli and the lighting of it, for example, is less believable than I was hoping for.

My preparatory work is improving, but there is still plenty of scope for improvement. The effect of colour changing as the colours it is in context with are applied is beginning to make a little more sense, and I’m starting to experiment more and think through issues up front. To be honest the plan worked fairly well overall. The result was close to what I was looking for, though I may be finished with drawing broccoli for a while.


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