'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Tonal exercise on Black paper

As part of our still life class, we are learning about the technique of chiaroscuro. This is an Italian word that means light-dark, and refers to the use strong tonal contrasts in painting. You may have seen these paintings which look like the subject is brilliantly lit with a flood-light or bright sunshine, yet the background is very dark, almost black. The paintings are full of drama and excitement. Caravaggio and Rembrandt are two painters that spring to my mind who used this technique consummately.

Part of our preparation has been to take a portion of our still-lifes that we set up three weeks ago (yes, they are still there, and yes, the lilies have dripped their petals and the grapes are shriveling day by day), and render it with white wax pencil on black paper. As you can see I chose the frog.


  1. Very good Katherine but just one thing my dear - frogs are usually green or greeny brown - not grey/white as in your othwise brilliant sketch.

  2. Yes. There is considerable 'strength' in that drawing.

    I hope I can remember all these things I'm learning!

    I wonder if Caravaggio or Rembrandt ever drew a frog.

  3. You should have been at Wyndanwood today....bull frogs galore. But as YP states, none of them gray...

  4. Thank you Robert!

    YP, thank you. Yes, it would look good in colour. But the tonal studies are the first step. The next step is to do monochrome studies varying the 'ground'...

    GB, the vanitas crowd painted lots of bugs, and were especially fond of depicting dead game - birds, fish, rabbits etc. I included my froggie because I came across Jacob De ii Ghen's four studies of frogs.

    Sam - did you happen to photograph any? We don't get bull frogs here.

  5. Talk of drawing, stretching paper and fixative almost made my fingers itch to start joining in your exercise - I was plunged right back to my student days in art college!

  6. Jinksy - give in to the itch! It's such fun!