How to Draw

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Category: Still Life

Putting a Still Life Together Part 2

Also, because you are not bound to stick to either the real shape or the real tones of the objects, you will be less likely to feel inhibited or frustrated about the result. On the contrary, you will enjoy doing it and in the process, be learning about the nature of the objects you are trying to depict.

All painters at some time have realized that to pierce the heart of visual reality some method or other has to be employed to render it in paint. A mere copying of the lights and darks produces a dullness that could best be achieved by a camera, and it is not very exciting to compete with a camera. To do justice to reality means a host of unusual procedures to make a multicolored, spatial, time-encompassed reality fit into a flat rectangle.

One of these methods was invented by a group of artists fifty years ago who earned the label Cubists. It is strange to think that Cubism, the forerunner of all modern art, was evolved as long ago as fifty years, but though Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso are old men now, the ideas they put forward are just as fresh today as when they were first discovered.

The exercise you have just completed has certain affinities with cubism. When you see a picture in a gallery or a museum that is Cubist in origin you will have some inkling of what it is all about. And so it will be with the next exercise.

Building up a pictorial image of flat areas of color is only one method of painting. Another method is to break up your color into dabs of separate brush strokes of differing color and tone as the Impressionists did.

I have pointed out the necessity of keeping all your brush marks crisp and direct without fusing or smearing them together. Though this rule can be disregarded later when you have had more experience, it is important in the initial stages not to do so. The reasons for this are that oil colors can get very messy and become unpleasant if you push them around too much. Make your brush mark and leave it alone is the best rule and the unpleasant mess will be avoided.

Many promising students have been put off by the mess they get into when using oil. Oil cannot be played around with as easily as poster or tempera color and a direct, unhurried approach will give greater enjoyment and greater development ultimately. Ease yourself gradually into experimenting with oil. The more you know about how it behaves, the better will be your experiments.

Putting the Still Life Together

First mix up a good neutral tone on your palette, a mustard yellow or an orangy pink, and make this much thinner than you did for the previous exercises. With this mixture draw in your broken bits and pieces (Fig. 32). Don’t be alarmed if your drawing goes awry. Remember the objects have been broken so that it does not matter how you depict the pieces.

When you have drawn in all the shapes, then you can start filling them in with the appropriate colors of the objects, changing the tones of the pieces with different hues, as near the original color as possible. For instance, a blue jug will be made up of segments of tones of blue, a green background with tones of green and so on.

Keep each segment flat in color; don’t gradate any color within the segments. In this exercise leave all the lines of your drawing intact. Do not paint over them, only up to them, so that the completed painting is virtually held together by the framework of painted lines you did first.

When you have completed this exercise, try it again without leaving the drawn outlines in, only be careful that they are fairly dry first otherwise it will interfere with the filling-in colors.

As you will see, the purpose of these studies is to acquaint you with the varying nature of color on the surfaces of objects. No object or surface is one color throughout. Surfaces change as they move forward or back. A rounded surface changes color as well as shape.