Pr5-Ex2: Composition of natural objects

Exercise 2, Composition of natural objects.

Exercise 2, Composition of natural objects.

  • A3 cartridge paper
  • pen pencil, HB, 0.5
  • 4B pencil
  • 8B pencil

The second exercise involved using natural objects to make a still life composition. I raided the kitchen for fruit and vegetables which I first arranged upon the kitchen table. The halogen spot lights above combined with natural light filtering through a glass door and window on two sides of the room produced some loverly overlapping shadow forms on the table surface.


Fruit studies in colour pencil and charcoal

I began by making some colour studies. I decided to use a loser style for these as the biro rat drawing ended up being so tight. I used colour pencils in lose fluid movements to build up the form. I haven’t used colour pencils since I was a kid and was pleasantly surprised with the results. The ones I’m using here are especially purchased for this course. They are proper water soluble ones from an art shop. They work nicely in conjunction with one another, building the object by layering up different strokes.


Observing interesting shadows

I observed the cast shadows on the table top seemed to be tinted either blue or orange/tan so I used a different colour for each of the shadow shapes on my illustration.

I finished these studies of by loosely applying thick black strokes with willow charcoal to define shape ands strongest shadow region.

For the main piece I had in my mind a clear vision for composition. A painting by Patrick caulfield, whom I recently wrote up in this blog, had remained in mind. Pottery (1969) oil on canvas, 2123 x 1524 mm.

I found the stacked up composition leaving very little negative space interesting. A fun arrangement. Also still fresh in my mind was Freud’s study of leafs entitled, Two Plants (1977-80) oil on canvas 1499 mm x 1200 mm. I have recently seen this painting on a visit to the Tate Britain and subsequently critiqued it. In this painting the artist has clearly examined each leaf in great detail. As in the Caulfield painting there is little to zero negative space. The canvas is completely full up the subject matter.

For this reason over looked the thumb nails. Something I must not ignore in future studies.

I filled a tray with bananas, grape fruits, oranges, pairs, onions, a pomegranate, a pineapple, and a papaya. I wanted to use the rectangular form of the tray as a guide which would become the edge of the A3 paper in the drawing. After finding an arrangement I liked I placed the tray on a chair so I could look down on it. I sat as close as I could and observed the tray which was positioned to my right.

I filled in the basic shapes then set to work filling in the details and shading. All in all it took four sittings. Probably around ten hours went in to it. I am a slow worker! As it progressed I could see it develop in to something I was pleased with so I allowed myself to take my time and give each item sufficient attention.

I started with the bottom right hand pair which is the weakest of the five a day in the drawing. Even though I returned to it time and again building up more shading I still think it looks flat. The rest however turned out more convincing. The pineapple took the longest and was the most enjoyable. I like the way the leafs have turned out. I think they make the composition, bringing interest to the finished piece. It was interesting to study the way they turn and bend and interact with each other making drop shadows and high light areas.

For the smooth fruits, particularly the banana and pomegranate I smudged in the pencil with a finger to eliminate marks and try to make a smooth looking surface. I then used a rubber to find the high lights.

One of the onions on the right hand side ended up being cropped. It is the only item that did and I think leaves a weakness to the over all illusion of looking down at vegetables and fruit in a box. I had not considered whether to crop on not when I started, I just set to making in the position of the items. Had I have paned with thumb nails first I would have made the decision to crop or not too and would have avoided this mistake.

It was an interesting, challenging and some times labours study. Involving taking a close look at all the different textures and working out the best way of making marks to reproduce them on the paper. I have learnt some new techniques whilst working on this piece.


Close ups



Check and Log Questions:

I think for the objects I used in project five for the two still life arrangements, one of man made objects and one of natural objects. The arrangement I found it easiest to to suggest three dimensions was in the natural objects arrangement. The predominately spherical shapes in the composition are good for modelling form. The shadows and high lights that fall upon them tend to curb round emphasising the roundness of the object. The bananas are cone or tube shaped. They have flattered surfaces, hexagon shaped in cross section. This leads to really clear shadow planes. The hardest object in the arrangement to portray a sense of solidarity was the body of the pineapple. The skin is very textured which makes many many tiny planes which catch light and shadow differently. Thus as the overall oval shape of the body of the pineapple it is more tricky to show the 3d nature than say the smooth surface of the pomegranate.

The particular man mad objects I went for where predominately made of fabrics. Had I gone for all shiny/smooth objects I think I probably would have found that composition easier to suggest three dimension.

I created a sense of solidarity in my compositions by shading or hatching in the shadow areas in lighter and darker value according to the depth of the shadow. In opposition to this I cut back the high lights with a rubber or by leaving the areas exposed to most light uncovered. Another method I used to show solidarity is the use of directional line. You can see this most clearly on the curbed spherical onions or the bending pineapple leafs.

Changing the composition and especially the view point can change the way form is decried. When fore shortening occurs it can be difficult to get the representation right on the paper. Some of the pineapple leafs in reality appeared as if they were coming up towards my eye. In my representation of them although I am happy the shapes are pretty accurate, also their relationship to one another is pretty accurate but their position in space is somewhat lost. The bottom smaller leafs work ok. The long leafs all look a little linear in plane. I think perhaps to correct this so as to give the impression of the foreground leafs coming up towards the eye and the back ground leafs receding away I might try making the back ground leafs fainter and the fore ground stronger. Initially I made the hollows between the leafs the darkest shadow. This did not work as the shadow was so dark it stood out a mile almost making it the highest point. So in future  drawing I will remember to try and make the receding objects fainter than the approaching ones.  Also I could try less detailing, making them vaguer. This is a technique you see a lot in painting.

I positioned my self face on with my eye level too or only slightly above for the man made compositions.


View point

For the natural object I made some studies with eye level approximately 40% to fruit. For the compositional study I looked down on the fruit and vegetables. They where positioned to my right I also leaned to the right so as to be even more over the top of it.  The arrangement was set  a little in front of my natural eye line. Level with my mid thigh as I sat. So the pomegranate I viewed right from the top. The objects arranged at the top where viewed at more of an angle. Likewise with those on the far right.


About Emma Perring

Artist, oil painter


  1. Vandana

    Hi, i really like this composition of fruit that you have produced and i really would like to use you as my artist inspiring my AS level project. However, i have been told that i need your actual name instead of the ‘Huntemma’ blog name that you go by. If you don’t mind could you reply with your actual name? I hope its not too much to ask, thankyou 😀

  2. Vandana

    Thank you very much and good luck with your work for your BA.

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