Project One – Exercise 2: Compositional sketches of natural objects

Looking for natural objects for this composition. I will explore viewpoints, different arrangements, light directions to find the most interesting composition that fits best the selected objects. Selecting the objects (birch tree branch, two onions, one big carrot, straw) was easier than finding a meaningful and appealing composition. I did most of the studies in charcoal in order to practise more my skills especially in the negative space and with rubber ‘negative’ markings (to put in practice my tutor’s feedback)

Stefan513593 - project 1 - exercise 2 - final composition

Stefan513593 – project 1 – exercise 2 – final composition

As pre studies I tried several compositions in my sketchbook till I selected one for my final one in larger paper. I sketched composition 1 in charcoal in a horizontal format. Using the rubber for ‘negative’ drawing, especially of the straws. Overall, I was not very happy with that composition as the objects not visible enough and too much negative space. Composition 2 was already better from visibility point of view. However, it did not bring much excitement to me. So I changed to composition 3, now with a vertical format. In the new grouping nice angles are visible and the objects a clear with good shadows and light shapes. In the negative space I worked more with rubber.

Stefan513593 - project 1 - exercise 2 - composition 1-3

Stefan513593 – project 1 – exercise 2 – composition 1-3

I wanted to discover a new composition (#4) and a top view, similar to the one a tried in exercise 1. I changed the medium from charcoal to ink and brush as I wanted to experiment more with the ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ drawing technique and to see how to do it with ink. The composition gives nice angles and a nice interplay of shadows and lights. As ink is not ‘erasable’, only slightly ‘washable’ to a grey tone, I left the highlights black white. I stuggled with the straw, as I couldn’t erase like I did with charcoal. I tried white ink and white chalk. Unfortunately, white ink gives a kind of blueish tone, what I didn’t want here (perhaps good to know for future exercises). I worked more in the negative space with ink and tissue to ‘wash’ for expressive markings.

Stefan513593 - project 1 - exercise 2 - composition 4

Stefan513593 – project 1 – exercise 2 – composition 4

For the last, for me a more traditional composition (#5) regarding the viewpoint and placement of objects (I eliminated the tree branch to simplify the composition), I worked with colored charcoal pencils. These are more brittle than willow and are likely to scratch into the paper surface. Before starting I was sharpening the charcoal pencil, wondering what to do with the scrap powder, and thus put it on the paper. In this powdery surface I blocked in the major shapes of the composition and continued with the drawing. I worked in a smilar way as for composition 3 with charcoal and rubber for shadows and highlights and straw. In the negative space I placed more expressive ‘negative’ marks made with the rubber. This lightens up the overall picture and gives a more expressive appeal to it, what I really like. Although, I feel that there is not a right balance between positive and negative space.

Stefan513593 - project 1 - exercise 2 - composition 5

Stefan513593 – project 1 – exercise 2 – composition 5

Final composition:

I chose composition 3 as the most engaging and interesting one (vertical format, angled objects, shadow and light shapes). As medium I went for colored charcoal pencils. Although these are quite challenging in usage (brittleness) I liked from the studies the coloring of the drawing as well as the starting point with charcoal powder spread over the paper surface and than shaping to find the forms of the objects. I worked now standing with the paper horizontal, what first a felt a bit awkward as the still life shows a vertical viewpoint. But working with volatile powder pushed me towards the horizontal. It would have been nice to keep some of the volatile powder pieces on the surface. But how to get them stuck to it? Perhaps something I will try further. On the final picture I like the way I draw the upper negative space with a similar mark pattern as the birch tree branch, the curved markings seem also like rotating stars in the sky. What makes the objects even more stable and robust.

Stefan513593 - project 1 - exercise 2 - work in process

Stefan513593 – project 1 – exercise 2 – work in process

The final picture is on the top of this post.


I got more used to charcoal and rubber as well as ink/brush drawing. From composition point of view, I found a vertical format as more uplifting and supporting ‘greatness’ to the group of objects. However, working in negative space on a vertical format is more challenging, as it seems that there is more depth in the picture. I still have to find a way how to make ‘negative’ (erasing) drawing in ink. Perhaps, masking fluid or frisket film could work. I really enjoyed experimenting with different techniques especially in the negative space.


  • Suggestion of three dimensions: easier for man-made or natural objects?
    I think it is easier to achieve a three-dimensional perception for man-made objects as they mostly consist out of simple basic shapes (cubes, spheres). Also the viewer is typically aware of those forms which helps the recognition of them. Natural objects tend to be more complex shaped and are rather of ‘unknown’ forms (besides easy formed objects  as apple and onion). Here I have to be more careful to the angles and curves in order to achieve a good representationl image. However, the basic principles of three-dimensional perception are the same for both kind of objects.
  • Creation of a sense of solidity: How did I achieved?
    Solidity comes with a solid foundation, cast shadows connected to it, and with bolder markings. E.g. contour lines from outline to outline. Dark patterns give a more solid perception compared to fine line markings. Further, object specific shading of hatching contributes to a solid perception.
  • Arrangement of composition: Did changing made a difference in my approach and way to create forms?
    Changing an arrangment, i.e. changing objects position, viewpoint, light direction, changes the way shadows are casted and highlights are placed. So I have to adjust to these conditions to render meaningful three-dimensional objects. Nevertheless, the principle behind creating a sense of form stays the same for each arrangement.

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