Sketchbook: Zero Sugar Still Life Sketches

In preparation for Part 2, Exercise 4, I based today’s work in my sketchbook, on the still life I created for Exercise 3, which I called Zero Sugar Still Life.

This was the piece I drew yesterday, using pen and oil pastels:

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Part 2, Exercise 3

As you can see, I used a zero sugar coke can, a toothbrush holder, grapes, a plum and some bananas. The theme was ‘no sugar’ and ‘being healthy’.

Tonight, I kept the toothbrush holder, coke can, plum and grapes, and replaced the bananas with am orange and a pear, as I wanted to add more variation in colour.

First of all, I used Matte Medium to fix some pages from an old book onto the A3 page. When that had dried, I used acrylic inks in greens and blues to write words related to healthy eating over the collage. I then washed over the script with water and then a wash of blue watercolour. This made interesting effects on the paper. I left it to dry, whilst painting a plain, blue wash over the right hand side of the paper.

Once this had dried, I used black india ink and a small brush to draw the still life on the left hand side, over the script. I tried to follow the contours of the subjects, but a smaller, finer brush would have been more successful. This looked a bit too dense and rough, and I wasn’t really happy with that technique. There was no variation in tone, and shadow areas just merge into one another with now definition. The black ink contrasted well and was pronounced, even over the script and paint. I highlight with white ink, also with a small brush, which made it look a little less flat and featureless.

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Black India ink and white acrylic ink over collage, calligraphy and acrylic ink wash

On the right hand side of the page, I drew the composition with a black fineliner drawing pen. I drew it in a continuous line, as I feel that helps the flow. Once I was happy with the drawing, which was clearly visible over the collage and blue wash, I added areas of watercolour paint, loosely, with lots of water, and I played, letting it go out of the lines and create an expressionistic effect.

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Black fineliner drawing pen and watercolour paints

I love the way the paint looks translucent, and the text from the old book is visible through it. The paint looks quite delicate, and variations in tone and intensity are evident. The shapes have form and depth. The colours contrast well and look pleasing.

I feel the composition works well and the subjects blend well together. It tells a story and has a message. Healthy eating and looking after your teeth!

Out of the two sketches, I prefer the second, the one in colour. I feel it holds the viewers interest more than the first, and looks less flat and murky. The colours are brighter, with more differentiation in tone. The lines are cleaner, and the shapes have more form and definition.

On looking at the sketch the next morning, I decided it could do with a bit more definition, so I proceeded to draw directional lines on the second sketch. I used a black fineliner pen.

Sketch with directional lines added

I think I was too heavy handed when drawing the lines. The black fineliner as certainly added definition, but some areas look messy, and I need to take more care. The pear looks ok, and the toothbrush holder, The coke can looks messy, as the lines aren’t regular or even. The orange looks totally wrong. I realised I didn’t need all the heavy lines on the orange, so when sketching the plum and grapes, i just used lines in the shadow areas, which I think worked a lot better.

I had thought of adding some oil pastel, but think this would be too much. I think I will leave it at the ideas I have already worked with during these sketches.


    • Thank you. I enjoyed this task, and experimenting with mixed media. It is also good to analyse your work and distinguish between what was effective, and what didn’t work so well. This helps me to improve.


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