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Category Archives: Drawing 1
Exercise – Drawing your face
Several five-minute sketches of my face describing different angles of my face and head:
The second sketch looks like a character from “Guess Who”! This exercise has come during Movember, so my attempts to grow a dodgy moustache gave me some added interest to capture! The last of these was the best in describing the angles as I haven’t got distracted into adding detail.
Five more quick sketches concentrating on the overall shape of the head without the neck:
I think I have quite an angular head!
The shape of my neck:
Exercise – A self portrait
First sketch using pencil:
I drew my face straight on here. The chin isn’t right and should be more angular and the nose and lips are too far apart, despite putting them closer together than was recommended in the course notes!
Second sketch using charcoal pencils:
This time I drew my face at the angle I was facing to complete the drawing, which made it easier to jump between looking and drawing. Despite that, I have managed to elongate my head and given myself a bit of an alien appearance!
Exercise – Portrait from memory
I chose to draw my wife’s dad for this exercise. The drawings were carried out in a bar whilst he listened to a show. He had his eyes closed a lot of the time which simplified the drawing of the eyes.
I particularly like the left hand sketch where I only managed to capture the eyes.
Unfortunately the lights were turned down when the show changed which made it very difficult to continue with these sketches. I looked through my photographs assuming I had plenty of him but could only find two shots which were group shots so didn’t have much detail when zoomed in.
The sketch looking down looks a bit like him, but the frontal view looks nothing like him.
I decided to move on to the portrait from memory using these sketches, rather aware than my source material was a little thin!
I decided to use the eye sketch mentioned earlier so going for a three-quarter view. I started out sketching in a head and adding features using the generic proportions as detailed in Betty Edwards book.
Adding in the features I came to a portrait, but not of him!
The glasses are too small, the face too full and the hair too dense. This is a very hard exercise to do without a model to measure off and without detailed enough sketches to work from.
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-69)
Rembrandt was prolific in his self-portrait drawings and etchings. It seems to be unknown why he did this, whether it was due to wanting to record himself aging, testing out expressions, building public recognition of himself, or due to market demand. However, having done a couple of self-portraits myself, it could just be that the model is always there and willing, so it is easy to get going with them.
This etching shows Rembrandt with an expression of surprise or shock. It has great use of line and hatching to depict his face in a clean style
This painting shows a more pensive expression, or perhaps like mine he was concentrating on how to get the drawing right!
This is a more abstract image using bold brush strokes to depict the tone and hair, with sparse use of pen lines in the brighter areas.
Vincent van Gogh (1853-90)
van Gogh painted self-portraits due to a lack of money to pay for models and as practice studies to perfect his style. His intention being “to show that a variety of very different portraits can be made of the same person.”
This is an early oil painting of himself with muted realistic colours.
This is a later, very bold and colourful depiction of himself and I love the use of colours you would not expect to see on his face (blues and greens) but which work so well.
Lucian Freud (1922-2011)
Freud drew and painted a number of self portraits
This image is very bold and not exactly complimentary to himself!
This is also a very honest depiction of himself and it is very interesting to see how he has included so much detail from using blocks of colour.
Caio Locke (1980-)
Finally a self-portrait from a contemporary artist
Possibly deep in concentration? I don’t think I have seen an artist self portrait of themselves smiling – maybe it is too difficult to keep the smile up for any length of time?
Rembrandt van Rijn: Life and Work: http://www.rembrandtpainting.net
Bridgeman Education: http://www.bridgemaneducation.com/
Van Gogh Museum: http://www.vangoghmuseum.nl
Check and log
Which drawing materials produced the best results? Why?
- I think both pencils and charcoal pencils worked well with the portraits, the pencils allowing more subtle tones and the charcoal pencils allowing a greater tonal range (which I used too much in the depiction of my thinning hair!).
Does your self portrait look like you? Show it to a couple of friends or family members and note down their comments.
- Ish! My family’s comments where that my first self-portrait looked the most like me, but I have a squarer jaw. On my second portrait, my ears need to be bigger, I have less hair and my head is too pointed.
Did you find it easy to convert your sketches into a portrait?
- Not really, but then I didn’t really have enough sketches to start with. If I work from sketches again, I need to have a lot more of them and I would supplement them with plenty of photographs.
Were your preliminary drawings adequate?
- No, but due to lack of opportunity to capture them. If I had known how little time I had I might have approached the sketches differently.
Exercise – Sitting and waiting and Fleeting moments
I’m going to sound like a country bumpkin now, but I have a lack of access to groups of people to sketch as I live and work in a village, work in an office on my own with no communal area, and don’t even go to supermarkets!
I have combined these two exercises as I think they are very similar.
A rare training session involving a train journey afforded me the opportunity of drawing some of the passengers:
The amount of detail I was able to capture depended on how long the person didn’t move for, or how long I could get away staring at them for!
Manning a gallery exhibition for a day gave me another opportunity to try to capture drawings of people:
You would have thought this would have given me plenty of time to sketch people, but it was amazing how short a period of time some people spent looking at the artwork!
And a sketch in the pub whilst waiting for my friend to arrive:
In all of these sketches I think I am trying to capture too much detail and need to try working more quickly.
People watching. I tried to approach this by doing some candid photography and then do some sketches based on these.
I tried to do this based on some photographs of my family on holiday:
A pen sketch
Then a few quicker sketches of people throwing (a welly if you are interested – don’t ask!). These are much quicker and when one works using quick lines (like the twisted body on the second page), this can work well.
As well as the difficulties in finding enough people to draw, this section is also a little sparse because this quick drawing didn’t appeal to me. I can’t seem to get the proportions of a figure correct without spending time measuring, so I am rarely pleased with the results.
Check and log
How well did you manage to create the sense of a fleeting moment rather than a pose?
- Not very well, but best when I resorted to a very thick pencil and working as quickly as I could, otherwise I got into too much detail.
How successful were your attempts to retain an image and draw later?
- I did this section from photographs instead as I know my visual memory is terrible!
Were you able to keep to a few descriptive lines to suggest the person’s movement or were you tempted to keep introducing more elements into your work?
- I was always tempted to introduce more detail than I needed to.
Exercise – Fabric with line and form
Drawings of overalls thrown over a chair:
Using an 8B pencil for a 15 minute sketch in line only
Using soft and hard charcoal pencils for a 15 minute sketch. I added lines to show the tone this time which worked better. It was very hard to get the proportions correct though as there were so many folds of fabric, so the proportions of both sketches are not fantastic.
Small sketches of sections of the fabric, the ones which have worked best here are the ones where I started out shading in the mid tone and removed/added onto that.
Exercise – Form and movement in a clothed figure
I drew my wife wearing a dressing gown and sitting on the sofa with her feet up watching TV (avoids the movement which comes from page turning if reading a book!).
I started concentrating on depicting the fabric before getting all the proportions of the figure correct and as a result her body isn’t wide enough (by about 50% I think), and her legs should be thinner. The fabric shadows and folds work best around her right arm where there are a lot of folds and where I have put in some of the background. They don’t work quite so well on the legs where there are less shadows and it looks a bit flatter. The cat distracted me a bit in this area also, but his presence wasn’t optional!
Check and log
Did you find it easy to approach the figure as a whole or were you distracted by details of the sitter’s dress?
- I was distracted into trying to capture this before getting the overall shape correct to start with. I got my wife to wear a plain white dressing gown though, so there wasn’t distraction from colour or pattern though.
How did you create volume in the folds of fabric?
- The shading creates the volume in the folds and I am starting (slowly!) to get better at using more dense pencil marks to increase the tonal range which helps define them further.
Does the finished drawing give a sense of the figure beneath the fabric?
- I think so. It does seem a bit flat in the body which could be because I haven’t captured the background very well or added any to the right hand side.
How would you tackle a drawing like this again?
- Probably in much the same way, although I would ensure the body outline shape was all correct before adding detail and I would put in a background around the whole figure.
Research anatomy images. I had to use the web for this as I had no access to anatomy books. I found a wealth of images on there though and did a few drawings of the parts of the body:
I can see how knowing the location and shape of the main muscles will help in completing figure drawings (although the rest of them may just confuse things), and I will try to use this knowledge in future sketches.
Exercise Three drawings
Three sketches using different drawing tools
I went straight to drawing the model with this drawing, using a background of charcoal as my mid tone and using a rubber to remove it for the highlights and adding darker charcoal for the shadows.
I did this sketch in the life drawing class, using pencil and again concentrating on getting the proportions correct. I was just starting to add some shading to the foot when the class finished, so didn’t get to include tone in this drawing.
I did an initial quick sketch from the back of the model:
Then went for a frontal view for a longer pose (the exercise called for a view down the model, but the options in the life drawing class were limited and this wasn’t possible). I used charcoal again for this (but a different method) and concentrated on using tone rather than line:
I didn’t manage to do much in the way of preparatory sketches for any of these drawings as they all took place in a life drawing class where time was limited. so I mostly concentrated on the main image.
Check and log
How accurately did you depict the overall proportions of the figure?
- Probably most accurate in the sitting sketch, followed by the lying down one and the standing the least accurate. I found it difficult to get the proportions correct when using the removal method, although it was getting close by the end of the session. I am pleased with all three drawings though.
Did you try to imagine the sitter’s skeleton and muscles? Did this help you to convey the figure’s structure and form?
- Not for these drawings, but I will try this for some future ones.
5 short sketches identifying the figures central axis:
3 sketches trying to capture a sense of movement:
I wasn’t really sure how to approach this exercise as I didn’t know how to capture a sense of movement by drawing a static pose?
Check and log
How well have you managed to capture the poses? What could be improved?
- Reasonably well. It is hard to get a sense of perspective and therefore if the foreshortening is correct, without having more detail in the sketches which the time limits in these exercises didn’t allow.
Do you think that your figures balanced? If not where did you go wrong?
- I think the centre-lines are correct, but the lack of detail doesn’t show the foreshortening/angle at which I drew the figure, which makes some of them look as if they wouldn’t balance!
How did you go about conveying a sense of energy?
- I’m not sure whether I achieved this goal, but I approached it by using bolder lines and trying to show crease lines where the clothing showed twisting.
Exercise – Essential shapes
Model arranged in a chair at an angle. I did these drawings of my wife sitting in an armchair reading. I took measurements and drew her from 3 different angles (by spinning the armchair around to a new location) and made some notes as I went.
In the first sketch I made the mistake of trying to draw in her face which I wasn’t going to be able to get right in the time available. For the subsequent drawings, I just marked in the position of the eyes, nose and mouth. I think I have captured the foreshortening of the body and the perspective of the chair quite well in these quick sketches.
Exercise – Essential elements
The brief was for six ten minute poses concentrating on tone and not detail. I was bound by the format of the life drawing class though, so below are nine sketches of between 2 and 5 minutes where I tried to concentrate on tone.
I found that I needed to get in the basic outline first which took up a significant portion of the time and didn’t leave much left to put in the tone, so these are not as complete as I might like.
Check and log
Were you able to maintain a focus on proportion at the same time as creating a sense of weight and three-dimensional form?
- With all except the second to last sketch, I drew in the basic shapes first before adding the tone, so I think the proportions are mostly about right. I would have needed more time to go straight into tone drawing on its own as I would definitely mess up the proportions otherwise!
Which drawing gives the best sense of the pose and why?
- For “Essential shapes” I think this was the third sketch with the leg and foot very large in the foreground. I think it is the foreshortening which gives the best sense of pose in the absence of any tone.
- For “Essential elements” I think this would be the first and last sketches as the proportions are correct and I have got the tone in more accurately and completely than for the other sketches, so they are more three dimensional.
Was there any movement or gesture away from the model’s central axis. If so did you manage to identify this and put it into your drawing?
- In “Essential elements”:
- Sketch 3 – the model has a twist in the body but I haven’t managed to capture this very well
- Sketch 4 – the model has a twist in her spine and out flung arms which I have started to capture crudely with tonal shading
- Sketch 6 – the model has an arched back which I think has been identified better using lines for the creases in the back and shading
- Sketch 8 – this is a very energetic pose where the tonal shading has made sense of the foreshortening
Exercise – Quick poses
Quick (5-10 minute) sketches of different poses. These were done with a few different models at a life drawing class. The first in each series always suffers until I get into the swing of it.
Exercise – The longer pose
Sketches of a longer pose. Again, I have done a number of these at the life drawing class.
This was the first drawing I did at the life drawing class – I haven’t measured properly in this image, especially in the location of the eyes.
Note:- Looking back on this drawing at the end of this stage, I have just read Betty Edwards book ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’ and it is interesting that I have done what she found all her students doing in making the features too big on the face and positioning the eyes too high, because that is what the brain “sees” – if only I had read her book earlier!
My second attempt – a much more incomplete drawing because I spent a lot longer measuring for this one.
My third attempt – measured and getting closer to be a complete drawing, but still a long way off!
Check and log
Have you managed to make a complete statement in this time? What were your main problems?
- No. The quick poses suffer from being quick and giving limited time to measure, and can only really be outlines in the time allowed. For the longer poses, I need to spend a lot of time measuring the parts of the body at the moment, along with making corrections, etc., so don’t have enough time to make a complete statement in the time.
- Some poses I was trying to draw were not very easy to do as they didn’t have many points of reference, so this may have contributed to the incomplete drawing.
How well have you captured the characteristics of the pose?
- I think I’ve captured them reasonably well with the longer poses.
Do the proportions look right? If not, how will you try to improve this?
- I’m quite pleased with the proportions for the second and third longer poses. I spent most of my time measuring, checking angles, correcting, etc. + returning the model to the pose after the break didn’t fit perfectly to the position before the break which made it tricky.
My tutor encouraged me to do some sketches of people whilst out and about working through stage 3, so I thought I would include these in here:
So, how do I think I have done?
Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills
Materials: I mulled over the use of a variety of materials whilst planning this assignment. Because I wanted to make sure the proportions were correct and the perspective was right, working in pencil first, followed by ink, meant that I could then rub out all the pencil guide marks I had made. Researching other images then led me to sticking with ink and using washes to complete the image. Using glued watercolour paper worked well and has meant that the paper has stayed flat and not stretched when the washes were applied (which happened with my assignment 1 piece).
Techniques: I was hoping to find a pen which would give me more unpredictable results to loosen up my style, but as it was, I ended up doing a detailed pen drawing. I did use different thicknesses of lines, but all continuous, with a number of different marks for the leaves and plants in the garden. My brush technique leaves a bit to be desired – my image is very detailed and exact, which isn’t mirrored by the application of the washes.
Observational skills: Because this was a detailed work, it was all about observation. I think I have measured and observed well and got the perspective right.
Visual awareness: This is similar to the previous category, but I guess would cover awareness of the different tones in the image. In some areas I think I have got this right, but others (the paving slabs and the receding wall in particular), I haven’t.
Design and compositional skills: I think the composition I chose worked well. The portrait format fits the image well, the door to the right frames the composition nicely and the table and mat provide foreground interest which leads into the image. The placement of the flowers on the windowsill also works well, although I haven’t made these large enough in my drawing.
Quality of Outcome
Content: The image falls down in areas due to the washes applied – I have got a smudge on the right hand door from ink on my hand, and I have used too dark a wash on the paving slabs and on the wall at the top of the image (although this does now frame the image quite well). I think most of the rest of the image works well, although the washes could have been more exactly applied where straight lines were needed.
Application of knowledge: I guess the main areas of knowledge from the course applied here were measuring, perspective and tone. I am very pleased with the first two of these, but need to continue working on my depiction of tone.
Presentation of work in a coherent manner: This blog is the main record of my work, with my accompanying sketchbook.
Discernment: Hopefully this shows in the final drawing.
Conceptualisation of thoughts: The thinking in this image was around the composition and what elements to keep and what to discard. I think the composition is strong and works very well. I also think most of my thoughts on what to draw and what to ignore worked well – the removal of the cat flaps and radiator both “tidied up” the image. I should have thought a bit more about the plant pots in the garden though as these look a bit flat and also removing items from the left hand window should have resulted in paving slabs then showing.
Communication of ideas: I think the choices made in composition and the materials used make this image (mostly) work well, and I think the image only really falls down on my technique.
Demonstration of Creativity
Imagination: I guess that seeing the composition of an image, placement of elements, working out what to include/exclude, simplifying elements, etc. is the evidence of imagination.
Experimentation: This was mainly in trying out different textures with pen marks and washes to see what worked.
Invention: I’m not sure how to answer this, unless to say ditto to the above?
Development of a personal voice: I guess I am developing this and it is leaning towards detailed studies, whether I like it or not!
Reflection: Overall I think this drawing went well. It could certainly be improved, but mainly through starting again and working better with the washes. As that would be the main thing I would do to change it, I guess I have made the right choices in composition, techniques and materials for what I was planning to achieve.
Research: Most of my research has been done whilst working through this stage of the course, although I did some research for this assignment when it came to deciding how to proceed after laying down the initial pen lines.
Critical thinking (learning log): This post and the others through this stage of the course covers this.
I chose a scene from my mother-in-law’s house whilst I was house/cat sitting there:
My preliminary sketches were pretty rough and ready as the options for varying the image were quite limited. The outcome of them was to go for a portrait format, close to the open door, with the door open as wide as it could go.
After mulling it over for a while, I decided to try doing this with pen and ink, so started out working in pencil to get the perspective right (the grid is matching the viewfinder I made myself out of a piece of plastic with lines drawn on it):
Despite thinking I’d measured everything correctly, once I put the doormat in, I realised that my doorway was too tall and thin.
Rather than continue with this, I started again, measuring more carefully and it looked better:
I adding ink outlines to the sketch, doing a quick reference sketch to work out which lines needed to be bolder:
I forgot to photograph the image at this point, but I’ve gone all detailed again – maybe that is just my style and I have to accept it? I would like to explore more simplified abstract images, but always seem to end up going into great detail.
I stalled a little at this point. I was happy with the image so far, but how to continue with it? I needed to add tone and also needed to decide if colour should be introduced.
I had a bit of a look at pen and wash images on the web and looked at the following images:
I noticed how the ink colour faded as it went into the background, so I used diluted ink to add the leaf textures into the background (beyond the wall) in my image.
I couldn’t find any images with small areas of colour, which would be what I was thinking about for the flowers, so I decided to stick with grey-black for this drawing.
I had a little tinker around with ink washes:
Along with testing the intensity of the wash before applying it, I started out with slightly diluted ink and kept diluting more and more as I went through the image. Unfortunately I ran out of ink so had to do this again which resulted in some of the tones which should have been the same, coming out differently.
My final image:
Exercise – Sketching an individual tree
I chose a tree by the river for this exercise, which was to do four sketches of the same tree:
In pencil, a simple outline drawing with vegetation shaded in
In coloured pencil, including some tonal shading this time
In pen with tonal shading (drawn as a continuous line), but no vegetation drawn in
Pen as with sketch 3, with vegetation in coloured pencil – a bit too luminous in colour and being able to see through the coloured pencil to the pen below looks a bit weird.
I did an additional larger sketch of the same tree in charcoal
Exercise – Larger study of an individual tree
I picked the tree on my patio to draw as I could do this comfortably through the patio windows:
I chose Letraset Tria pens to complete this sketch as I wanted to try them out.
The pens give a uniform colour no matter how much you go over the same spot with them, so I had to add tone through hatching on the trunk. There wasn’t really any way I could add this in the foliage areas though, but I don’t think the image suffers too much from this.
Exercise – Study of several trees
I found a suitable spot not too far from home which I thought might work well:
I decided to tackle this using charcoal:
I then thought I’d try adding some colour:
The chalk made an almighty mess! That and I seemed unable to get any control over them at all. So, covered in green chalk, I decided to try again.
This time I thought I’d try coloured pencil to introduce colour:
This did work better to get colour in, but looking back on these images, they are very childlike images – mainly because they are uniform in tone. The trunks were pretty uniform in tone, but I think maybe I needed to use a smoother paper to get a dense black for the trunks and then rub out the few highlights? However would be the best method, I haven’t achieved it in these drawings!
Check and Log
How many different tree types have you drawn?
- Three. The most interesting ones I find to draw are those which are dead or partially dead as the bare branches give the interest and they are not just a mass of green.
What techniques did you use to distinguish each type?
- I’m not sure I’ve developed a technique for different types of tree, I approached each drawing with a plan to use different media or just to see what worked.
What did you do to convey the mass of foliage?
- As detailed above, I mostly avoided this by drawing bare trees, and the drawings I did of several trees were not very successful.
How did you handle light on the trees? Was it successful?
- Not very well. Some of the hatching I used on the study of the individual tree worked well, but apart from that I haven’t been successful in capturing this.
Did you manage to select and simplify? Look at your drawings and make notes on how you did this, and what could you do better?
- Not really. The tree image which I think has worked best for me was the study of the individual tree in which I drew pretty much everything which was there, only simplifying in the mass of foliage. The only images which were simplified were the studies of several trees and I simplified them to the point of a child drawing! I’m quite disappointed with what I produced for the tree drawings as I was quite keen to get some good results with these. I definitely need to work on my simplification of images and on my tonal work.
Exercise – Study of a townscape using line
This exercise called for a couple of pages of preliminary drawings, then a study in pen and ink or drawing pen. By this point in the course I had left it too late to do much drawing outside as it has turned cold and wet, so I modified this assignment to do a pen sketch from a photograph.
The image chosen:
Some bits of this have worked quite well, but I have failed to get any sense of tone in the majority of this image.
Exercise – A sketchbook of townscape drawings
I tried this exercise drawing the two 10cm squares for a detail and tonal study:
However, when I can to the full sketch I realised I had got some of the proportions wrong (the ivy is too small). I also got too cold drawing and lost inspiration for this view.
So I tried again using a photograph of another area of Grassington:
I started this sketch on a background of light graphite rubbed into the paper, and I really like the effect this has had on the image. It also makes it quite easy to rub guide lines into the background once you no longer need them.
Exercise – A limited palette study from your sketches
Again, I had to modify this exercise as I didn’t have enough preliminary sketches and none which mentioned colour, so I worked off a photograph of Skipton high street:
I decided to work with the Letraset Tria pens and started out trying to complete it just using diaganol lines in one direction:
I didn’t get on with this though, so abandoned that idea and started again:
I rushed into this drawing too quickly though and didn’t get all the main angles worked out before starting to draw, so I only completed part of the drawing. Problems include:
- The people are too small in the distance to the right of the car
- Shop fronts too high (in taking out the cars parked in front of them, I have miss-judged the pavement level)
- Background building wrong shape (in taking out the tree, I have got the shape of this wrong)
- I drew the building lines in too far down before adding the car
If I get chance later in the course I might re-try this exercise.
Exercise – Drawing statues
I never realised how few statues I have near me until I went looking for them! However, I did find 3 in my nearest town and had to make do with them.
The first one I attempted was a statue of Freddie Truman in the canal basin:
Using pencil, I made the following sketch:
On a different day I tried to tackle the other two statues. First off was the angle on top of the war memorial. There was only one location in which I could sit and sketch this, which wasn’t the ideal profile:
I was also a fair distance from the statue (I zoomed in to photograph it), so I went for capturing the general outline rather than including any of the detail as I couldn’t really see it from where I was.
My first attempt in charcoal:
The statue here was very roughly sketched and the background too bland, so I had another go, this time using softer charcoal and attempting to capture some of the cloud formations:
Outlining the pillar on which the statue stands was a mistake, but I was quite pleased with the rest of the image.
The final statue was on the high street:
There was nowhere to sit nearby to be able to sketch this statue, so I had to do my drawing at home, choosing pencil for this one:
The pigeon didn’t work brilliantly on this, and his right hand went a bit funny, but I like the looming impression he gives.
Check and Log
How did you use a limited colour palette to create a sense of depth?
- Only through the use of perspective and some shading with the black pen. The Tria pens don not allow for different tones.
Did your preliminary sketches give you enough information for your final pieces of work?
- I didn’t manage to do any sketches from preliminary sketches due to the weather turning and needing to progress with the course. If I get chance later in the course I will re-visit this exercise.
Would you approach this task differently another time?
- I think it is important to use rulers and get the main perspective shapes sketched in before starting drawing in earnest. I did this best on the image with a background of graphite and this is the one which has worked the best.
Have you got the scale of the buildings right? Make notes on what worked and what didn’t.
- When I got the perspective right then yes. I struggled when trying to exclude things (e.g. the cars in the limited colour palette sketch).
Have you captured the colour and atmosphere in your studies? How did you do this?
- I have worked mainly in pencil with these sketches, the only colour study being the limited palette sketch, which I think best captures the atmosphere as well. The drawing I am most pleased with is the one on the graphite background, but this does have a different atmosphere than the image it was taken from, as the drawing is much more moody.
Despite the lack of post recently, I have by no means stalled again, I have just been working on many different sections of the course at once and am only just completing some of them! Hopefully I should be posting quite a lot in the next few days.
Exercise – Parallel perspective – an interior view
I chose a view from my lounge into the dining room as this was the only place I could sit and view through a doorway. We don’t have any tiled walls/floors or any rugs, so I used a coffee table instead:
My initial sketch:
Although a few of the chairs in the dining room were not right, I was reasonably happy with the lines drawn in this sketch. Adding in the eye level line and extending the lines to meet this gave the following:
Here I can see that there were a number of places where I went wrong in my sketch, mainly the size of the far edge of the table, the bottom edge of the right hand door (obvious once I had drawn the line in), and the lower half of the door on the left.
Getting these lines in at the start of drawing an image is obviously key to getting the perspective correct.
Exercise – Angular perspective
I chose a view at the top of Grassington for this exercise:
I didn’t spend quite as long as I wanted to on this sketch due to falling light levels and it being very cold – the drawbacks of not keeping to target on my assignments has meant that the weather is going to be against me from now on!
I could tell straight away that I had got something wrong as the nearest roof should have been showing if I had got the angles correct, so I had obviously got something wrong.
Adding in the eye level and perspective lines:
It took me a while to work out what was wrong with this drawing as most of the lines did actually meet at the vanishing points, but the roof should have been showing on the building in the foreground if it was correct. It was only when I added the vanishing points to the photograph that I realised that my horizon level line was too high on my sketch which was why I wasn’t getting it right.
It is definitely worth taking a ruler out with me and sketching in the horizon line and vanishing points until I have got better at doing these drawings.
Check and Log
What problems did you find in executing perspective drawings?
- I needed to learn to measure the angle of every line (and not trust my brain’s expectation of where the lines should go).
Make notes on the merits of using, or not using, rulers to guide you.
- Getting the perspective lines correct without a ruler is very tricky, and until I’ve done a lot of these sketches, I think will be essential, if only to get the start and end points of lines drawn in. I didn’t use them for either of these drawings, but did for one of later townscape images and for the assignment drawing, and they make a lot of difference.
- Rulers can’t always be used if the vanishing point is a long way off the paper, but where they can be used I think I will be using them.
- The other disadvantage of using rulers is the very straight and precise lines they give, which will contrast to the other lines used, so I found that the ruled lines needed to be light and then gone over afterwards to give a more “natural” line.
- They are rather unwieldy and difficult to use when just out sketching with a pad.
- They also may be using the more technical left hemisphere of the brain, whilst the right hemisphere will be needed for completing the drawing?
Brief History of Landscape in Art
To understand different artists’ depictions of landscape, I think I need to start by researching the history of landscape painting.
The appearance of landscape as a subject for art appears to start in Greek and Roman times, when images of landscapes and gardens were painted on villa walls. However, after the fall of the Roman Empire, the depiction of pure landscape seems to have stopped, consigned to the background when depicting portraits or religious scenes.
It was not until the Renaissance period that landscapes were once again depicted in their own right, although it appears that it was mainly in the Netherlands where it was considered a worthy subject.
1471 to 1528
Dürer is becoming a common theme in this course, so I won’t bother looking into his history again.
On the subject of his landscapes, he is acknowledged as one of the first European landscape artists, with his watercolour work in particular showing his skill in depicting nature.
I have picked out four of his images here:
A very flat looking watercolour image of a fortified castle, which is all on one plane having no foreground or background to give it depth
This image is acknowledged as one of Durer’s most sensitive portrayals of nature (British museum). It is always difficult to scrutinise a picture very well when viewing it on a computer screen rather than in the flesh, but this also seems to be a flat image. The pool all appears to be the same from front to back and so doesn’t appear to recede into the distance. There also appears to be a uniformity of detail across the image.
Not a landscape image in its own right, but it does show the use of landscape in the background which would be the more common way landscape was depicted in his era. Again it is hard to see very clearly, but it does look like there might be some aerial perspective in the mountains in the far background. Certainly the blue colours give some feeling of depth, although the rest of the image all appears to be a single flat plane.
Another image with landscape as a setting, but one which shows some incredible detail in the depiction of the land. Again, this image shows a uniformity of line and detail across the image.
This was when the ‘classical’ landscape was born, whose aim was “to illustrate an ideal landscape recalling Arcadia, a legendary place in ancient Greece known for its quiet pastoral beauty” (Getty). The aim was to provide an image of perfection, rather than a depiction of reality.
1594 – 1665
Poussin’s work often carries a moral or philosophical message (Met museum), often depicting religious scenes of various faiths. Because of this, the majority of his paintings appear to contain people and be telling a story about them.
The four images I have picked below are some where people play a smaller part:
There appears to be some depth to this image, although the majority of the image is on the same plane. Adam and Eve are very centrally placed, but the line from the figures, along the edge of the trees up to god on his cloud, does give quite a strong diagonal line.
The track in the foreground leads nicely into this image, although again it does seem to be a mostly single plane image, with just a bit of aerial perspective to the left hand side where the landscape disappears off into the distance.
A great example of single point perspective
The only image of his that I could find with no people featured at all. I like this sketchy style, although there could be more of a tonal range in the background.
In the 18th century, landscape finally achieved a recognisable status as a worthy subject for art across Europe. The ‘Grand Tour’ was popular with many rich people, with Italy being popular with many landscape artists. In France, the ‘classical’ landscape was expanded by Watteau to include people enjoying the countryside.
Jean Antoine Watteau
Watteau’s paintings mainly feature aristocratic people enjoying the landscape, although not in a way intended to tell a story as those painted by Poussin were.
This image shows great skill and detail, although the child on the right hand side does not seem to be in proportion to the other figures in the picture.
The people seem to glow in this image and don’t seem to be real. They also look as if they have been painted onto the landscape afterwards.
I think Watteau had a distorted view of what shepherds looked like and did all day! Again, some of the figures don’t appear to be correct in their perspective, with the woman further back on the swing appearing to be the same size as the woman in the foreground.
It could just be me, but the perspective doesn’t seem to be quite right to me in this image. The lines all lead off to the right, but don’t seem to converge at the same point?
The Industrial Revolution altered perceptions of the outdoors and started a trend of ‘plein air’ (or outdoor) painting, depicting real life landscapes rather than the idealized ‘clasical’ views.
The birth of photography then changed landscape again, as artists then had to move away from faithful depiction of the scene, to a greater freedom of expression, into Impressionism.
Courbet definitely shows a move to a more realistic depiction of landscapes with the following three images:
Again, this looks a bit flat to me, but given that is becoming a theme in my assessments of these pictures, it could well be as a result of viewing these images on screen.
This shows aerial perspective in the distance, but the foreground looks like it might not have been completed?
This seems to show the most depth out of the three images.
In Courbet’s seascapes, he moves from realism to portrayal of the mood in this image:
Urban landscapes feature more often, as well as the plight of the countryside from industrialisation. In terms of styles, anything goes!
Lowry went to Art School when he was 15 and was still attending art classes 15 years later. In the 1920s he worked as a rent collector which exposed him to the industrial scenes for which he is famous for painting.
His paintings started as quick sketches on the spot and were developed later at home. They are very distinctive images, often showing masses of people walking the streets with an industrial scene in the background, showing the effect of industrialisation on the world.
The first two images I looked at are “classic” Lowry oil paintings of lots of people in front of industrial buildings belching smoke. They use a very simple colour palette, fading the colours in the background, and make good use of the white of the background. Overall they have great energy and you could spend hours exploring different areas of the images:
I also picked out a couple of images which were different from what I associate as a Lowry image:
This still has Lowry’s distinctive style, but the image is much more sketchy and quick. Presumably this is one of his on the spot sketches which would be taken to work up to a painting in the future. It is impressive how he can record so much of the scene in so few marks on the paper.
This shows single point perspective (but in a curvy way), with subtle colouring giving a very simple and clean image.
The Museum Network: http://www.museumnetworkuk.org/landscapes/history/historyindex.htm
The J.Paul Getty Museum: http://www.getty.edu/education/teachers/classroom_resources/curricula/landscapes/background1.html
Bridgeman Education: http://www.bridgemaneducation.com/
The Metropolitan Museum of Art: http://www.metmuseum.org
The Lowry: http://www.thelowry.com
Exercise – A sketchbook walk
The weather was good for these sketches, although midges were a problem which meant I didn’t sit around for too long to do them.
Overall I found it tricky to depict both the water, and the mass of tree foliage, both of which feature in most of these images.
Sketch walk 1 – first image which didn’t go very well
Sketch walk 2 – better proportioned image
Sketch walk 3 – didn’t get any detail into the foreground
Sketch walk 4 – too similar tone across the image
I didn’t make any of the notes requested by the exercise, so tried another go, this time working in drawing pens as well as pencils (and avoiding water!):
Sketch walk 5 – I like the way I did the trees in this image, although outlining the different types of ground in pen has given too defined a boundary to these areas
Sketch walk 6 – I rushed this image to escape from the midges and failed to get any good tonal range
Sketch walk 7 – working in just pen, I have achieved even less tonal range in this image!
Sketch walk 8 – another quick sketch, this time cut short because it was too uncomfortable a position to sit in (stool now on order!)
I failed to make notes again, so will try to remember to do this in the next exercise instead.
Looking back at these drawings after my tutors comments on my last assignment I can see that I am still failing to get the light and dark tones from the pencils and they are all a fairly uniform line and tone. I will try to consciously work on this in the next exercises.
Exercise – 360o Studies
I found it hard to identify a location which would be suitable for a 360o study as there always seemed to be a lack of interest in at least one direction. Maybe it was just a reason to procrastinate though which I seem to be very good at with this course, so I set out on a walk determined to find a location and complete the sketches.
I didn’t take a compass with me, so just rotated 90 degrees for each sketch. Unfortunately I forgot to take a camera out with me on this occasion to record the views.
I was planning to pay more attention to tone in this image and started to do this, but ran out of time in the 15 minute ‘window’.
I changed to charcoal in the hope of drawing more quickly. I still ran out of time though!
Again working in charcoal, I managed to complete the sketch this time. I like the trees and using the putty rubber on the sky worked reasonably well, but the foreground lines didn’t work out quite so well.
For the least inspiring view of the four, I changed to Tria Letraset pens, but again ran out of time and didn’t complete the sketch.
Artists working in series
1840 to 1926
Monet is famous for his close observation of the variation in colour and light throughout the days and months. This was achieved through “series” painting, where the same subject was depicted throughout the day and in a variety of different conditions by painting a number of canvases at once. This meant that Monet could work on the canvas which most closely resembled the conditions at any point during the day. The Haystack series for instance, resulted in a series of 25 paintings painted from the end of one summer to the following spring. For an artist who worked mostly ‘plein air’, this approach must have been essential to be able to continue to work when the conditions changed. It must however have been difficult to transport all the canvases around and to know at what point to stop work on one of them and start on another.
1830 to 1903
Near the end of his life, Pissarro painted city views from hotel or apartment windows. The images below are all of the Boulevard Montmartre at different times of the day and seasons, in a similar series painting to Monet. He completed 14 paintings in this series.
Using a hotel or apartment to complete these painting must have been easier logistically than Monet’s ‘plein air’ series paintings, although the inclusion of people and carriages must have added a different complication in the capturing of these within a short space of time.
Bridgeman Education: http://www.bridgemaneducation.com/
The Metropolitan Museum of Art: http://www.metmuseum.org
The National Gallery: http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk
National Gallery of Australia: http://nga.gov.au/exhibition/turnertomonet/Detail.cfm?IRN=4701
Exercise – Drawing cloud formations
Small sketches of cloud formations in monochrome and colour.
My initial attempts at clouds were terrible!
On a cloudless day, I resorted to my image library. Changing medium to oil pastels, I produced another child like drawing of clouds!
A slightly improved version came next:
Changing image produced a reasonable likeness of the clouds:
Not quite as successful was a sunset image:
The same image in coloursoft pencils worked better:
A different image again, in chalk this time which I think worked quite well:
Finally another image in charcoal, drawn mainly with a putty rubber which gave a very moody image:
Exercise – Plotting space through composition and structure
A3 cartridge paper, drawing from a photograph.
The photograph I chose to draw from was this view of Ingleborough from Moughton Scar:
I divided up the image into Foreground, middle-ground and background like this:
I decided to use Inktense pencils for this exercise. For the background I sketched in the colours and painted them with water to give flat areas of colour. I did the same for the middle ground, but then used dry pencils to add some tone and texture. For the foreground, I used masking fluid to keep selected areas white, painted some flat areas of colour and then used the pencils when the paper was wet to give brighter and denser colours, finally adding some more detail and texture with dry pencils.
Write notes on how these artists divide their landscape into foreground, middle ground and background.
1600 to 1682
Lorrain painted idealized landscapes, where everything is perfect and beautiful. His images have an incredible brightness to them and I love the strong lighting in the images where the sun is rising or setting over the sea. He divides his images into a detailed and bright foreground, often with the foreground features framing the image, the middle ground where the colours are more muted and there is less detail, then the background with very muted colours and hardly any detail.
Joseph Mallord William Turner
1775 to 1851
Turner is considered to be one of the greatest masters of watercolour landscape painting, although he also worked in other mediums. He was known as “the painter of light” due to his use of bright colours in his paintings.
This image is very reminiscent of Lorrain, although the foreground colours are not as bold and bright, and the transition between the foreground, middle ground and background is more gradual.
These all show a similar representation of the foreground, middle ground and background, with the colours becoming more muted and the amount of detail decreasing.
Bridgeman Education: http://www.bridgemaneducation.com/
National Gallery: http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk
Check and Log
In what way did you simplify and select in your study? Were you able to focus on simple shapes and patterns amid all the visual information available to you?
- I simplified the background by just using washes of flat colours, and for the grasses in the foreground I concentrated on the texture and colour rather than a detailed representation. Other than that it was actually quite a simple image I chose which I didn’t need to simplify much.
How did you create a sense of distance and form in your sketches?
- I used decreasing levels of detail and tone to create the sense of distance. I think this worked between the foreground and the middle ground, but I don’t think the middle ground was quite as successful.
How did you use light and shade? Was it successful?
- It was moderately successful. I think it worked in some areas of the foreground, but there actually wasn’t that much shade in the image I chose.
What additional preliminary work would have been helpful toward the larger study?
- I can’t think of any more preliminary work which would have been useful for this image, other that gaining greater skills in the use of the pencils to achieve the colours and textures I was aiming for.
I think my choice of materials was good. I made a few mistakes with the colours, the main one being the browns used at the bottom of the image, but overall I think the Inktense pencils have worked well. I managed to add a bit more contrast than my initial attempts with them on the last exercise of the course, but I still struggled a bit to get as much contrast as might be ideal. The pencils don’t keep their sharpness for very long at all and, with the rough paper used, I struggled to get defined lines, so the shadows were done using shading rather than hatching. One other flaw was having to wait after wetting the inks for them to dry before continuing, which meant the drawing took quite a number of days to complete which meant I had to work on it from a photograph some of the time, as well as from life.
I think the composition works well, although a simpler plant might have been a better idea as it is a mass of green and I didn’t have a great range of green pencils available to me to complete the drawing.
I also think I worked out how to do most of the textures / colours quite well before committing myself.
I think the weakest areas of the drawing are the colour mistake at the base of the image and the plant itself, as I struggled to get the contrast, different shades of green and definition in the flower petals. I am pleased with the way the rest of the image has worked out though.
This is the point I got to before moving house and having a lot of other things on, which is possibly not the best point to take a break!
I started out by deciding that my main subject would be a flowering cactus, which had interesting shaped body and flowers (though not my natural choice of colour – pink!). I also thought I’d go for placing it on a windowsill to sketch in both the foreground and the background view out of the window.
Picking my windowsill and cactus, I made some rough sketches to determine the best composition. Working with a number of objects, I played around with their placement to try to get a cohesive group of objects.
Having decided on a layout, I re-read the brief and picked up on the need for strong directional light. I had gone for a windowsill which had a nice background of a wall and tree, but where the objects wouldn’t get any direct light, so I then moved them to another location which got the sun, but unfortunately had a fairly boring background.
This is the final setup I arrived at:
After having a play with some of the textures/colours before I started, I started out sketching in the locations of the different objects, then started drawing in the negative space around the plant to get the background.
For all of the drawing, I sketched in the basic colours, brushed over them with water to change them to ink, then worked on top of this coloured background with dry pencils to build up more contrast / detail.
I used masking fluid to block out some white areas on the stone and on the shadows on the side of the window, although this didn’t work very well.
You might also notice that I modified the plant pot, to change it to a single pot rather than a pot within a pot which looked a bit messy.
Finally the image was complete:
The Renaissance was a period of great development in Europe when it became the centre of learning and great strides forward were made in many fields.
Science and art went hand in hand at this time, as two artists Albrecht Dürer and Leonardo da Vinci demonstrated. Dürer was trained as a goldsmith, who then applied his attention to fine detail to the study of birds and animals. Leonardo was probably the ultimate scientist/artist, or ‘artist-engineer’, studying a multitude of disciplines.
1471 to 1528
I looked at Dürer in Project – Detailed observation, including his work on drawing animals. Dürer was one of the first artists of his time to challenge the view that animals were not worthy of great art. His depiction of them had great detail and captured the vivid colours (when looking at the wing of a blue roller painting), using the medium of watercolour.
Leonardo da Vinci
1452 to 1519
Starting his career apprenticed to a sculptor and painter, he became an independent master in 1478. Then around 1483 he moved to Milan to work as an engineer, sculptor, painter and architect – something I think it would have been great to be able to do, to mix and match disciplines to suit your interests and not have to specialise in a single subject – that and be great at them all also! Not only that, but he also studied geometry, anatomy, flight, gravity and optics, and invented many machines.
Looking at his drawings of horses, I could only find two of these on the Bridgemaneducation site, ‘Rider on Rearing Horse’ and ‘Study of Horses and Riders’ in metalpoint and silverpoint. The bone and muscle structure of the body and legs does appear to be accurately drawn (or as far as a non-horsey person can tell), although the horses necks do seem to have some very odd crease lines, especially in ‘Study of Horses and Riders’.
Bridgeman Education: http://www.bridgemaneducation.com
Exercise – Grabbing the chance
I had an opportunity to draw a dog when I came to this exercise, and a page of these drawings is shown below.
After that, my subject was our cat ‘Buster’, a tricky subject to draw for a number of reasons. Firstly he doesn’t stay still for very long except when in deep sleep, secondly he is black and white, which makes seeing the different tones difficult enough, never mind drawing them, thirdly, his favourite place to sleep is on a lap, which makes it hard to get a good angle to draw him from, especially as too much movement makes him move around!
Various incomplete sketches of him:
Three colour drawing of him from a photograph (I’ve got his eyes slightly different sizes in this one).
Skeletal structure of the cat.
I found the images above on Wikipedia showing the skeletal structure and muscle structure of a cat. I can see that for some animals (the horse particularly, as detailed below), knowledge of the skeletal and muscle structure would be very useful to aid drawings, as the skin is tight over the muscles. However, for the majority of cats, the mass of fur covering the body would seem to make such studies fairly pointless, and close observation would be more useful to an artist.
1724 – 1806
George Stubbs is considered by many to be the greatest painter of horses ever (BBC, Artyfactory). Horse painting not really being my thing and only having viewed his painting on a computer screen, I will have to take their word for it, but his skill in depicting the horse’s body cannot be disputed. The detail in depicting the flesh, muscle and bone can be seen very clearly, and it is no surprise to learn that he studied the structure of the horse.
The fact that he went to such lengths to do so, spending 18 months ‘peeling’ horses, shows that he had great determination and drive to fully understand their bodies, as well as a sterner stomach than many of us! It also demonstrates a similar marrying of science and art as discussed when looking at the Renaissance masters.
The picture “Mares and Foals without a Background” shows the skill Stubbs has in depicting horses, not only in recording their skeletal/muscle structure, but in applying that knowledge to paintings of them ‘alive’. The muscles of the horses can clearly be seen under their skin and there can be no doubt that Stubbs’s intricate knowledge of their makeup was what made this painting so lifelike. Although this painting date is before ‘The Anatomy of the Horse’ was published in 1766, he had been dissecting horses for the previous 18 years to produce the images for the book.
Bridgeman Education: http://www.bridgemaneducation.com
Exercise – Fish on a plate Aubergine on a plate
Being a vegetarian and owning a cat (the relevance of the latter being that I would have been drawing a cat eating a fish or would have lost blood stopping it from doing so!), I agreed an alternative option with my tutor of drawing an Aubergine on a plate instead. A single Aubergine on a plate isn’t the most inspiring of compositions though, so I added a courgette and in keeping with the original title, placed them both on a platter decorated with fish.
I used Derwent ‘Inktense’ pencils to do this drawing, first sketching in the main colours and brushing them with water, then adding dry pencil lines on top. I found it hard to get any deep areas of tone in this drawing and it is mostly the same tone throughout.
What were the main challenges of drawing animals?
- For animals in general, the main challenge is that they are not very inclined to stay still unless they are sleeping (and even then not for long enough).
- For my cat, additional challenges arise from the fact he is black and white which makes it difficult to draw in tone, and from the fact his preferred resting place is my lap, from where it is a challenge to draw him!
Which media did you enjoy using most and which did you feel were best for the subject matter and why?
- I enjoyed using coloured pencils, but I did struggle getting a good tonal range with them. For moving animals particularly, I think just pencil is the best option though, as you need to work quickly and don’t have time to change colours when you are drawing.
Where can you go to draw more animals? Think about the sorts of places that will give you opportunities for animal drawing. Have you tried drawing a moving animal yet?
- For me this would have to be out in the countryside drawing sheep, cows, etc. due to my location. Not necessarily ideal as drawing confined animals might be easier. I guess a field of animals would give the same opportunities though, as you could change the animal you focussed on depending on how they were standing. I’ve not tried drawing a moving animal yet, but will do so soon.
Exercise – Negative space in a plant
A3 drawing in graphite of the negative space around a pot plant.
I thought of this as an exercise and, although interesting, didn’t really see the point. However, after completing the following exercise it showed that getting the background drawn in first, helped in drawing the subject.
Exercise – Plants and flowers in coloured pencil
I tried a few methods of blending colours, but maybe due to the coloured pencils I have, I couldn’t manage to blend them using rubbing or smudging, which left me only hatching and layering as options.
For the drawing I bought some cut flowers and arranged in a vase. However, I didn’t choose the easiest flowers to draw and the whole drawing took me about a day to complete (over a number of sessions)!
I think I have done much better with the background in this drawing, and despite the bendy shadow on the vase, am pleased with most of the drawing. I am not sure I have really captured the three-dimensional aspect of the flowers though, due to lack of much shading or colour differences.
Exercise – Drawing with other colour media
I tried a few experiments in mixed colour media in drawing three of the flowers drawn previously.
For the image on the left, the negative space was drawn in watercolour pencil and then gone over with a wet brush – I missed the negative space between the stems though. After that, the flowers and glass were drawn in fibre tip pens.
For the image on the right, watercolour pencils then wetted were used for the whole image. I did start trying to add acrylic ink over the top, but whilst this showed up on the flower stems, it didn’t show up on the yellow flowers. I also tried adding oil pastels, but again nothing really showed up on the light coloured flowers – maybe I should have picked some bolder coloured flowers to try this on.
For the image on the left, I drew this in ink, then used acrylic inks (painted) to add the colour. I think this was the most successful image of the four.
For the image on the right, I drew this in pencil, then used acrylic inks (painted) to add the colour, although I went way over the top on the glass colouring. I tried adding colour using a dip pen and inks also, but this didn’t work too well on this paper, maybe because it was rough, or because it already had ink on it?
Check and Log
How will your experiments with negative space help your observational drawing in the future?
- It can be a good way to get the background in before starting on the subject and giving it context. I tried using this in one of the experiments in mixed colour media, although not that successfully.
What techniques did you use to ensure you drew your plants in proportion?
- For all the drawings I started out measuring the height of the subject, working out what was halfway in the image, getting in some basic shapes and then working from there, relating new objects to the ones already drawn.
How did you achieve an effect of three-dimensional space in your drawings?
- The negative space drawing was intentionally flat, the flowers in coloured pencil has some effects of three-dimensional space, but more in the background around the flowers than on the flowers themselves. I found this difficult as the coloured pencils didn’t layer very well and the limited palette of colours didn’t allow for enough variations in colour to represent this. The pencils didn’t keep their points for very long at all and when drawing on A2 paper this was quite a drawback! For the experiments in coloured media I didn’t add much shading so they are pretty flat images, mainly because I drew them without a direct light source and there weren’t many shadows to draw.
- So overall in this section the answer is that I didn’t really!
Exercise – Using hatching to create tone
Individual drawings of fruit and vegetables, paying attention to the shapes or planes that make up the outline.
I chose coloured pencils to complete this exercise, another medium I hadn’t used before. This was partly because of the student work example in the notes which I presume was done in coloured pencils, and I liked the composition of the fruit against the background of the paper bag. It may be a bit of a cop out to pick the same type of composition for myself, but as it meant that I was actually quite inspired to draw fruit, not something which I thought I ever would happen, I decided it was a good option!
I don’t eat fruit (don’t worry about my health with that statement as I eat a lot of vegetables!), so I went fruit shopping with art in mind rather than eating! Not that I found any exciting fruit in the local shop, although I dithered over a pineapple for a while, but I picked out some apples based on their nice colouring, a ripe banana with blotches on it’s skin and an orange.
Doing individual sketches on the items of fruit, I tried the apples on a few different types of paper. The initial sketch on white paper made the apple look a bit squat. The colours were quite vibrant on black paper, but I decided it would be too difficult to show shadows and it would have required adding a lot of white/colours to most of the background. I thought the grey paper would be a good intermediate option, but it seemed to make the colours a bit bland, so I decided to stick with good old white paper for the drawing.
It was difficult to capture the texture of the orange skin in this drawing. The ‘Textura’ rough cartridge paper helped, but not enough.
This seemed to be going well, but I didn’t carry on to complete the whole drawing here as I knew I would get sick of drawing the blotches on the skin and wouldn’t want to repeat this on the main drawing!
I tried the fruit on it’s own in a number of compositions (only one sketched), but they were a bit boring without a background, so I returned to the paper bag layout which inspired me from the course notes. The next sketch (bottom right) was a bit cluttered, but the third sketch (bottom left) was better. However the initial bag used was very creased and I thought would be hard to draw properly, so I kept the composition, but found a new paper bag which was less creased and gave a ‘cleaner’ composition.
I was quite pleased with the final image. I think the composition works well and the fruit is captured in reasonable detail.
I did have some issues working in coloured pencils. Maybe it was the quality of the pencils I used (unknown make which have been hanging around the house probably since school days), or that they had been bashed around for years, but I struggled to get a sharp point on some of them without it breaking off, and any point I did achieved went within seconds of starting to draw. Because of this some of the lines became more shading than defined lines. I also didn’t find it very easy to layer the colours or get any very dark tones.
I enjoyed this exercise though, much more than when I first read about having to draw fruit which didn’t inspire me at the time.
Exercise – Using markers or dip pens
For my first attempt at this, I sketched the fruit in pencil first, which then shows through the ink. The colour was added using dip pens The image is very flat because I have not applied any shading or shadow detail.
At this point I paused on the course for around 3 months before coming back to it.
Deciding to abandon fruit as there is never any in the house (and several bowls of fruit bought for the purposes of drawing had rotted before I got back to it), I changed to vegetables.
I opted to use dip pens again. Despite the course notes saying that dip pens were unpredictable and prone to mistakes, the only smudges I seem to get is from putting my hand in the wet ink whilst drawing.
I think this image works much better than the last attempt. Where I went wrong was when I started to add in the corrugated cardboard the vegetables were arranged on. I started this under the spring onions before deciding that it wouldn’t work and leaving the rest of the background white.
I wanted to try to get some of the rough / random effects I was failing to achieve with the dip pens so I went out and got some fibre pens in the hope I would have more success with these.
The pens I got gave me a limited palette to play with, so I have had to compromise with some of the colours. They didn’t work too well in trying to cover the background and I probably should have gone for an ink wash to do this. My composition also left a big space in the top left of the page which is not ideal.
Exercise – Drawing using oil pastel
The brief for this exercise contradicted itself in starting out saying to use a textured coloured paper and then later saying to leave some of the white of the paper to show through! I decided to go for textured white paper.
I had a limited palette of oil pastels as well, having just bought a set of 12 different colours. With the vegetables I chose the draw this did not cause a major problem though except in depicting the shadows, the biggest problem I found was trying to draw any detail or achieve any hatching on the textured paper.
I’m not sure I have got the hang of oil pastels in this drawing. The composition is ok, except for the different colour paper I placed the plate on going straight down the middle of the image. Where the image really suffers is in showing the tome and shadows, partly due to the limited palette of colours I had at my disposal, partly because I was struggling with the textured paper and in overlaying colours.
Find out about Ben Nicholson. Why does he simplify still life forms and negative space and superimpose them on the Cornish landscape?
Ben Nicholson was born in Denham, Buckinghamshire and both of his parents, William Nicholson and Mabel Pryde, were artists. He studied at the Slade School of Art and started off painting still lifes before moving on to abstract works. After travelling abroad, he settled in London for seven years where his abstract works were considered to be the centre of the London-based British avant-garde. In 1939 he moved to Cornwall where his return to landscape painting was necessitated by his need to earn a living and his dealers recommended this approach as they considered them as being easier to sell.
This is when he painted still life forms with the Cornish landscape. These started off as still life objects on a windowsill in front of the view:
and then moved on to be superimposed on top of the landscape:
Coming from an abstract background would explain the simplification of the still lifes, and the addition of these to the landscapes may have been from a reluctance to completely abandon the abstract work in favour of landscapes.
The British Council website references Chris Stephens, who termed it Nicholson’s ‘domestication’ of the English landscape, ‘to show that the making of art was ordinary and domestic, as essential as housework’. I have not been able to view this source directly, but it suggests a direct quote from Nicholson, so that was presumably his aim.
Why does any artist produce the work they do? It must be because it has meaning for them, and they enjoy the results. I guess he also found a niche in this work as (in my limited knowledge of the art world) I’m not aware of anyone else who produced work like this.
Check and Log
Your composition should occupy most of the paper’s surface. How much negative space do you have left?
- Too much in my fibre pen drawing, but I think the others cover the page well. I need to work on my backgrounds though to make them more interesting and fit with the subjects better.
What have you learned from drawing the details of fruit and vegetables?
- That anything you are drawing merits closer examination, as well as learning more about working with colour in different media.
What did you find most challenging about this part of the course?
- I did get a bit fed up of drawing fruit and stall part way through this project. There were other reasons why I didn’t have the time for a while, but I could have fitted in little bits. I need to keep pushing myself to continue as, once I got back down to it, I enjoyed it, so I need to make sure I keep moving on even if the subject matter doesn’t immediately inspire me.
- Apart from that, using the range of coloured media required was a challenge as they all required different methods of working.
Exercise – Still life group using line
A still life showing understanding of forms and connection between them, referring to patterns, textures and shapes.
I delayed a long time before starting this drawing as I could only think of piles of fruit or vegetables as a subject, neither of which gave me any inspiration! However, I then thought to draw the onions hanging up to dry in the shed on our allotment and I was away.
I think I’ve got most of the proportions right in this image and have made sure I paid attention to the vanishing points in drawing the corner of the shed. Some of the areas work quite well in drawing pen, such as the roots of the onions, but other areas don’t work so well. Without the detail on the wooden planks the image looked a bit bare, however, when I started to add some detail, it then started to become cluttered, and so I didn’t complete this process.
Again I enjoyed using fine black drawing pens, but it is hard to get some effects without being able to change the colour / intensity of the ink. The fork which has hard defined edges works well in this medium, but you don’t get a good sense of form or texture on the onions.
Exercise – Still life group in tone
Using coloured pencils or pastels, concentrate on the tones in the image and build up layer and layer of depth. Think very deliberately about using a variety of effects in this drawing, and work quite fast to keep the drawing spontaneous and full of energy.
I chose to use pastels to do this drawing, a medium I hadn’t used before.
The exercise said to start by drawing the darkest tones and work towards the lightest. I did this in this drawing, but I did do a very rough outline sketch first in light grey pastel to make sure the proportions were roughly right.
I found pastels nice to work with, but did have some issues with them. Because of the textured surface of the paper I was drawing on, I found that it was difficult to define edges in the drawing and so I have ended up with ‘halo’s’ around some of the edges, where the shadows / background doesn’t meet the object. I also found it hard to layer the colours and to be able to draw light areas of colour. As a result of this, the ginger merges into the scored chopping board it sits on.
Overall I am quite pleased with my first attempt at drawing with pastels, but not sure it works well as a demonstration of drawing with tone.
Check and Log
What aspects of each drawing have been successful, and what did you have problems with?
- In the line drawing, the perspective and shapes worked well, but not texture or tone. In the tone drawing, the objects worked quite well, but not the background or the depiction of the shadows.
Did you manage to get a sense of depth in your drawings? What elements of the drawings and still life groups helped to create that sense?
- Limited depth in the line drawing, all from the perspective of the corner of the shed. Better depth was achieved in the tone drawing as shadows and form were drawn, but it is still a bit flat.
What difficulties were created by being restricted to line or tone?
- Being restricted to line as requested in the exercise means not depicting the shadows, which limits the depth which can be achieved. And not representing the colour of the objects. These could both be added in line, but the inclusion of washes would be needed to get a more complete image.
- Being restricted to tone means you can’t define the edges of the objects early on in the image. Otherwise I am not sure there are any other difficulties with this method.