Exercise 4 – Reflective surfaces

Exercise 4 – Reflective surfaces

What did I do?

I used two objects with a contrasting colour and a highly reflective surface; a clear jar and a beer bottle.  This time I moved the objects to a higher position so that they were at eyelevel and I stood at my easel to see if that worked better.

Due to the tone of the lights there was a warm vibe to the still life with objects so I chose to use red paper so that the warmth would come through a bit.  I also wanted to use the red paper to allow the one solid bit of colour to come through.

I then used black and white charcoal and blocked out the shapes then allowed some of the paper to come through while using the white to highlight the reflective bits and the black charcoal mixed with it to soften the bits for shadow.


How did I feel or think about it?

I felt quite happy with the outcome.  I feel like I captured the reflective quality of the glass.  Perhaps I could have worked it more but in the past I’ve overworked things so I was trying to avoid doing that.  My choice of paper was good as I had a range of colours and really wanted to see what would work and happily red did.  I knew from the other exercises that drawing on a white background would wash everything out and the white charcoal would be rendered useless unless I had a ton of charcoal on the paper.  Even then, from previous studies, I have found that the white doesn’t come across as clean when placed over black.


The first drawing was done in portrait form and although A3 I felt happy with this size of paper.  Bigger would have probably overwhelmed me a bit and in this instance it felt comfortable.  However, a larger page of red may have produced a better quality of line…I’m not sure.  Plus I didn’t try out a conte or artbar for it so maybe a newspaper print with red conte could have worked.  I’ll try it out later but for now it worked well to use the charcoal on red.

The number ‘3’ was well off and the bottle outline is a little weird, as is the jar top.  The background is good and the soft fade out works.  In this I like the shadows and feel that they’re good but a little strong.


The landscape version didn’t feel as successful but the jar was definitely better.  It was harder to manage and although I did my best to not overwork it I felt that the piece was a little heavy handed.  The shadows looks like they’re bouncing off a highly reflective surface and they’re not.  It was done to see if drawing bigger would have a better finish, but in this instance I feel like I lost some of the quality.  The portrait was more in tune with the still life.  The structures of the objects appears to be better but the rendering of the beer bottle is off.

What did I learn?

  • I learned to trust my instincts!
  • Sketching first with charcoal on newspaper print would eliminate that rigidness that is appearing in the drawings. I had done warm-ups for the day and done some portraits for dark to light studies in charcoals which was good but I still could have done with warm-ups for this exercise to loosen me up more.
  • Using red helped me achieve the tone of the bottle nicely and part of that tonal quality was reflected in the jar. The combination of that with the diffused lighting meant I could heat up the colour by leaving the red page exposed and when I wanted to cool it down I could simply wash it with white charcoal.
  • I liked trying out the options of portrait and landscape. I felt that the portrait was better suited as it gave me a chance to include the angle of the base which gave a nice interesting dimension to the drawing.

Charcoal has surprised me a lot the last while.  I had used it in lifedrawing classes many years ago but hadn’t really taken to it.  For this exercise and from some experiments completed, I’m finding myself really enjoying the process of experimenting with it.It has a depth of colour that I just can’t achieve with paint or pencil.  That blackness really works for me.

How can this help me in future exercises?

  • Experiment with coloured paper by observing the tones in the objects being used. Either use a tone similar to it or a tone that is the opposite of that one to make it pop.
  • Play more with lines and marks in the image. Try to complete some of the images without smudging the charcoal – just allow the hatching or lines to do the job of creating the shadows.
  • Don’t be afraid to go bigger.