Reflection on compositional studies

My Compositional Studies

Is it easier to suggest three dimensions on man-made objects or natural objects? Why?

In general I found depicting the form of man-made objects harder than natural objects, although that is not to say that all natural objects are easy to draw or all man-made objects hard! For instance, in the above drawings the man-made nails were in fact the most easy to depict and are in my opinion the most believable objects on the page. In my experience the relative difficulty of creating a beliveable three-dimensional object depends on several factors which do not necessarily separate out into man-made and natural properties. These are:

  1. The shape of the object
  2. The material the object is made from
  3. The surface texture of the object
  4. The colour of the object
  5. The lighting of the object
  6. The material you are using to draw with.

Regular shaped objects, especially those with lines of symmetry are harder to depict in three-dimensions than irregular, non-symetircal objects simply because small irregularities in form will be noticed. Man-made objects are more likely than natural objects to be regular in shape, often having neat edges or very smooth curves such as in the case of the hammer and the mug above. Such regimented forms are uncommon in nature, and thus I find natural objects are more forgiving to draw and protray as three-dimensional objects. The irregular shapes of the seeds above allowed a believable shape to be formed even if not as a totally accurate representation of reality. The other five points in my list above all intertwine and are harder to tease apart. Man-made materials (and by extension the surface texture of man-made objects) can be easier to deal with. Many man-made objects have smooth flat surfaces which when drawing are easier to depict by varying the tone, provided you use a compliant medium. Tonal changes can be harder to visualise on rough, irregular surfaces, making the translation of a 3-d shape into 2-d harder. This was certainly true for the long, flat seedpod depicted above. By contrast smooth round shiny surfaces of man-made objects such as the much can be difficult to capture with tonal values, the reflections are so important in achieving a s form.  I found colour made a big difference in how hard it was to achieve a realistic 3-d image. It can be hard to distinguish between colour and tone in dark coloured or patterned objects, man-made or natural but especially those with matt (non-reflective) surfaces. By missing subtle variations in tone, or mistaking colour for tone,  a flat image can be produced. The lighting of an object will of course alter the range of tonal values in the first place. A poorly lit object will appear of uniform tone and thus harder to depict as three-dimensioanl. The material that you choose to draw with, or rather how you treat the material you chose to draw with, is also important for a believable 3-d image. How a material interacts with the drawing surface will affect the ease of producing tonal gradations. For instance, soft pastel on paper can be smudged or different colour tones can be layered to give tonal variation, as seen in the above still life with seeds an seed pods. The drawing pencil used in the composition of man-made materials above is by contrast less forgiving and was less malleable on the page. This meant I had to rely more on directional stokes of the pencil to depict form, something that I struggle with!

How did you create a sense of solidity in your compositions?

In both my drawings the sense of solidity comes from tonal variations to create believable 3-d shapes and also from the shape and density of the shadows. Tiny adjustments to the shadows made huge differences to the appearance of both the man made objects and the natural objects.  In addition, the horizontal line separating a mid-tone background from a highlighted foreground in the still life of natural objects adds to the sense of the objects in space. This increases those objects sense of solidity within that space.

Did changing the arrangement of your composition make a difference to your approach and the way you created a sense of form?

I am not sure that changing the arrangement of my compositions did make much difference to how I approached depicting form. Rather I think it was the other way around in that it was the sense of form of the objects that dictated where the objects should go in the composition. For instance, the relationship between the loose legume seed and its pod was very much determined by the fact that the shadow that seed was so important in giving it a sense of form, and that shadow needed to relate to the seed pod compositional. Thus I altered the composition so it did.  I also found in both exercises that my initial compositions were ultimately the basis for my final images, rather than any later arrangements that I happened upon. Perhaps I am not experimenting enough here, and I have just been lucky with two drawings in which I feel composition and form work together. This would imply I need to continue practicing different ways of creating a sense of form!

Reflection on compositional studies

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