Project Four – Exercise 1: Still life using line

In this exercise I will set up a still life with objects that are somehow connected with each other (e.g.  in shape, height, pattern, texture, function, story, etc.) or they are just contrasting each other. Perhaps there is a narrative within the still life.

Stefan513593 - project 4 - exercise 1 - final A3

Stefan513593 – project 4 – exercise 1 – final A3

I did not know how difficult it could be to set up a still life while traveling and staying in a hotel. Quite a practical hurdle to overcome as my nice ‘collection of things’ is at home. This exercise is also  about our conceptual thoughts. So what concept could be there in a hotel? I did some fast sketches from the stuff on the small table in my room on found hotel paper (brochures from the hotel). Was fun but not so convincing for me, perhaps too ordinary? However, those sketches gave me some ideas for future works – as exercise 3 (color + line drawing + narrative on found paper).

Ex1_Still life using line_Stefan513593_Page_4sm

– Color washes brings the line drawing to the front, so that the found paper ‘story’ is not too dominant
– Picture on found paper can act as a narrative along with the drawing, as well as a frame for it.

I than decided for a more uncommon still life – a view from the bathroom inside. Towels on a rack (heater) and a hook. Housekeeping! That reminded me of Dada and some pop art artist where day to day stuff becomes iconic. I already tackled ‘iconic’ as a theme in project 3 exercise 1. The ‘rack’ idea reminded me of John Peto (see my research on still life in project 1). My idea was to have a humble view on quite ordinary objects visible in a hotel with housekeeping. Towels folded nicely on the heater ‘rack’ and than the used towel, that I just put on the hook. There is a kind of before and after story, a narrative message behind.
I decided for ink & dip pen as well as an ink pen with a brush tip. After some time it got a bit messy in my bath room 😉

There were some questions for me to tackle, therefore I did some studies in my sketchbook on textures and pattern as well as some compositional studies. There are three objects with quite different textures and patterns: towels with a soft touch, the heater ‘rack’ with a smooth metal surface, and the wall tiles with an interesting brush pattern. The towels with similar textures are close to each other, but the way unused and used ones are folded make them different. The background consists a) of the heater plus the wall (left side), and b) just the wall (right side).The tiles are framing the other objects.

For the tiles I found a good way to approach the pattern with drawing first with a frisket pen, than applying a very thin ink wash, and peeling off the frisket. For final touch I added some ink marks. For the towels I tried a combined approach: spotting with the pen, and spotting with the frisket pen plus thin ink wash.  I did a few frisket line marks on the horizontal edges of the heater. I used the ink washes mainly for texture creations (‘negative’ line drawing).

Stefan513593 - project 4 - exercise 1 - sketchbook studies

Stefan513593 – project 4 – exercise 1 – sketchbook studies

I tried several viewpoints, my first idea was straight when I walked in the bathroom the first time. I checked side views and steep upwards views. Also I checked a more overall view even including the floor with the slippers. I decided than for a closer and a straight, slightly upwards view.  I considered this as best with my concept. With this approach I would keep the still life with a bit flat perception, and the differentiation would come with the specific features of the objects themselves. From compositional perspective there is a diagonal line made by the bottom edges of the left towels and the hook, crossing the otherwise right angle drawing. The right towel is than the other ‘disturbing’ element through its oblique shape.

Final drawing: at the top of this post.

Closeup views on patterns and texture:

Stefan513593 - project 4 - exercise 1 - closeups

Stefan513593 – project 4 – exercise 1 – closeups

Reflection and learnings:

I am quite satisfied now with the result as well as the process of getting there. At the beginning I was a bit frustrated with drawing in a hotel room and to find a still life. I think those limitations gave me the opportunity to think beyond common lines. The textural and pattern studies and execution on A3 did go very well. My compositional thoughts and set up with a vertical split in left for unused and right for used towels helped to focus the drawing on the concept. Through the double background I created more depth. I made the used towel consciously darker and with broader and more expressive marks to support the contrast. I really like the tile pattern and the differentiating texture of the towels and the smooth metal appeal of the heater. Next time I would possibly make the cast shadows a bit lighter in tone. At the moment I have the feeling as if they give the drawing a kind of mystic impression.

In this exercise I used quite intensively my frisket pen as it allowed me to create otherwise hard to draw pattern and textures. I am happy that finally I found this option as during part 1 of this course I was struggling with how to ‘erase’ ink. Working on this still life in a bathroom in a hotel was also physically quite challenging: restricted space, not so pleasant half standing half sitting pose etc. But I would not want to miss this experience.

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