“This [second] drawing should be a collection of [man-] made objects. These could be kitchen utensils, pieces of machinery, objects from your desk, your handbag, your pocket, for example.”
(I’ve chosen to insert the non-PC ‘man’ into the instruction as I feel it should be there – particularly as ‘handbag’ is there.)
According to that font of unpeer reviewed information that is Wikipedia, a vanitas is “a type of symbolic work of art especially associated with still life painting in Flanders and the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries … and were meant to remind viewers of the transience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death.
“Common vanitas symbols include skulls, which are a reminder of the certainty of death; rotten fruit, which symbolizes decay; bubbles, which symbolize the brevity of life and suddenness of death; smoke, watches, and hourglasses, which symbolize the brevity of life; and musical instruments, which symbolize brevity and the ephemeral nature of life.”
This vanitas from 1625 is by Pieter Claeszoon.
I felt that there were a number of items which reflect the transience of modern life and so I’ve drawn a can of coke, a pizza box and a crisp packet, all empty, a couple of celeb mags and my old mobile phone. All the items, except the phone, are found objects which had been discarded. Since I’ve just upgraded even the phone will probably be put in a drawer and forgotten about!
I’ve decided to call the work “I Want It Now!” as it includes instant food, instant communication and instant celebrity.
I wanted a different drawing from the natural forms one. I chose a landscape format as the first was portrait. In a similar way, it is a ‘close up’ like the vegetable still life exercise as the natural forms work was a traditional approach.
I didn’t plan it, but most of the colours were similar which helped harmonise the piece. As I’d used my fine liner pens on my natural still life, I tried using a metal nibbed dipping pen. Part way through I managed to throw indian ink all over the work. I reverted to the fine liner pens for the second attempt ! (I know the instructions say “Don’t start another drawing if things go wrong” but I decided this didn’t include such accidents.) The washes are yellow ochre and cadmium red, shaded with indian ink where appropriate.
My studies on another sheet of 300g Somerset paper included trying to find the best angle for the battered coke can. I didn’t want it to appear to be badly drawn when the strange angles were actually there. I also experimented with composition and with different drawing tools, before deciding on landscape and ink.
- Did you do enough preliminary work before starting work on your final pieces? I’m satisfied with my preliminary studies. The main beneficial aspect was trying different ways and tools to represent the different shapes and textures, for example working out how to draw the teasels. I also tried different compositions but was reminded of a comment by the Head of Technology at the school where I taught until I retired. “One of the hardest parts, after a pupil has designed what they want to make, is having to tell them to design three of four other solutions to the problem just so they can reject them.” I already know the compositions I wanted to draw, but drew the other compositions just so they could be rejected.
- Do your large drawings give an accurate interpretation of the still life groups? Generally I would say yes, though some of the proportions are not totally accurate. For example, the Hello magazine should have been slightly wider. Some things have been deliberately missed out, for example some of the writing on the crisp packet, as I felt these would detract from the overall work.
- Did you make a good selection of objects or did you try to include too much? I originally gathered a large selection of autumnal items, with rushes and different branches with berries and coloured leaves, but finished up rejecting most of them in favour of just four items – reeds, teasels, horse chestnuts, and rose hips.
- Do your drawings fit well on the paper or could they be improved by working on a larger sheet of paper? Larger sheet of paper?? You’re joking! The course notes suggested taking at least two hours for the final drawing but to do it in one session. I found it took significantly longer than the two hours and if I had used larger paper then it would have taken a couple of days to complete. This would have been particularly difficult with the natural forms as, for example, the horse chestnut leaves began to dry and curl during the session.
- Did you have problems with drawing or find hatching too difficult? No. However, I did choose to show form and shadow with both hatching with my fine liner pens and also with charcoal.