Aim: To create a still life drawing influenced by Elizabeth Blackadder’s use of space as an integral part of the composition along with colour & detail. Use whole support as one rather than separating areas to background/foreground etc.
I started by looking at works of Elizabeth Blackadder – the suggested video was an insite to her working process and studio space. The objects she collects find their way into her works. I particularly like the way she hanged kimono and other bits and used the set up as a sketch to paint.
After examining some of her works on Bridgemans website i realised that she uses space and objects as one to create the composition. Works are balansed by use of strategicaly divided areas: verticals/horisontals/diagonals direct the eye and create a space variations; colours used quite extencively but not too saturated – only a few objects/areas have saturated colour that becomes a magnet for the eye; also the balance achieved by contrasts of colour and shapes of the objects used – round shapes interact with straight solid lines, overal the colour selection creates specific mood by complimenting each other.
Even though a lot of the objects appear flat at the start, the overall composition is quite engaging because of all the “tricks” mentioned above. The result is a proof of her experienced eye and observational skills, engagement with the chosen subject and a personal touch. Looking closer at the details it is evident how masterly she uses minimum, but the most important, detail to capture the essence of the depicted subject. I personally like the playfulness that comes through her work – i feel that she really enjoyed painting her subjects and portrayed her personal vision of them.
Looking at works of Blackadder and H. Matisse i can see certain similarities – integration of objects with surroundings, energy, use of everyday objects and scenery, flat depiction of objects, use of whole space as one, relationship between colour and lines used – they seem to work for one another both equally important, placement in many works resembles collages etc.
The differences , in my opinion, is the saturation of colours used – E.B work is more tranquil in most cases while Matisse’s work tend to explode the senses upon viewing; Matisse compositions , especially interior, appear a lot more busy and “dancing” while E. Blackadders work appear to float but both create energy and dynamism within the picture that leads the eye around the composition.
Instead of hanging something I chose a few objects and placed them as some sort of a collage – a few chair cushions, plant pots, framed w/c sketch ( not mine) – on a green table next to the radiator. The idea was to use the objects as a background mosaic rather than separate elements. I used dulled colours, no shadows, the collaged objects are slightly misshapen but still recognizable for what they are. The pictorial space became one element without clear division between background/foreground. Most of the objects were drawn “Off the page” with edges coming in and out of the used space. (half of A3 page, watercolour, attached to page 5 Sketchbook A3)
I think the result , while having some elements that E. Blackadder uses ( mentioned above) turned out a bit too busy , her still life elements mainly float around and are placed with a lot more space in between. I think if i were to use bold colours and outlines here, the sketch would be closer to Matisse’s use of space and composition arrangement. However, i feel that the composition has a potential and while appears busy it does have some energy and allows the eye to wonder around the space.
In this drawing i used a small red case, make up bag and an old misshapen jumper hanging on the coat hanger. I’ve tried to use objects as separate elements with a lot of space between them and they were viewed at different angles ( from above, from the side and straight on). The space is divided into areas that partially become objects themselves – white wall behind the jumper, lines represent floor boards and some lines are going out of the page (table). (A3 watercolour, attached to page 5, sketchbook A3
The idea of using space and separation of elements seems very interesting but i’m not sure if i managed to find the right balance in the placement. It feels that i’m trying to fill the space even without realizing – for example the floor lines seem to make the space cramped a little.
In this drawing (sketchbook A3, page 6) I minimised the number or elements and concentrated on working with space itself. Red cushion, the plant and a plant pot all drawn partially coming in and out of the page (soft pastels, inktence sticks and charcoal outline. Using wet brush the pigments were blended, in contrast the background ( inktence) was left dry to have a different texture. It felt slightly empty and disconnected so I’ve placed the charcoal stick over the paper and decided to add the lines where i think they worked best. The result probably is the closest to E. Blackadder’s way of combining space and elements. I actually quite like the overall composition and feel like i might be tuning in with the idea.
This is a small w/c composition – it is probably slightly off the track but the idea here was to break space into patches with just one more detailed object ( flower). Starting from the left corner going clockwise – rocks and sandy bank, clear sky and, a cloud, sea and the flower all represent a fragmented seascape. (A4 attached to the back of page 6 in A3 sketchbook)
Looking at some of E. Blackadder works she uses a lot of vertical/horisontal divisions of the picture plain. I triet to use this approach in works below:
Sketchbook A3, page 7 – dried up limes placed in a row, red represents the table top and blue is the sky (wax candle, oil pastels, gouache)
The below pieces are on the same sheet of paper ( A1) ,
First (on the right) i broke the surface into areas using pencil to draw the guidelines and then masking tape was attached to create hard border. Here i used objects from previous experiments ( red case, dried limes); Here i combined collage with loose gouache.
Red case – tissue paper, pencil shavings, string, ice-cream stick, glue, cardboard
Second ( on the left) – also using previous objects : red case ( in the top left corner), plant, and pot if looked from underneath. A2, w-c pencils, charcoal, oil pastel, gouache
Overall i think that the colours worked well in the sketches and the compositions have potential, perhaps using different media and support is something to look at later.
Personally i prefer Matisse’s use of colour and a slightly more complicated arrangement but i find an interesting energy along with tranquility in Blackadder’s work. The combination of both approaches would be something that i might take forward.