Project 4, Exercise 1 Still life using line

The aim

Set up a still life group in an interesting composition. Consider the following:

  • How will you treat the objects?
  • How will you make their connections apparent?
  • How will you capture the differences between the objects?
  • How do the objects relate to the background?
  • What is your viewpoint?

Use an A3 sheet and a medium suitable for drawing line to make a drawn study that shows your understanding of the forms, and the connections and spaces between the forms.

The Process

I chose a still life grouping of a piece of toast, a jar of jam (nearly empty), a knife and a butter dish with butter. I wanted to compose the items as if they were part of a breakfast scene. I wanted the lid of the jam and the knife to have butter on it. I decided to prop up the toast against the jam jar, as it tends to be at our breakfast table. We don’t own a toast holder! The alternative would have been to have the toast lying on a plate, but I felt this was rather two-dimensional.  The placing of the objects like this would hopefully connect them together – some literally (toast and jam) and others by association (butter and knife).

Sketches for toast and jam
Sketches for toast and jam

I chose to draw in a fine black drawing pen. From the outset it was clear that mark-making was going to be the key in depicting the differences between the objects and I focused my initial sketches on how to do this. The soft, crumbly toast would need a textured surface, achieved by broken and ‘jumbled’ lines. The smooth glass by contrast would need to be show to reflected light but also appear transparent. The knife was also shiny with much reflected light, but this object had dark reflections presents. After initial sketches I decided to lose the butter dish. My grouping was quite crowded with it. One of the suggestions for improvement from assignment 1 was for me to try to simplify still life arrangements. I decided to just have the butter on the knife.

Sketch for toast and jam 2
Sketch for toast and jam 2

In order to allow the objects to relate to the background I stood them all on a bread board. However, in the resulting sketch I felt this really didn’t work. The board was too flat and uninteresting. I liked the jam jar lid behind the composition and the knife coming out in front as if it had just been set down.

Study of Toast and Jam 1
Study of Toast and Jam 1

I completed this study of my composition from a lower view-point putting in a simple edge of the table to provide a relationship with the background. I made a few mistakes in doing the bottom of the jam jar and covered these up by filling it with more jam than there really was. I was very disappointed however with the result. I really liked the freedom of line depicting the jam jar in the second of the initial sketches, but feel that it is all lost here. I do like the toast and the relationship between the toast and the jam. The negative space between the two really stands out. In the initial sketch I liked the fact that the knife was unfinished, so I tried to replicate that in the study, but again it didn’t really work.

Rather frustrated I started again, reverting to the slightly higher viewpoint and trying to keep everything fresh: although by now the toast was very stale, and had sunk somewhat in on itself. This resulted in a less pleasing negative space between the toast and the jar!.

Study of Toast and Jam 2
Study of Toast and Jam 2

In spite of good intentions, I overworked just about everything again and I think this study became more about form than the line, so I probably haven’t succeeded in this exercise very well at all. I think that any success in this exercise probably lies somewhere in between sketches 2 and study 1!

Project 4, Exercise 1 Still life using line

5 thoughts on “Project 4, Exercise 1 Still life using line

  1. Debbie says:

    As you are ahead if me in the course, I enjoy following your blog. Your comment about your toast going stale made me think that you are in good company. Paul Cezanne was known to paint his apples until they were all shriveled up.


    1. haha thank you Debbie. In the end I had my toast taped together at the back with masking tape! I tried to bend it back to its original shape and it broke! I am sure Cezanne didn’t do that!


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