Create a composition of man-made objects. Using pencil or pen draw two or three thumbnail sketches using different arrangements and different viewpoints. Use a light source to help create strong lights and darks. Use a range of tonal values to indicate form. Make shadows and important part of the composition.
Whilst rumaging around in the garage for ‘interesting’ man-made objects to draw I hit upon the idea of depicting man-made tools used for making man-made things, and so headed to the tool box. Originally I selected a hammer, a pair of pliers and a tape measure. Heading back to the kitchen I was aware that these objects were all fairly long and flat so I decided to add a ceramic mug to my group to overcome this, as it would provide some height. The much used reference to ‘builder’s tea and builder’s tea-breaks’ (in England at least) made this a natural companion to tools of the building trade!
My first grouping of the objects, in strong light, was fairly clumsy. It immediately became obvious that it was going to be hard to place the objects in an interesting way. I rested the pliers on the hammer handle to provide some height and add interest to the cast shadows, however there is no real tension between any on the objects in this grouping.
Next I removed the pliers and tried balancing the tape measure on the hammer, which had been turned around so that the more interesting head of the hammer was in the foreground instead of the handle. This was also quite boring and bizarrely the hammer facing this way felt all wrong. The bit of the hammer you first identify with is its handle and the need to grasp it so it didn’t feel right having that facing away from the viewer.
I tried depicting the hammer on its own viewed from directly above. This produced a pleasing shape, but it was no longer a group of objects. I added some nails of varying lengths, as natural partners for a hammer to re-establish a group. The nails were very difficult to depict in this tonal sketch format, as the images were too small to allow different tonal values. I completed a couple of sketches of the nails on their own to overcome this.
The shadows of the nails created the most interesting negative spaces and so I decided that they would be the focus of my composition.
I added the mug back in to the group (as I liked the reference to builders) and once I had looked at the negative spaces between the hammer and mug, realised that the nails would have to scatter out towards the foreground more than I originally intended, to balance the composition.
My final composition consisted of the hammer with handle towards the viewer and the nails scattering out in front of it with a mug of tea in the background adding some height.
I completed a final drawing of this grouping. I chose to draw on a coloured background – in this case light brown sugar paper. White paper didn’t seem right for a load of old tools. I used dark, medium and light tone charcoal drawing pencils which I haven’t tried before, with a white drawing pencil to add highlights. Charcoal pencils are very different to use compared to charcoal, being much like simple drawing pencils. They don’t smudge and blend in the same way as charcoal which meant I had to think a lot more about making marks to depict tone and form.
I am pleased with the way the nails turned out. I ended up doing the drawing from a slightly lower view point to try and make them nails stand out. I think I succeeded as I do feel that I could pick them up off the page. I am less happy with the hammer and mug. I struggled with the mark making to depict form. Interesting the nails relied on blending of the tones rather than different marks to create a sense of their form something I am more familiar with. I clearly still need to do a lot more practice in use of marks. The shaft of the handle of the hammer was more successful. I feel there is a sense of the shiny metal, with the light reflecting off it. There is also a reflection of this metal in the mug. Creating form in the mug was a challenge as the mug was round at the top but square at the bottom. I think I have a sense of this in my drawing,
Although this is a fairly loose arrangement of objects I think that as a composition it works. There is a story behind the objects – that of builders and building things, and I like the idea that as a composition of man-made objects, these are used to make more things. I hope the objects relate to one another on the paper: after all the tea is drunk, the hammer is waiting to be grasped and the nails are almost jumping off the page to be useful! .
What I learnt
1. Even the most mundane objects can have a beauty to them in the right situation. Before starting this course I would never have considered making a drawing of a hammer and nails! 2. Negative space is as important as positive space and can be very satisfying to draw 3. To keep practicing mark-making to depict tone and form. 4. To continue to experiment with different media to take myself out of my charcoal comfort zone