Sunday, 29 January 2012

Assignment 4 Drawing Outdoors - Final Piece

The final piece for this section was really quite specific in it's requirements. Because of this I struggled to find the right place to draw from. The brief asks that you select a view from a window or open door and the view should include some natural objects and should also allow you to demonstrate atmospheric or linear perspective. I painted the views from the front and back of my house for STP and didn't enjoy it much so I wasn't overjoyed at this as my garden is in a pretty bad state. I gave it a go however and tried to do some sketches of some potential views. After perching on the edge of the bed and straining my neck and then sitting in front of the continually opening living room door, I gave up and decided the job was a bad one. Leaving the kitchen door open in December and sitting there would probably result in divorce so that wasn't an option.

 After a week or two of stress and pulling my hair out I was visiting my mums and remembered the great view from my old bedroom window. Logistically it was quite hard trying to get time to draw while visiting especially since it starts getting dark about 3.30 at the moment, but I managed to do some sketches and took some photos to work from to work out compositions.

I had initially thought that a view looking down the hill would be good but after seeing the sketches I decided on another view with a white house being the focus. From the photos I did a line drawing to work out the composition and I did some tonal studies using inks and colour pencils.

I had been flicking through the latest copy of Artists and Illustrators and found an article about an artist who drew beautiful pen and watercolour drawings of Plymouth.

Richard Allman
Richard Allman - Harbour wall - Ink and acrylic  70x50cm
Richard Allman

There was one particular tonal drawing that I really liked (unfortunately I can't find an image of it on the net to put on here). I tried to do a pen and wash study using tones in a similar vein, but stupidly did this in my sketchbook so the paper was far to thin for washes and it didn't work. It did however help me to pick out the darkest a lightest tones for my drawing. Richard Allman does these drawings on quite a large format (approx A1 size) which makes a difference to the approach. He seems to keep the line very fine and delicate and overlays this many times to create darker lines. He uses the colours to create the tones mostly. I also tried using a white oil pastel for the white house but it came out too creamy.
A4 pen and ink wash + white oil pastel
 I then did a sketch using coloured inks. I was quite pleased with this and I liked the effects produced by the inks. The bushes and trees have worked quite well. I used the coloured pencils to bring out the colours although the green is a bit artificial - better for summer, not the green of winter!
A4 pen and coloured inks and coloured pencil
 I decided to do my main drawing using my black Rotring pen which I can use washes with to bring out the tones. I wanted to use coloured inks and Inktense water-colour pencils too to create a similar effect to Richard Allmans above (although this is done with watercolours or acrylics). The thing I struggled with is my range of coloured inks. I discovered that I didn't have a decent brown and because the red is very pinky all my mixes came out a bit strange. My green ink is also quite synthetic and limey but I managed to dampen that down with some blue. I also used my inktense water-soluble pencils to give more colour. These are much better than my old set of pencil and the pigment really flows (sometimes too much!).

A3 Bockingford paper Mixed Media
I'm not sure about the final result. I like parts of it and other parts annoy me. The smaller sketch is actually better in some respects, the colours seem better although they are greener than real life. I wanted a washed out appearance but I think it could do with a bit more intensity of colours. I think I've also used too much black or it's run too much in the washes. The hills in the background are example. It would have been better if there was no hard line showing their shape like in the ink sketch. The vague wash helps to show atmospheric perspective. Maybe a water-insoluble pen would be better to make the initial line drawing in future.

I am happy with how the trees have come out though. I was trying to show the different tree types. The large bush on the left is a rhododendron with large glossy leaves reflecting the light more while the tree above it had a much smaller leaf. I'm not sure what it was, it actually looked like a deciduous leaf but couldn't have been in December. The trees across the road where leylandii and needed a different approach again. I think these turned out a bit better in my sketch though as the pencil lines showed up under the wash and give the foliage a diagonal direction.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Research - townscapes

Patricia Cain is a local artist of whom I have visited a couple of exhibitions. She concentrates on construction in the urban environment and does large format paintings, drawings and etchings of very complex structures. She recently had a solo exhibition at the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow focusing on the construction of the Riverside Museum which opened in November 2011.  This building holds the Museum of Transport and was designed by internationally-renowned architect, Zaha Hadid.

Laying Out Pastel 84 x 59cm
Partick Redevelopment No.2 - Cream Ink 84 x 59 cm

Riverside Museum VII  Pastel and Acrylic 170 x 122 cm 2009

Riverside Scaffolding V Pastel 140 x 122cm

Riverside Triptych II Pastel 315 x 170cm
 The drawings are amazingly complicated and I think doing something like that would drive me potty but I can really appreciate the work that's gone into them. She uses pastel a lot which is interesting for this type of subject, you wouldn't normally associate pastels with subjects requiring lots of perfect lines and edges. I would love to know her technique. I guess she could use masking tape to create these edges. I think I would just end up with a big mess!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Research Trees

I came across a drawing of a tree by Piet Mondrian which I loved

Piet Mondrian Grey Tree 1912, oil on canvas, 78.5 × 107.5 cm
Mondrian has broken the form of the branches down and simplified it into basic shapes. You can see the characteristic shape of the branches and would still possibly be able to identify the type from this however. The curves of the branches and the way they repeated is very pleasing. I love the monochrome nature of this painting as well.

I then did some research and found that he actually did a series of tree paintings and it's possible to see the way he has progressed through the stages of abstraction to his simple grid shapes that we are more familiar with. He seems to analyse the branches and then break them down into squares and regular shapes.


Mondrian Trees in Blossom 1912. Oil on canvas.65 x 75 cm.

Mondrian Composition Trees II
Mondrian Composition

Mondrian ultimately was a contributor to the De Stijl art movement founded by Theo van Doesburg. This style was termed Neo-Plasticism and consisted of the grid of vertical and horizontal black lines on a white ground with the three primary colours. It was round about the time he painted these trees he became influenced by cubism and moved away from traditional styles of painting.

Assignment 4 - Drawing trees

Sketching an individual tree

I started out drawing an old tree at a nearby country park. I tried pencil and charcoal and used my rotring pen with some water to make washes. I think this method has worked quite well to show the knobbly branches.

I also wanted to do a close up of some of the lovely branches and a gnarled trunk of another tree.

Larger study of an individual tree 

My sketches above gave me an inkling that I wanted to do a detailed study of an old tree with really interesting shapes and forms. I chose this old tree. I'm not sure what kind it is because there's no leaves on it but I take reckon it's an oak or a beech. The way the smaller branches come out of the larger ones and have grown out of the trunk are quite strange and must be a characteristic of a specific tree species.

I started with a 2B and drew the shapes of the trunk and main branches. I then carried on using softer pencils to put in the shadows and main tones of the branches and then more detail. This detailed kind of drawing does not come easy to me as I get very impatient but I made myself slow down and concentrate. I love the branches and how they all relate to each other in 3 dimensions but I struggled to stay focused on it all. I'm so glad I did as I really like this drawing now.

A3 pencil (2-4B)

Study of several trees

For the study of several trees I knew I wanted to draw a scene from where we walk our dog. We're very lucky to live close to a path in the local woods and I love the way the path meanders through the woods and the trees lean over the path. The trees are predominantly silver birches.

I had a lot of fun doing the first sketch using my rotring pen and a brush with a water reservoir so I thought I'd try this again. There were a lot of branches in the background that gave a much darker tone that I didn't include because I wanted the trees to stand out. I think I may have overdone it with the wash though and I could have left more paper white to show the highlights.

A3 Bockingford Paper and Rotring pen with wash

Check and Log

1. How many different tree types have you drawn

I think I've drawn about 5 tree types. It's difficult to tell without the foliage but I think the first sketches were of a beech or oak and I know the tall narrow one is some variety of cherry blossom. I think the individual tree study is a beech or oak and the study of several trees is mainly silver birches.

2. What techniques did you use to distinguish each type?

Because the trees have no foliage I've had to look for other distinguishing characteristics. The silver birches were easy because their bark is very characteristic. It is a silvery grey with dark bracelet type marks around the circumference. I also found it had lots of lichen type and other dark marks over it. To show this I used a wash to show the main shape and shadows and then once that dried I drew in the irregular bracelet marks.

The tree in the single study was very different with lots of gnarled branches and lumps and bumps. The trunk had lots of small branches growing from it which had intertwined and created a strange pattern seemingly attached to the bark.I felt this kind of tree with all these irregularities should be drawn with lots of detail so I used a pencil which I kept as sharp as possible.

The tall cherry tree was very distinctive and I just drew the branches as they all followed the same vertical layout.

3. What did you do to convey the mass of foliage?

None of the trees I drew had any foliage which I was quite pleased about. I found that I had already tackled drawing trees with masses of foliage and I'd developed my scribbley technique to show the mass of the foliage quite well. I wanted to try showing the complicated branches and detail that required. I found drawing trees in the summer much much easier as you don't have to worry about detail and observing every small intertwining branch.

Here are some sketches of trees I previously did in full foliage.

4. How did you handle the light on the trees? Was it successful? If not, what would work better?

Working in the winter gives lovely long shadows so it's quite easy to show the light on the trunks. I tried to show the forms of the branches by drawing in the shadowed side and leaving the side in the sunlight either with white paper showing through or slightly shaded depending on the level of shade. I'm quite pleased with this technique over all, although I think the study of a several trees could do with more white paper showing through.
If the trees has been full of foliage it would have been a bit more difficult to describe the light shining on the leaves. Previously I just treated the groups of leaves as kind of irregular balls which have a shaded area and a highlighted area.

5. Did you manage to select and simplify? Look at your drawings and make notes on how you did this.

I definitely had to simplify these drawings because of the sheer number of branches. If I had tried to draw all of the branches I would still be there and would possible on the verge of madness! I concentrated on the main branches and just drew a few small ones to describe the overall shape. The most difficult one to do this with was the single study. Because of the way the main branches had grown there was a central area with no large branches but had several small ones and lots and lots of tiny tendrils. Rather than go into such great detail I just left the larger branches and omitted any of the tiny ones. I also decided to zoom in a bit on this drawing so I've just left the end of the branches out. I'm pleased with this effect, I think it works better and make a more interesting composition. I wanted to include the main bits of interest but not to make it a perfect copy of the tree (the ends of the branches are also the most difficult and finicky!).

Monday, 2 January 2012

Assignment 4 - Townscapes

Study of a townscape using line

I'd looked through this section before my visit to Italy and I was inspired by the student drawing in the instructions of rooftops which looks very Mediterranean. I was able to visit Lucca in Tuscany and from the bell tower in the town there is an amazing view of the rooftops of the town. I did some sketches and took some photos to work from later.

 The preliminary drawings in my sketchbook above were useful to get a feel for the drawing. My first attempt of the study I realised was too detailed and I hadn't concentrated on line rather than tone so I did another study of a different view and concentrated solely on line. I like both studies in the end but I prefer the more detailed one and I liked putting in an ink wash over the buildings and background. 

A4 Bockingford Nib pen and inks

A3 black pen

Developing a sketchbook of townscape drawings

For this exercise I chose a small local church which is very pretty. The brief mentions "the sense of place" and if the building does "evoke an emotional response". Not many buildings really do this so I thought I need to choose a building that had a bit of history and character. It's a small country church and it was quite deserted when I visited. It is surrounded by an old graveyard  with many fallen head stones and this adds to the spookiness.
At times the angles were a bit odd because the church grounds are on a hill and I had to look up towards it at times. I don't know much about architecture but it seemed to me quite odd, possibly because it is so small. The simple building has a central steeple or bell tower and there are beautiful windows on each side. It's made of sandstone and the bricks are large and unevenly spaced. I like the texture of these bricks and the pale colouring.
There were strong shadows and the right side of the building was in shade. The darkest tones were in these shadows while the roof and windows were the mid tones and the lightest tones were found at the front of the building.
A4 Sketchbook

A4 Sketchbook

A4 Sketchbook
I tried a few different angles but decided on the first one I chose. With regards to leaving some things out, I decided to omit the two benches at the front of the church and I also cut out some of the gravestones in front of the church as they just seemed to confuse things. I included one in the background and a small stone that was falling down as I felt this added to the feeling of history and age.

A4 pencil

A4 tissue paper on drawing paper with egg shell, mixed media
This last drawing above was a fun experiment with texture. I'd heard about using tissue paper stuck onto paper and then given a wash to describe the texture of stone. The ink wash sticks to the wrinkles in the tissue and gives the effect of cracks in the brickwork. I indicated with a black pen some of the bricks. I used charcoal to show the windows and doors, using oil pastels to keep the white surrounds clean(ish) before an ink wash. I think the tissue was really effective and I would use this again. I also tried out gluing broken egg shells on to the area in front of the building to create the effect of small stones. I wasn't very happy with this and it didn't do what I wanted it to. I think this would work better on a larger scale and if they were painted over with a coat of white acrylic or something before applying colour.

A limited palette study of a townscape from your sketches

I chose conte pastel pencils to do this. I chose the darkest brown I had (which wasn't very dark), an orangy red and black on white paper. In hindsight I should have chosen paper with more tooth for the pastels.

A4 conte pastels

I started using the black to define the lines and shapes and then I planned to use the brown for the darker tones and the orange for the lighter tones. Not sure it really worked out that way though as the brown wasn't dark enough. I definitely found myself looking for other colours to get more tonal variation so it was a good challenge to do this study. If I were to try again I would chose two colours that had more variation in tone and I would use less black to start off.

Drawing statues

I chose for this study my favourite piece of sculpture "Motherless" by George Lawson which is at the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow. I've been visiting the Kelvingrove since I was a small child and I've always been drawn to this. It is an incredibly poignant piece, I've always found it incredible how the sculptor could instill so much emotion out of stone.

A4 Sketchbook

I concentrated on the overall outlines and tried to focus on the negative shapes too. This was easier that with another object like a plant or something because the solidity of the statue contrasted so much with its surroundings. I was surprised at how the drawing ended up looking like a statue rather than real people sitting on a chair.

Check and Log

1. How did you use the limited colour palette to create a sense of depth?

The closer objects should have more detail. I've used the black to show individual blades of grass at the front of the drawing at the bottom of the gravestones. I should of however not used so much black on the group of trees behind the church. They maybe should have been brown. I used the brown to describe the forms of the evergreen trees on the left side and only used black for the trunks that are in deep shadow. I've left the horizon vague and left than in the paler tone to indicate this is further away.

2. How did you use your preliminary sketches in your sketchbook give you enough information for you final pieces of work?

My preliminary sketches allowed me to work out the best compositions and they showed which angles were too difficult to show on paper. Sketching helps me practise the object I am drawing, without these preliminary sketches I wouldn't be able to work out the problems in the subject that I didn't even realise. For example, in the sketches of the church I struggled with the angles of the bell tower, so for the final piece I'd worked out how to do this.

It also give you a chance to work out what things add to the composition and what things complicate it and could be left out.

Additionally I was able to try different media to figure out what was the best one to use for the subject in my drawing of the rooftops.

3. In what ways is the drawing from this project better or worse than the last?

I wasn't sure what project to compare this to so I'll compare it to both Perspective and to Landscape drawing.

I think the perspective drawing has helped remind myself of the rules and hopefully this project should be better because of that. It has certainly made it much easier to complete. I'm glad to say that sketching buildings has now become a pleasure compared to a nightmare previously mainly because I can now figure out the angles much easier using the rules of perspective.

If I compare this project to the landscape drawing section it's more difficult as these two subjects are very different. The angles of buildings required me to pay a bit more attention (in the final pieces certainly) while the landscape drawings involved more undefined greenery and vague fields. I think this section has been better because I enjoyed applying the rules of perspective to the drawings and this helped me get a more accurate picture of what I was drawing.

4. Is the scale of the buildings right? Make notes on what worked and what didn't.

I have a tendency to exaggerate the angles I think and this has given a kind of "fisheye" view of the buildings sometimes (the limited palette study) so in thin respect the scale has sometimes been off. It was hard in my rooftops drawings to get the scale right particularly the towers but in my final pieces I think it seems ok. If I give myself enough time to measure properly I can get the scale correct.

5. Have you captured the colour and atmosphere in your studies? How did you do this?

The monochrome pencil study of the church has worked well to capture the atmosphere I think. This is a subject that lends itself well to black and white probably due to our learned associations with spooky movies and haunted graveyards at night. If I where to do this in colour I would keep them very muted.

The colour studies of the rooftops was done so fast it's fairly rubbish and I only used one colour on the roofs when in actual fact there are many colours. I used ink washes in the first rooftop piece and I think this has created some atmosphere.

I'm quite happy with the colours of the extra drawing I did using the tissue paper. The different inks have created quite a good mottled effect that mimics stone. The mottled effect makes the stone look old and therefore more atmospheric.

Assignment 4 Perspective

Parallel Perspective - an interior view

A4 sketchbook

A4 sketchbook
 This drawing was done from my bathroom looking through the door to my bedroom where I conveniently have a rug at the doorway. I have previously studied perspective in the Painting 1 course and I really struggled to get it right so I was dreading this section and thought it would take ages. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy I found it though, and most of my angles were correct or not far off. I'm glad I've progressed and learned something!

Angular Perspective - buildings or books

A4 sketchbook
I had some problems with the angles of all of the windows with this one which probably would have been helped if i'd done this on a larger scale or if I'd had a ruler to measure sizes.

A4 sketchbook Rome 1910 - after Sir Muirhead Bone
I tried to simplify this drawing abit and didn't include all of the detailing in the original but I tried to include the major elements.

Check and Log

1. What problems did you find in executing perspective drawings?

The most difficult thing was to get the angles correct. When the line is small it's much easier to get the angle wrong and then this can confuse the rest of the drawing especially if you use that line to measure other parts. Also with longer lines you have to keep the straight.
I find I always err on the side of an angle being too wide and needs to be corrected to be more acute.

2. Make note on the merits of using, or not using rulers to guide you.

I much prefer using a ruler to get the lines straight and to help it look accurate and real. In the drawing above of the corner buildings the windows were a mess and all wiggley because I didn't use a ruler. On the other hand a ruler always makes it look more clinical and less natural. The ideal solution is to have a really steady hand and lots of patience.