In this project, we are asked to choose 2 exercises from an overview of three types of still life – Flowers, Natural objects and man-made objects as the subjects. I will try and attempt all three still life exercises but I started with the last one in the series this time – still life with man-made objects.
I chose to work in portrait format and put together a very basic composition with a tall object in the background and two objects with variegated heights in the foreground. As the composition was placed on a brightly lit window sill, I decided to use watercolours for this painting, as I wanted to retain an atmosphere of light and looseness. I had previously drawn some small A5 tonal drawings (previous exercise) and these helped me analyse the composition.
I first drew a very light sketch on my paper – I didn’t use watercolour paper for this exercise, I chose a paper that can be used for all mediums and it is very thick – it is sold in A2 sheets and I tore out a piece that was about A4 in size. I taped this down to my support board.
I used a mix of good quality watercolour paints (tubes) in an assortment of blues and reds. I decided not to use burnt sienna for the initial washes or to ‘draw in paint’, as I felt the burnt sienna would distract me insofar as the colour composition was concerned. I used the blues and reds to create a very weak violet wash. I used this to paint out the main shapes and shadows.
I continued to work around the painting, not staying in one place too long. I worked on the long necked specimen vase first, as I felt that I needed to get the translucent nature of the coloured glass fixed before I moved onto the darker items in the foreground. I enjoyed working on this little painting. When I came to the heart-shaped dish in the right foreground, I did have a bit of a battle with its shape and used some gouache to correct it. The tiny little woven mat that the objects rest on could have had more detail, in that I could have used more white paint when it was all dry and added textural marks, I may still do this.
For the scene outside the window, I didn’t want this to overpower the painting, it had to remain very muted and almost abstract I thought. I mixed a good terracotta shade with red, orange and blue, mixing in a tiny bit of yellow and used this as the initial wash for the tiled roof. I mixed a slightly darker colour – a brown from red, blue and orange – to define the tile shapes. I wet the paper above and put on a very light violet blue wash for the sky. I dabbed most of this off with a kitchen towel as I didn’t want the sky to dominate. I barely suggested the line of bushes.
I had noticed previously when I was looking at the bare tree branches outside my window that they were not all the same tone. Branches in the background looked like ghost shapes and I decided to try and recreate this with the branches seen through the window in my painting. I mixed a very pale grey and first ‘drew’ these with my rigger brush. Then I mixed a slightly darker grey (again using red, blue and a tiny bit of black) and painted more branches on top. I was quite pleased with how this turned out.
I added a bit of orange to the red ribbon to give an illusion of light on the fabric, I didn’t want to overpaint this ribbon, so left it before I started fiddling too much with it. I’m quite happy with how this has worked out, I’ve not used watercolours much before, so this was interesting to see how the paint moves on paper – it can often be left to do much of the work for you. I liked the loose nature of this piece, I think it looks fresh.