We are asked to look around the house for an arrangement of objects that just happen to be there and not to choose objects that are too complicated in appearance. Work initially in the sketchbok and then produce a painting making sure to explore the linear qualities of the subject and maintain line definition in the finished work.
I first did some exploratory drawings of some items that I found around the house.
I chose to do a still life of the lamp and bookcase, which is in a corner of our lounge. I decided to use a heavyweight paper for this exercise, slightly larger than A3, which I first dampened and then stuck down to an A2 cardboard support.
I had considered doing an underpainting in acrylics and then working in oils on the top. Then I thought it might be interesting to use a dry medium like soft pastels to create the painting and see if I could get a precise edge on the items – as it can be difficult to do that with soft pastels. I also didn’t want to overwork the painting and felt I would work a little looser with soft pastels for this subject. The subject has strong linear elements, I felt it was a good choice for this exercise. I first draw in the main vertical and horizontal lines and checked these with a ruler. I didn’t want any angles or lines to be in incorrect as that would throw the whole painting. I used a soft 5B pencil.
As everyone in my household is now working from home, I am limited for space, so propped the prepared ground up at a slight angle on my art table in my room. I started with Faber-Castell soft pastels, blocking in the wall colours. I then switched to other brands as F-C are very dusty to worth with.
At this stage, I was still working ‘dry’ and manipulating the pastels with my fingers, kitchen roll and cotton buds. I did some adjustments to the background colours – in order to get a crisp edge to the area where the two walls meet, I fixed a strip of tape onto the line and then worked pastel over it. When I removed the tape (which doesn’t adhere to pastel very well), this created a nice neat edge.
I then started working on the darkest blacks of the lamp.
I switched to brushes and water after first rubbing some of the pastel pigment into the paper with a cotton bud. I used a fine liner (rigger) brush, a small filbert and a small round brush. I worked down the lamp from the shade to the base. The picture frame I had blocked in with a slightly lighter grey and continued working this with water and brushes. I continued to work down the picture plane, as this is pastel and it is very easy to muck it up if you don’t work in a uniform way. I used a variety of colours to create the bookcase, books and small glass candle, as well as an impression of the photo. I continued to work over the painting, adding or muting colour (with the addition of white) where I felt the contrasts were wrong (initially, the books were too bright).
I used a black fine liner drawing pen to sharpen up some of the lines around the picture frame and lamp and also used pencil to outline some of the books and give their shapes more definition. For the shadows, I used a cotton bud that I’d previously used to blend the black underpainting, as it had just enough pigment on to produce a soft shadow. This arrangment is not heavily lit, so the shadow is muted and quite faint. If it had been any darker, it would not have looked correct. Finally, I added some highlights and then sprayed with Frisk pastel fixative. This is the finished result.
Overall, I am pleased with how it turned out. Although I might attempt to do another version using actual paints if I get time later on. The next exercise is still life with flowers and I will be using paint for that.