Art 2 – Colored pencil – vanitas – Due 3/5

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1. From the following 2 links, read about the history and ideas of still life and vanitas.

Comment on the 3 things you find most interesting about still life and vanitas and explain why.

overview of still life

still life vanitas

2. Watch fully the following 2 videos, and comment on the 3 most important ideas that will help you in developing your colored pencil technique.

prismacolor tips

colored pencil – tutorial – 3 techniques

3. Look at all of the colored pencil works at this page, linked below, on the website of Jo Bradney.  Read her explanation below the works as well.

Choose a work you especially like and explain why.

Jo Bradney – Colored Pencil still life works

4. You will choose 3 objects to draw in great detail with colored pencil, rendering the form and color as fully as possible.  Choose 3 objects and a composition that expresses an idea.  In this post, you have seen historic and contemporary works as models for the ways in which still lifes can express ideas. Be inventive and intentional in your choice of objects and the manner of presentation.  Do not choose random objects and project insincere “narratives” onto them. Comment and share some of the ideas you have right now. Bring in all materials asap.

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6 responses »

  1. Although they didn’t use shading, perspective or anything like that, I think it’s cool that the Egyptians painted their offerings rather then use actual food, like they were using the idea of food to feed the gods. I also like the skulls next to the owner’s possessions, not for the “you’re going to die someday aspect” but because since they have the skull surrounded by certain objects, it’s time of like a time capsule but for a person (I know they probably just picked a random skull though). It’s kind of funny that artists abandoned all pretense of being realistic as soon as photography was invented. I really liked the ideas of blending and layering, because as basic as that sounds I’ve never done that with pencils.

  2. I think that a still life is an interesting way to express the existence of objects, putting them together and trying compose a story, rendering and working until the thing you want to convey can be seen, even when using very few objects. I also like how the style is open to many media and can be used in interesting ways to express characters and emotions through objects and expressions. The techniques used in the videos were interesting, and I really liked the way color and tone could be built up through hatching and shading, and how you can choose the tone of a piece through color and objects, not simply value. I especially liked the image of the chopped carrots and the knife sitting in the bowl, the light reflects off of them in interesting ways and it evokes a lot of emotion without being busy or annoying to look at.

  3. 1. I remember learning about vanitas paintings in Art History. I love the symbolism in them and learning about how all the objects relate to a central message. It’s also interesting how they are linked to religion in their time period.

    2. Blending is very important if you want a realistic look. In order to blend, you have to layer because colored pencils don’t blend in the same way that paint does. Crosshatching is a good way to layer.

    3. I like the Mud Bowl because the mud looks to realistic and wet. I’m impressed with how she did the light coming through the window shades falling across the objects.

    4. I’m thinking about doing a still life revolving around girlhood and the objects essential to puberty. I was thinking of doing a tampon… maybe a bottle of ibuprofen? I haven’t decided.

  4. Three most interesting things:
    1. I love that the French term for still life is “nature morte,” meaning dead nature.
    2. I find it really cool how Cezanne placed warm colors against cool colors and mixed a gazillion colors in his backgrounds. It adds an extra layer of complexity.
    3. I find the motifs in varnitas quite interesting–the skull (mortality), wineglass (the fleeting nature of life), candle and instrument (transcience). I find it fascinating how these symbols made their way into different artists’ work.

    Three techniques:
    1. Hold pencil more vertically and move in circular motion.
    2. Crosshatch layers of color to get an intense tone.
    3. Layer brown over dark blue for a cast shadow to get a more realistic look than just black.

    I like Jo Bradney’s work “Muddy Boots.” I really like her usage of color in the shadows and how she shows wear in the toe of the boots.

  5. 1.One of the most interesting things I learned about still life and vanitas paintings was their connection to morality, mortality, and the economic condition of wealthy patrons who could afford to display art about their material goods, but still feared death. I also enjoyed the modern day ‘memento mori’ photographs which attempted to combine new technologies with old techniques for immortalizing objects through still life. Finally, I also found it interesting to compare the stylistic differences between the Ancient Egyptian still life and those of painters in the 16th and 17th centuries.
    2.In the “Prismacolor Colored Pencils Tips & Techniques,” I learned how to improve my technique by increasing the vertical angle of a colored pencil. I also learned how to create burnishing by increasing pressure on the paper while using my colored pencil. In “Colored Pencil Techniques—3 Approaches,” I most appreciated the information about how to combine hatching and cross-hatching to build up the colors on the surface of the paper.
    3.My favorite Jo Bradney piece is “Sprouting Red.” This charcoal and pastel still life depicts two onions which have sprouted in the way that onions left in a drawer will. However, this picture moves away from straightforward realism and takes on a more mystical and unworldly quality because the sprouts burst vertically from the onions and appear to almost sway before the eye. This gives the impression that one is not looking at a couple of old onions, but at two strange undersea creatures whose tentacles are responding to the pressure of the ocean’s current.

    • You have drawn some excellent observations about the history and context. Your interpretation of the still life emphasizes the importance of giving the objects in the still life an “animus” or spirited presence so that the still life, “nature morte”, comes to life.

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