Still life in tone using colour

Project 2: Still life

Exercise 2: Still life using colour

I looked forward to this exercise, as I have recently started experimenting with pastels more, and have been finding that it is a medium I really enjoy working in.

I wasn’t really sure how best to approach this exercise, or what was expected of me. According to the instructions in the course handbook, this exercise involved setting up a still life group, and sketching the dark, light and mid tones in different colours. I read this as three different colours, but then wasn’t sure how this would work.

As it is, my first still life attempt, which was on approximately A3 sized sugar paper, used varying shades of three colours: green, yellow and purple.


Fig. 1 – Wine glass and bottle

I noted in part 1 that I was keen to work on my skills in drawing reflective surfaces, so I chose a wine glass and bottle to draw. I set them up on a windowsill in my room, as the white shelf and cream curtains provided a background that wasn’t too distracting. Looking at it after I stopped drawing, I don’t think it is energetic enough – in blending colours to try to capture the reflections, I lost some of the bolder lines that I started out with as I started drawing. I am however, feeling pretty happy with how the reflection on the wine glass – particularly with the lighter colours in it.

As well as the wine glass and bottle, I also had my weekly pastel session, which this week I was happy to find out involved still life drawing.


Fig. 2 – Sloe gin and glasses

This drawing took just under two hours to complete, and I used an even more limited palette of colours – consisting mostly of reds, purples and yellows. Once again, I think I may have blended a little too much and lost some of the marks, but the lines are more prominent in this drawing than in my earlier one.

This may in part be due to technique, but also could be attributed to the types/brands of pastels I used: for this drawing I used Conté pastels almost exclusively, which were a bit firmer than my mix of very soft pastels (a range which includes Faber-Castell, Derwent, Berol and numerous unbranded chalks).

After rereading the Exercise instructions again, I decided to have a go at doing a couple of sketches in my sketchbook, with three completely different colours and follow the instructions literally: firstly using one colour to draw the darker areas, another colour to shade in the mid tones and another to colour the light tones.

Fig. 3. Sketchbook sketches

Fig. 3 is a photo of two pages from my sketchbook. The first one, on the left was completed using coloured pencils. The soft leads worked well with the grain on the paper in the book, but I didn’t think they would have been as effective on a larger scale. The second one was done really quickly – I didn’t allow myself more than 10-15 mind for this one, which is probably why the wine glass is on the wonk! I used Conté crayons for this, and chose to use primary colours for their boldness.

I found that by shading in this way, focusing on darks, mid tones and lights, I started looking at the objects in a different way, and focusing on them in a different way. I found using colour made me think more about line and tone.


One thought on “Still life in tone using colour

  1. Great pastel drawings. the first one particularly is great regarding tone and observation. and love the colours of the second . I also found in this course that soft pastels are brilliant. The colours are so vibrant. I use them a lot on top of other drawings or photographs or mixed media backgrounds with a layer of clear gesso beneath to give some ‘tooth’ and I find unison and schminke (no idea how to spell) have the best covering power and most intense colours. think they have more pigment in them – cost an arm and a leg – but you can buy them individually from Jacksons (at least you can buy unison).

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