Project 2: Still Life

Exercise 4: Monochrome

I found this exercise quite difficult to tackle initially. The requirements for this one were to set up a still life combining natural and man-made objects and to work towards creating an image in a single colour. As well as this, I thought about the medium I was using, specifically whether it suited my subject.

The example image in the course handbook showed an image of mackerel on a blue painted plate. The subject I chose to revisit was one that I had enjoyed sketching in my sketchbook earlier in the course.

Figure 1 – mushrooms

It was actually the lighting on a small bowl of mushrooms that caught my attention – in particular, the combination of blue lighting from the kitchen window and the warm yellow lighting from the other side of the room (Figure 1).

Once I’d chosen my subject to set up, I started looking at composition and styles of sketching.


Figure 2 – sketching

The first attempt I had was to sketch using pen and ink, this time with red ink. While I really liked the effect of the lines, it wasn’t what I had in mind for this exercise.

I used a variety of materials to sketch the mushrooms and try out some effects, including pen and ink, coloured pencil, conté crayon, and chalk pastel.


Figure 3 – sketching with various materials

After deciding I liked the effect of the chalk pastels better for this exercise, which I will be on A3 paper, I sketched some compositional drawings in my sketchbook with brown conté crayon to try to get an idea of how to fill the space.


Figure 4 – Composition sketches

Compositional sketches are something I quite often forget to do, but I am trying to get in the habit of looking at this first, or even taking and cropping photographs to see how best to fill the space. In Part One of the course, I often forgot this and ended up with some random expanses, particularly in my larger drawings, and it is something I am considering more!

When looking at my initial sketches, I decided that I would be sketching from above, not from the side, so you could see more of a difference with textures between the knife, bowl and the mushrooms.

After sketching four options, I considered how I wanted my finished drawing to look. I eventually decided that I liked the second one, with the knife leading the eye in from the top right corner towards the bowl of mushrooms in the bottom left. I then went back to my original sketches and had a doodle with both red and blue shades on a piece of scrap paper and decided that I preferred to work in blue than in red, as it gave the overall picture a ‘colder’ feel to it, which I felt worked a lot better for the knife in particular.


Figure 5 – Monochrome (Exercise 4)

To differenciate between the man-made and natural objects, particularly when showing the smoothness of the knife and bowl, I chose to blend the pastels more for these, and keep the lines and shading rough with the mushrooms. I used quite a heavy paper with a rougher surface than in some of my previous exercises, which I think worked better with the pastel, and gave it something to grip to.

I think I have captured the shadows quite well with this, and used a good range of tones using a single colour, but do feel that there is something slightly off about the knife – this may be because of how I was positioned when I was drawing (it’s quite difficult to stay in the same position looking down at a composition, so there may have been a little bit of movement as I adjusted between looking at the objects and drawing. Now that its finished and I’ve stepped back and looked at it, I do feel that it could probably be cropped a bit further to cut out some of the bowl:


Figure 6 – Monochrome (Exercise 4) – Digitally Cropped


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