Make a still life from objects that trigger a response for you. With a single light source, use a range of drawing tools and refer back to the experiments you did with texture and expression.

Reasons for choosing each object:

Eternity perfume – I have worn this almost every day since the age of 17 and friends and family say it “smells like me”. I also wanted the challenge of depicting something transparent.

Champagne cork – from our wedding day in 2005.

Saucepan – this set of pans was the first thing my husband and I bought when we moved into our first flat together in 1996, we still occasionally remark upon that when cooking and smile. It is the same set as the stock pot from my ‘reflective surfaces’ piece and I was keen to do that again.

Cat’s paw stamp block – my parents bought this for me and it just makes me happy for some reason.

Ruby Slippers – since the age of about four I’ve been a massive fan of the 1939 Wizard of Oz film starring Judy Garland. I have 12 pairs of ruby slippers but these are my favourite so they have to feature!

Stephen King novel ‘The Dark Tower’ – this book is the final instalment of my favourite author’s wondrous but terrifying 8-volume epic which is, quite simply, the best thing I have ever read.

Album of gig ticket stubs – live music is a huge part of my life and this small book contains many, many tickets spanning back to the 1980s. Lots of great memories.

I used willow charcoal, grey and white charcoal pencils, paper stub, putty rubber, standard eraser.

This piece is only A3 size. Hopefully I’ll get better at articulating the instinctive actions I take but the only way I can explain this decision to ‘go small’ is that grouped together, all these special things felt very concentrated and blowing them up to greater than life-size didn’t feel like the right thing to do. In retrospect I feel the resulting piece is successful in this size and, to me at least, some of that ‘concentrated emotion’ comes off the page. Of course this may just be because it is a picture of things I love anyway- it’s very hard to be objective!

I remembered to take progress shots!

I also took a photo of the objects, which I include after much deliberation. I was hesitant to do so because it isn’t at quite the same angle that I viewed the grouping from; it doesn’t show the interesting C-shaped reflection of the ruby slipper in the saucepan that I could see, for example (there’s a sentence I never imagined I would write!)


The finished piece:

What worked well…. a satisfyingly long list!

I’m pleased that I managed to capture the distortions of shadows and pan-handle through the glass of the perfume bottle fairly well.

The use of stippling with the charcoal pencil gives a generally softer effect than other media would, but with defined dots also present and that nicely evokes the glittery outer surface of the slippers.

I love the fact that the champagne cork works so well from a distance. Up close it is quite indistinct and I worried about it for a while, not being able to decide what to do with it. But the distance of review-by-photo shows me that actually, I was right to do nothing.

Most of the novel. I particularly like the way that a simple row of dots fools the eye into thinking it sees the edge of the fabric binding inside the spine. The dust jacket of the book is glossy and I find the reflection of the album on top of it an interesting bonus.

What didn’t work well….

I’m slightly disappointed with the saucepan after being so pleased with the result of my ‘reflective surfaces’ exercise. I think this is in part due to scale. I wasn’t able to be quite as free with the charcoal. Also I think it is due to the greater range of tones and textures in this piece; the contrasts aren’t as stark and striking. I guess the curved shape of the pan also contributes, whereas the stockpot has straight sides and reflections which, again, is more striking.

The tail of the bookmark ribbon. It looks like a cartoon! I even cheated and moved it to retry but it still doesn’t work…. I see studies of ribbon in my near future…..

I’m unsure whether the ticket album works. When I look, I see pages stuffed with tickets but I suspect that’s because I know what it is. Would an observer who hadn’t seen the photo see the same thing or just assume it was a strangely rendered book with exaggerated shadows?




Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s