I recently completed a new drawing at the studio titled White Pitcher & Nautilus. My intention is to develop a collection of drawings to use as supporting material for our upcoming online course Drawing Basics. But while working on it I became aware that I don’t think I’ve ever done a still life image that wasn’t a painting. Why is that? Figure drawings and portrait drawings are commonplace, but “still life drawing” just doesn’t sound right. It isn’t really a thing.
But it should be. I found this drawing to be both fun and difficult. It challenged my assumptions about drawing materials, and presented problems I don’t normally encounter while drawing the figure or portraits. The gradient on the white pitcher, for example, was an extremely delicate balancing act. Being a symmetrical, glossy surface with no local variations, I found it far more difficult to organize than the gradients seen organic form, which are somewhat irregular and afford a wider margin of error. On the pitcher, every square centimeter had to be tuned just right or it stood out jarringly as a painfully obvious disruption of the surface. It took a lot of stepping back, squinting and making very minor tweaks and adjustments to get it looking just right.
Similarly, the slate tile offered unique challenges, with its irregular surface requiring unconventional mixtures of chalk and graphite. Normally, I don’t try to mix these materials together as they don’t blend very well. But on the tile itself, there were local scratches, grooves and “dusty” areas that seemed to require a dark foundation of graphite, and then a “float” of chalk on top to get the right effect – not something I normally do.
So this has been an education for me, and I’ll be looking to do more drawing of different objects and surfaces to see what else I can learn about my drawing process – something I thought I already knew thoroughly. But, as I’ve said elsewhere, drawing and painting are complicated and we should always expect to discover new things. That’s what keeps it interesting.