Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Drawing a still life

When I was taking drawing classes in college we drew still lifes (or is it still lives? I've never known.) day after day. They would be a collection of objects set up on  a table with a light pointed at the assemblage. We would draw, then move and draw from a different angle. Drawing a still life is good practice at expressing shape and volume in a drawing. If you want to draw a still life, just set up a few items—three is good for a start—choosing items of differing sizes, shapes and values. It is good to have them overlapping.

Start by observing the basic shapes. See where the ovals are, the circles, the cylinders, cubes, pyramids, etc. Think of them in terms of three dimensional shapes, not just flat lines around the shape. Start by lightly drawing those shapes, paying attention to where they overlap, what the proportion of each shape is. I like to draw a full oval, for example at the base of the pieces. You get a nice feel for how it sits on the surface when you do that. Imagine more than what you see from your perspective. Imagine the back and the bottom and where the lines go as they disappear around the curve.

Once you are satisfied that everything is where it should be, the curves are right, the objects feel like they have some depth, then use a darker drawing pencil to begin to outline each shape. You can erase most of those preliminary lines once the outlines are in place. No need to get too obsessive about erasing. Just clean it up a bit.
Now start looking at how the value changes in each item, according to the lighting and the shape and start working in some soft shading with the side of the pencil. You can blend the pencil with a fingertip or a bit of wadded up tissue if you like.

Reflective surfaces always have highlights that look white. You can use a corner of your eraser to pick out those highlights, then clean up around the edges of things with your eraser and use your pencil to sharpen edges where they have gotten smudged or blended into the adjoining shapes.

I chose not to deal with the background for this drawing, but I added the shadows under each object. The shadows ground the objects and establish the idea that they are sitting on a solid surface rather than floating in air!

I can see some problems with this drawing. The white bowl isn't quite right and the base of it, especially, doesn't seem centered, but I am finished with this drawing. I will know a bit more about what to work on and observe more carefully when I do another.

1 comment:

  1. Great idea, Terry! Everybody I ever encountered was scared to death of drawing, and simply wouldn't believe that the more you do the better you get. They all said you have to have talent, I countered with nope, you have to have eyes! Once the eyes are working, it becomes fun, so you do more and then even more and whammo- somebody says 'You Have Talent! (which of course drives you to more drawing...) LOL Nice beginning on your new blog- I'll be following along with you.