Assignment 2 – Intimacy – A Still Life

Finding a Composition


My immediate reaction was you can find a composition anyway. Opened the bin and voila!  This could be it.   I still think that there is something about the colours, textures, different surfaces that are interesting….


Did a very quick – 20 minute large A1 drawing of the doll against the fabric background just to see what it felt like working on a larger composition. I like the monumental feel of the image although this is out of proportion to the real object. I am drawn to the black and the tonal qualities.


Again tried a really quick sketch of 20 minutes initially using just inks.   Then went back to it after if had dried and worked over with white gouache and water soluble wax crayons.  My thoughts were where does drawing stop and painting begin?   I am not sure which this is.

The freedom of some of the marks and spontaneity of the image in parts is successful.   I like the “relationship” between the dog and the doll. Makes it more of a story.

Back in the Box

Completed Still Life Assignment 1 - reduced

Above is my Assignment 1 drawing.

still-life-1I thought:-

  • I wanted to include some of the elements that I had used in Assignment 1
  • Spent a lot of time moving them around putting different object in, plants, dog etc and taking them out again.
  • Began to feel bored and not interested in the composition anymore.   Have I come to the end of the doll story?
  • Thinking about Cotan and feel the composition is not fulfilling  any of the criteria. What is the Story? This is a phrase which keeps reoccurring.
  • Also trying to get an interesting light source – see window cut in side of box – Vermeer interior?
  • Ended day very dissatisfied.

Day Two


Last night listened to an interview with Jonathan Safran Foer (writer) who was being asked about plots for his novels.   He quoted W H Auden:-

“I write so that I can read what I am thinking.”

This really struck me – I was, yesterday trying to tell the story before I have created anything.   Last time with Assignment 1 I brought the elements together and then wait to see what I am “saying” afterwards.

Went out on a browse the shops and came back with a  seasonal gourd (it was with the pumpkins), a waving cat teapot and some sweet peppers about to turn…


Lots of tryouts with the various objects.

Change of orientation to portrait.  Introduced Morandi box and rejected monkey.


Hanging teapot and cups obscures too much and is getting too congested. Pulled doll’s leg up into the corner.

Opened box out and introduced cat waving teapot.  Not sure about a lot of it.


Closed box back in, removed waving cat, hanging teapot and cups and box.

Getting There


Simplified the whole composition by removing many elements and elongating to include above and through the trapdoor/skylight/escape hatch.

Decide to work with this composition – it is now nearly the end of day 2.



  • It takes me a really long time to find a composition.   By using photographs rather than sketches I am able to assess the layout better.
  • Even as I begin to do the drawing not sure whether I should stick with a pure Cotan by getting rid of the fabric background and going black again – would definitely like to try this at some stage.

So What’s the Story?

Doll – Again she is hanging – the word hamstrung come to mind and so does the photographic work of Hans Bellmer. The image below is rather provocative. I like that. My doll is dead faced, cut-off, frozen, uncommunicative.


Fabric – This is a 1950s design (my early era) and I think  an original piece.

Sweet Peppers – these were going cheap and about to decay – had to use a number whilst I was doing the drawing – kept changing shape and shrinking.

Gourd – Seasonal? I don’t know if it is edible or not

Ginger – Spice of life! Not actually a spice but a vegetable

Leaves – these were left over when I was moving the succulent plant in and out of the composition. Succulent because this is the only kind of plant I manage to keep alive with my brown fingers – doesn’t need watering very often and is very self sufficient.

Box – Containment, safety or not, defined space

Trapdoor/Skylight/Escape Hatch – I’m not sure which if any or all of these it is.

Toy China Teapot& Cup – Childhood, good manners, old fashioned, silly,

If I was Goya what would I call this?   He gave great subversive names to his Caprichos.

The Drawing



The Use of Colour in Drawing:-

I think the reason that I decided to stick with the background fabric rather than going back to a black background as in my first assignment was because I wanted to show that I could render a full use of colour for this exercise.   It might have been more dramatic with a black background – and I would like to try this sometime.

The Most Appropriate Medium for the Subject

From my earlier experiments with mixed media I have learnt that I need to make much earlier decisions about what to use and in what order I should use them

I started with an ochre ink wash on the watercolour paper.  I believe that the coloured ground gives greater warmth to a drawing which was perhaps the most successful part about the interior I drew earlier. Using the wax soluble crayons (Neocolour ll) I thought I would have more control over the drawing than I had with the oil pastels.  Also I believed at the beginning that I would work on the detail at the end with coloured pencils. In fact what happened was that I only used the wax soluble crayons throughout but did not add any water at any stage.

Composition & Content –

I am still finding this a difficult issue to resolve.   Also I am not sure at this moment whether I am trying to do something that is too difficult for me to achieve.   I easily become bored with something that is “ordinary” but could argue that if  you can make the ordinary interesting is a great achievement.

I extended the composition up and down because it seemed too symmetrical and the “trapdoor” gives the content more interest. Finding the diagonal in the composition makes it more successful as well as discarding the ribbon as a diversion to the eye.

Mark-making and Contrasts of Line and Tone – 

I have tried to render the different objects and surfaces in various ways. Even though I was using the same materials throughout my objective was to be sensitive to how I could depict the differences with different marks.

As far as tone is concerned I believe that I worked better this time by working over the whole piece more evenly so then I didn’t have to “catch up” with what I had done previously. Overall I think the tones work except in the shadows.   I think that they need to be darker but am worried that I would overdo these – need to be braver I think.

Accurate and Expressive Depiction of Form – 

As I was starting the piece I read an article mentioning  spontaneity and control (Robert Dutton – See Bibliography Assignment 2).  This is something I have thought about quite a lot since starting this course.   How can you be accurate as well as expressive at the same time?

I have tried to work around the objects in order to be more expressive with their form as well as keeping the accuracy which I believe was the object of this assignment. My belief is that I am becoming more accurate the more I am looking and drawing but am still disappointed with the expressive qualities I would like to see. At this point I do not know how to achieve both simultaneously.

Experimentation with Idea, Material and Method

I am certainly experimenting with the ideas by looking at the different artists who I have mentioned in terms of context and then trying to find my own way and my own story.   At the moment this still is very hazy and I am not yet able to articulate what I am trying to achieve.

Throughout the process of working through the “intimacy” exercises I have gained some greater control over chosen materials, some more than others and have achieved some success by becoming discerning about how to approach a drawing.




One thought on “Assignment 2 – Intimacy – A Still Life”

  1. Just fascinating – full of theatricality and whimsy… I thought the final drawing was impressive, and I enjoyed the way you documented your progress.


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