I approached this exercise to expand and explore how different materials can describe certain textures, surfaces and colours.
I chose the still life objects to contrast with each other in colour and texture and put together a smooth, shiny, black worn leather boot, a hard, solid mottled grey pestle and mortar and a few soft, vibrant yellow bananas. Setting this on a blue towel as a background I achieved a interesting contrast in their appearance and a varied set of textured surfaces to work with.
My aim was to do a number of studies of the still life, and, not concentrating too much on detail and accuracy, but more on expression of the objects and their properties. Also, to make things a bit more interesting, each piece was viewed at a different angle and/or a different scale.
Full frontal view in coloured pencil and pen. Although lacking in depth, I liked the sharp contrast between the solid pen lines and the soft fade of the pencil, giving it an almost cartoon like humour, as well as serious and precise feel of an illustration.
This has given spark to a development of this technique with the addition of water colour to give it added depth and bring it to life.
Not too familiar with watercolour I gave it a go and found I made a good few mistakes. I could picture how I wanted it to turnout, but my first attempts were unworkable.
I’d laid some of the paint on too thick and found it difficult to overlay the pencil and my colour mixing was not uniform. Applying the watercolour first, then the pencil, then the pen proved a problem, and to get the effect I was imagining I started trying it pen first, then watercolour, then pencil. I used this piece to experiment a little and learn from the mistakes, getting a bit more familiar with the techniques of watercolour.
Soon realising that to get the effect I was looking for I had to apply the watercolour very thinly and build it up slowly in transparent layers to construct a vibrant, radiant effect. This needed a little experimentation so I went back to the drawing board, exploring different effects and techniques I could achieve.
Studying a colour mixing book ‘1500 Colour Mixing Recipes’ by William F. Powell To help me get a better idea of colour relationships and mixing colour really helped this process. I was determined to get the effect that I had in my head onto paper but this was going to take a little (lot) of trial and error so I put the watercolours down to explore some collage techniques.
Attempting something a little more abstract, and focusing solely on experimenting with materials, in this piece I used muslin cloth for the towel, then highlighted it with acrylic giving the effect if light and shade. For the bananas I used reflective silver paper and loosely splashed water colour onto it to emphasise the vibrancy of the colour and the smoothness of the texture.
With the boot I used crumpled brown paper which described the texture well, but the surface seem to reject pencil, graphite, oil pastel and water colour. However I roughly applied the water colour and got quite a nice ghost like fade to it that made it look like a boot that’d been splashed with mud. Using conte sticks on newspaper to illustrate the pestle and mortar, I then dripped melted wax crayons over it to give it to express the mottled effect. Apart from the fact that I did it outside and the wind was blowing, in more controlled conditions I’d like to use this technique again. Also, by washing water colour over it the wax rejected it into small globules of paint which dried into a nice splattered effect.
Following the collage idea I started to experiment with stencils and negative space. This interested me because I liked the sharp contrasts you can achieve between the spaces, and the question marks left when viewing an empty silhouette. I decided to hone in on the idea of layers and started exploring different ways to express the objects by seperating them in layers of stencils.
After a lot more experimentation I was getting closer to what I wanted and I was starting to get the hang of mixing the colours and applying the paint.
From here I went back to the original composition and worked on a few ideas how to render the textures for the different objects. Using the wet on wet technique on the pestle and mortar I dabbed 3 shades of a blue/grey mix to give a mottled effect, similar to the dot technique I used for the monochrome piece, then outlined and separated each shade with a biro to give the granite effect.
The bananas I used a dry/wet to give a vibrant smoothness which I rendered with coloured pencil and for the boot I did a dry/wet, then layered and faded another wet layer to give a gradient, adding tone and shade with coloured pencil, biro, and conte stick for some highlights. The background was applied with undiluted watercolour and acrylic.
Each object in the finished piece seems to stand out from each other, which adds to the contrasting colours giving it a vivid, dynamic feel.
Pleased with the outcome with regards to the technique I managed to develop getting closer to what I envisaged. Intending to push this in the future I’ll be able to refine it with other subjects, and I feel much more competent with watercolour. Having not really used it before I became attracted to it’s fluid style, ability to both fade and cut clear solid lines, vibrancy of hue with layering, and the ways to tease and manipulate it, I’ve finally gained a respect for the medium and will be using and developing it a lot in the future. This composition was one of my favourites due to the movement in the whole picture and especially the contrast between the colours and textures, which is what I was aiming to accentuate from the beginning. The positive and negative layers are also something to push forward with in future projects.