Sunday, 11 September 2011

Assignment 4 - Landscape Drawing

Sketchbook Walk

I had to do this over several walks due to the miserable weather and had to take some photos so that I could complete it. The first few sketches were too detailed I think so I then tried to do quicker sketches. For this section I made notes on the back of the pages since they were only A5 and didn't have much space.

A5 pen
This sketch above is looking from our local canal path over a boggy field of reeds towards a hillside with a section of trees and pylons. The sky was mostly clear with some clouds and the evening sun was quite low in the sky and casting long shadows. There was no wind. The focal point was the treeline leading up to the pylons. The ploughed lines on the field led the eye up towards the pylons in the distance as did the treeline which serves as the middle ground. The foreground showed the bull rushes (I think that's what they are) coming up out of the grass.

A5 pen
This sketch was done from a photo of Birnie Loch. I liked the way the trees were hanging over the water and causing shadows over the water. It had been a cloudy day with some sun coming from the right.  I spent a bit too loch trying to show the leaves on the trees. I think this has worked but I've taken too long and should have just shown the basic shapes.

A5 pen
The above sketch is a local path where we walk the dog. You can see the church spire in the distance while there are groups of trees in the middle and foreground. The focal point are the trees in the middle ground which the path leads the eye too. I think the composition of this sketch has worked and could be worked up to a larger painting. The weather was getting quite dull as the clouds were coming over.
A5 pen
This is another view on our normal walk. The path leads the eye to the trees and school building in the distance. I just scribbled a lot to get the shadows under the trees. The path would be nicer if it wasn't so straight I think. The sun came out for this sketch and was casting strong shadows of the wall and the trees.
After doing these sketches I felt they were too detailed and I should have worked faster. 
A5 pencil
The above sketch of a group of trees is a very simple composition. I tried to simplify the shapes of the trees and just scribbled in the tones. The trees are the focal point and there's not much else to it. The weather was cloudy with some sunny spells. I've written on the back that the background and foreground was a mid tone while the fields in the mid ground were lighter. I think I've made the distance too dark however. Distant objects should be fainter and mistier. I think the problems been that the field was maybe a crop that was lighter in tone and reflecting the sun too.
A5 pencil - View from window
The above thumbnail sketches were an attempt to do some drawing from my window once the rain started (and hasn't stopped since!). I tried to work as quickly as possible. The problem with these are the difficulty to find an interesting subject. The first sketch would be better and less complicated if I had just omitted the tree in my garden and concentrated on my neighbours.

360 Studies

I was on holiday in Italy staying with my in-laws in Genova so I took the opportunity to get some sketching done while making use of the babysitters. Their apartment has lovely grounds with a wide variety of different tree types. I was able to sit in a clearing on the grass and move round to see all the views below.

A5 pen - View south west

A5 pen - View North East

A5 pen - View north west

A5 pen - View South east

Drawing cloud formations

It's very hard to get to sketch anything other than rain clouds living in the west of Scotland. Before I did this exercise I didn't realise how featureless and boring the cloud cover is here most of the time. I spent weeks getting really frustrated whenever I was out and about and saw more interesting clouds but wasn't able to sketch them and then the weekends had permanent rain. So I didn't get a huge variety of cloud types and had to work from photos in places.The majority of cloud types were low cumulus or stratus I think.

A3 sketchbook Charcoal, oil pastels, conte, pastels

A4 oil pastels on coloured pencil

A4 sketchbook pastels and compressed charcoal

A4 sketchbook oil pastels and carre pastels on coloured pencil

A4 charcoal in sketchbook

Plotting Space through composition and structure

I chose for this section, a photo I had taken from Kinnoul Hill near Perth. The view is fantastic and looks over the Tay river winding though the fields.This drawing took me ages to complete. Doing a large (ish) drawing in pencil with pencil I found really hard and time consuming. The gorse bush in the foreground was particularly difficult. I tried to keep the spiky nature of the leaves by doing a scribbley technique.
I'm not really happy with it, it's a bit pale and doesn't have a central point of interest. I thought the river would provide this but it hasn't really worked. I was a bit confused with the instructions which mentioned water soluble pencils so I tried using some water soluble colour pencils but I quickly realised this looked very odd and stopped.

This photo is particularly washed out compared to the original but it still didn't have a focus that I could darken. I guess this is when you have to use artistic licence a bit and not draw exactly what you see. It was however not half as bad as I thought it would be when I kept stopping and starting so I'm very glad I finished it even if I wouldn't put it up on the wall!

A2 Pencil

Check and Log

1. 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.

I found this quite difficult when I started especially with trees and I tried to show the shapes of the leaves and their shadows. I found the quickest way of doing this was to use a scribbley technique which I found worked quite well with pen and was quite effective. I tried simplifying the trees to their basic shapes but they tend to look very simple and childlike. Buildings are much easier to simplify into basic shapes. 

2. How did you create a sense of distance and form in your sketches

Tonal differences are very useful to show distance and form. Atmospheric perspective says that objects in the distant background will be lighter in tone and will be slightly misty and out of focus. I have done this in the larger drawing from Kinnoul Hill but not so much in the small sketches. I think however, even in these sketches I have shown the difference between more distant objects and the foreground. Primarily I have done this by size and overlaying objects in front.

3. How did you use light and shade? Was it successful?

This is more difficult if there is no sun to create shadows. In the drawings I did in Italy the shadows are more evident because of the stronger sun. Under the trees I have created areas of shade and the tree trunks are much darker. The white paper showing through seems like highlights where the sun is reflecting off something.

The larger drawing from Kinnoul hill hasn't been so successful in this respect. This is why it looks so washed out. The photo was taken on a bright day so there wasn't much shadows. I chose this photo because it had the bushes in the foreground and the hill in the background and the river and fields served as the middle ground. These areas however are are still quite distant though which removes a lot of the detail in which light and shade can be shown.

4. What additional preliminary work would have been helpful towards the larger study?

I think my main problem with this drawing was the lack of a focal point and the lack of tonal variations in the middle ground. The dark area of the bushes in the foreground seem to need something else in the composition to balance them. If I was to do it again I would look for something I could place in the middle ground to attract the eye that would provide a darker area. Alternatively I could darken the areas with the trees on the hills in the middle ground. I'm a bit scared to do that for fear of ruining the drawing completely. The trees were the same tone as the fields in the photo but I wonder if this definition has been lost.
So in essence some preliminary sketches would have helped in the composition and to study the area properly to find a better viewpoint.

Research point - Cloud Formations

Look up information about cloud types and make some notes on the different formations in your sketchbook.

I found this great cartoon of the main cloud types:

 It seems there are 3 main layers of cloud types: low clouds include stratus, cumulus and stratocumulus; middle layer clouds include altostratus and altocumulus and high level clouds include the wispy cirrus, cirrocumulus and cumulonimbus. There are other types too but these are the main types. Cumulus have "vertical displacement" and can therefore occur at any level and are the big bubbly clouds you tend to see associated with thunder storms.

Looking at this cartoon I think the majority of clouds I've drawn have been the low level types, mainly cumulus.

Possibly some altocumulus above (bottom right). Rest are probably cumulus.

These two above look like typical cumulus clouds.

This last one is stratus and I think our most common cloud type here in Glasgow (when its not pouring).

I experimented using pastels on black paper. I think it's worked quite well. The pastels are good at creating the fluffy edges of the cumulus clouds. The dark paper shows through and creates a great effect and the white highlights on the clouds are more dramatic on the dark paper. Other colours of paper would be interesting to experiment with. If there was a lot of blue sky, an orange paper would be great to make the blue sky really vibrant. Similarly if it was a sunset and the clouds were coloured yellow or orange, a purple or blue paper would work quite well.

A4 pastels on black paper

Research Point - Landscape in series

Look at artists who work in series with the landscape such as Monet, Pissaro, or Cezanne. Make notes in you learning log about the challenges they faced and how they tackled them.


The artist that is most well known for painting in series, for me anyway, is Monet. He was well known for returning to the same spot over and over, to paint the subject in different lights and different seasons. Examples of this are his Haystacks, Lily ponds and his paintings of Rouen Cathedral.

Apparently with his series paintings he would often start them in front of the subject but then finish them in his studio at home often taking years to complete. I found this surprising as I thought of Monet as an artist that would paint solely en plein air and wouldn't spend hours labouring over any given painting. It seems that he changed this method of working in his later years and is quoted as saying "the better I see that it takes a great deal of work to succeed in rendering what I want to render: 'instantaneity,' above all the envelope, the same light spread over everything, and I'm more than ever disgusted at things that come easily, at the first attempt."


There about 25 of Monet's haystacks paintings all showing the hay after harvest time in the fields near his home in Giverny. He began painting this series at the end of the summer of 1890 and finished the following spring (bit confused about the dates attached to the images I found below though, the snowy one was dated 1890). He focused on the haystacks to show the differences in light that occur at different times of the day and in different seasons. He would then revise these in the studio at a later date.

Haystack at the sunset near Giverny 1891

Haystacks End of summer Morning 1891

Haystacks Snow effect Morning 1890

Rouen Cathedral

There are more than 30 paintings in this series and they were painted from 1892 to 1894. He rented a rooms across the road from the cathedral and painted from there. He was fascinated by the ever changing light and it's effect on the cathedral facade.
The Rouen Cathedral. 1893-1894
The Rouen Cathedral at Noon. 1894

The Rouen Cathedral. Portail. The Albaine Tower. 1893-1894


Pissarro was also working on painting in series at the same time (inspired by Monet?) although he was more interested in cityscape's. In 1897 he produced a series of paintings of the Boulevard Montmartre in Paris at different times of the day.

Pissarro - The Boulevard Montmartre at night
Pissarro - The Boulevard Montmartre winter morning
Pissarro - The Boulevard Montmartre Spring

One of Cezanne's favourite subjects was the Le Mont Sainte-Victoire near his home in Aix-en-Provence.  He painted it over 60 times from different angles. They span from 1882 to 1906 so this series was started well before Money and Pissarro's interest in seasonal and light changes on the same subject. Instead Cezanne was fascinated by the shapes and forms of the mountain and as was his style, he tried to reduce objects to either cylinders, spheres or cones.

1904 Mont Sainte-Victoire Seen from Les Lauves
1897 Le Mont Sainte-Victoire
1882 Mont Sainte-Victoire, von Bellevue aus gesehen
Other artists that worked in series like this are Van Gogh and his Sunflower paintings. Turner also painted the sea and elements repeatedly. He was interested in the light and weather effects and how to paint them.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Tutor feedback Assignment 3

Assignment 3 produced a lot to talk about and I had quite a few drawings to change. My tutor said this...

"Do try to make sure that every part of each picture has an artistic quality, a reason to exist and makes a contribution to the overall scene. I should be able to look at portion and be able to decide at least if it is near, mid or far. It should have some working by you. There need not be a white background just left."

This has been my most common fault so far and the most difficult for me to shake. Thankfully I think I'm getting better but sometimes still forget and leave the background.  

The first drawing was in Observation in Nature
A4 black pen
 This study of a branch just appeared to be floating in space so my tutor suggested that I gave it a "non-detracting minimal setting".
A4 Black pen
   The shadows on this were a bit confusing due to the way the bark had come away from the wood but the light seemed to be coming from the left side. I decided that I would use hatching at the edge of the branch at the front and a small amount at the back.

This has improved it a lot. It seems so obvious to me now that a background is needed but I previously thought backgrounds were bad and would distract from the object.

The next drawing I wasn't happy with at all. I realised that it was lop-sided but I didn't know what to do to make it more balanced. My tutor suggested that I cut 2" from the left side of the paper and "add a touch of wall or distance of some sort behind the table".

A3 Black Pen
 I decided to draw in the top of a chair behind the table and then I indicated a doorway before I cut the edge off the drawing.

I'm much happier with the end result. I'm beginning to understand that it's OK to use a bit of artistic licence and to add things that are not actually there. I just didn't have the confidence to do this before.

Similar story below. My tutor commented that she liked this coloured ink drawing of roses and honeysuckle in a glass vase and I should include it in my assessment but first I needed to finish it.

This immediately put the fear of god in me in case I ruined what I had. Also I didn't have any roses or honeysuckle to draw from and the lighting and positioning would be different if I did. I gave it a go however. I managed to find some pictures of roses on the net and used them to help. My favourite addition is the fallen honeysuckle petals I put on the mat. As is usual with these things, they were done in 2 seconds and with not much thought.

 I'm happy with the final drawing and I enjoyed this medium. It's perfect for the subject.

My tutor then asked that I colour in the background wall of the pencil drawing of the flowers and tea-set.
Original A2 coloured pencil
Changed A2 pencil
This was easy enough to do and has given the drawing a properly finished look. My tutor also commented about this drawing....

"Your drawing of the plants with the still life tea set is like two drawings in one. Both very well planned and drawn. It reminds me of Patrick Caulfield’s work. This is a good work. Would you like to see if you can develop this and combine both capable techniques on or with each other in future works?"

I wasn't sure what she meant by this but thought that it was due to the 2 quite different styles for drawing the dense foliage and flowers and for drawing the teapot and vase. The bottom half of the drawing is actually at quite an odd and exaggerated angle I think due to the mat. 

This made me think about the composition and I had a look at Patrick Caulfield. 

Patrick Caulfield Still life with dagger 1963 121 x121cm
 What I would normally think of as a mistake has turned out to be quite interesting for future ideas for still life compositions. The angles of the mat have given the composition a quirky look. It is interesting that such a simple thing can do this. As for the plant half of the drawing, I would certainly like to have a go at more botanical pieces. 

Drawing Animals

About my drawing of the dog sleeping, my tutor had this to say....

"You’ve made a good attempt to draw the dog. There are lots of good aspects such as the shapes and features. However much more attention is needed to the tonal shading. Are the black fur lines showing black fur – which would sit on dark tones – or are you showing pale fur with black lines?- which would need the shadows to be tonally drawn. I think probably only the long tail feathers fur should be drawn as individual furry lines. The remainder need extensive tonal observation. You have more of the correct idea on the front leg shading."

I knew something was wrong with the fur but I didn't know how to correct this before. I looked at the drawing again and took a piece of charcoal to it...

Original A2 charcoal
Changed A2 charcoal
The changed version of this drawing is much better and it's given the dog depth and shape where before she looked half bald in parts. I'm much happier with this.