Posted in Coursework, Notes, Part 3

Project 5: Townscapes

Exercise 1 Sketchbook of townscape drawings

Barbican Corner

I chose this building because of the interesting curve in combination with the glass and concrete look. Quite typical for this area near the Barbican. The light was coming from behind in the early morning, with the building opposite throwing a shadow on it.The horizon was below the image bottom, which I felt emphasised looking up and size. For a taller building I’d need a touch of vertical foreshortening.


What works? The sketch gives the feel of the building reasonably well. I’m happy with the idea of keeping the horizon below the viewing window. The traffic lights have helped set the scene.

What doesn’t? I may need to be more formal with the perspective. I used a 5B pencil in the end, which is a bit too soft. The windows need more work.

What would I do differently next time? Try using a ruler even for a sketch. A slightly harder pencil would be worthwhile. Concentrate slightly more on window alignment.
What to take forwards? Need more practice in this approach.

Any happy accidents? I like the way the smudge and putty rubber worked for the sky. Originally the smudge was caused by my hand in the way.
Given my tutor’s suggestion that if \i think something could be improved I should try again I did so:


This time it is actually a 10 by 10 cm image, I I used a ruler and better projection lines for many of the perspective vanishing points. The pencil is still too soft, but I took more account of that when doing the drawing this time. I also tried including the horizon line in the image this time. I think it is a better image overall, and so will move on now.

St Pauls

This sketch is from in front of the Tate Modern gallery on the south bank, looking towards St Pauls.


I quite like this one, and had an interesting time conveying both depth and light in the sketch The building on the left I left purposely without much detail, as it is further away. On the other hand I made the one in the background behind the other building much darker because it was in fairly deep shadow. This till, however, seems to convey the idea of it being another building behind it. Despite being a fairly quick sketch I think it conveys the scene reasonably well. I deliberately wanted the sketch to be relatively quick, which works for the subject to my mind. I suspect I will be practicing more like this in the future.

Exercise 2 Study of a townscape using line

I started to sketch out (very roughly) an initial composition sketch for this exercise across 2 A4 pages, and then stopped. The reason is that I realised that between the two pages I was turning my head significantly. This is more like the points of the compass exercise. The result would be a bit like a panoramic photograph, with the viewer in the centre. This is also similar to David Hockney’s thoughts on perspective needing to be reversed. That hadn’t been my intention when I started.

The main alternative would be to take a “long and thin” segment of a single viewpoint. On consideration I decided to try to make a more logical flow, and using only images from my sketchbook as reference. My approach was to start with a light pencil outline, using a vanishing point and ruler. I worked out the composition and perspective in outline comparing the layout with my visual notes. This used the sketches above, plus the others I made of the area along the way.

I quite like the result:

London’s wobbly bridge

I found the use of the brush pen interesting, as it allowed a good deal of scope for expression. I believe this pen is based on Chinese brush painting, which I have played with in the past but seemed too high a risk to experiment with at this stage. That may be worthwhile, however, as a future experiment.

What worked? I’m happy with the basic composition and the overall look of the piece. I am also happy with the use of the brush pen for mark making. I hope to experiment further with this in the future – or try the true Chinese inks and brushes. Considering that this is purely from sketchbooks I’m feel the image gives an impression of London – even though I am aware that there are significant inaccuracies.

What doesn’t? I’m not fully happy with the impression of either the clouds or the water. Although both work in a way they are both a bit to symbolic/stylised rather than a more of an observational image. I’m not fully happy with the way that the front of the Tate Modern has ended up, though it at least gives a basic impression of the building.

What would I do differently next time? If I am to draw a finished piece purely from my sketchbook then I need to do significantly more sketches, and make sure that I am fairly complete in the range of both tones and details in those sketches. Clearly I can also back this up with digital photographs (which I have for this scene), but I actively avoided using those in this case. I also considered completing this image with a dip pen, and that would be a worthwhile experiment in the future.

What will I take forwards? I quite like the double A3 wide landscape format, and will consider that again in the future. This paper works well with the black inks, as does the range of marks possible with the brush pen. I think I prefer it over the fine liner in many ways. The approach to laying out the perspective and composition lightly in pencil and then going over this with inks has also worked fairly well. It doesn’t have the technical drawing look that some of my previous perspective studies.

Any happy accidents? Much of the mark making with the brush pen has worked well, and is purely experimenting with the technique on the page. I did a bit of work in my sketchbook up front, but mostly I was playing as I went. The building under St Paul’s has also worked surprisingly well, which is again partially happy accident.

Exercise 3 A limited palette study

I wasn’t sure how to approach this, so I simply made a start using Conte sticks on an A4 pad to see how it went:


I stopped at this point because I realised I didn’t have even a basic idea of approach, and so decisions I made early on were causing issues. I also found out that the eraser I was using had little to no effect on the conte pencils with this paper. This made it very difficult to correct issues after the fact.

For my next attempt I switched to coloured pencils (Caran D’Ache watercolour), and did a much smaller initial image in my sketchbook. This time I used the local school as subject – you may recognise the anchor:

This seems like a significant improvement, though there are still issues. In particular I could have taken more care with both the perspective projection and tonal range. More significant is the fact that the eraser still doesn’t quite work as fir pencil drawings, and the pencils are far from opaque. (Water colour pencils) This means that care is needed in the early stages not to make a mark that might cause issues later.

On this basis I went back to the original subject:

St Paul’s Cathedral on A4 sketchbook in Caran D’Ache watercolour pencil

This is still using the Watercolour pencils and so I did try adding a little water wash in places, but it didn’t add that much to the image as a whole. In this case, I approach the perspective projection slightly more formally using a projection point and ruler. Some of this was completed lightly in pencil before starting the shading, whereas other sections were completed during.

What works? The one-point perspective (in the majority) has been reasonably effective. I left the colour density fairly weak, but that was intentional and I quite like the look. I like the way some of the windows worked out.

What doesn’t? I’m not happy with the trees to the side of the building. \they need more thought with this approach. There is a few places where there are projection issues, and others where there are ineffective simplifications.

What would I do differently next time? I should have included at least some people on reflection. I removed them, but they are (in effect) part of the landscape here. A little more care on the detail of the building and the clouds may also have been worthwhile.

What will I take forwards? The idea of the limited palette is potentially valuable, as is the loose pencil framework start. Although that clearly adds time it also makes the final result more effective.

Exercise 4 Statues

Tate Modern Statue

I like this statue, which is why I chose it. This view is from below looking up, which means that the perspective is somewhat challenging – but the view becomes almost menacing. The windows and floors of the building behind set the scene and provide a helper for the perspective.


What works? I think using a soft pencil to provide tonal graduations has worked reasonably well. Some of the folds and character of the statue comes through, though there is definitely room for improvement.

What doesn’t? There is further room for improvement in the tonal range, especially in the folds to help emphasise them further. The right leg (LHS of image) doesn’t look quite right, but the original statue is a bit odd there as well.  I think it is the shading of the folds again that doesn’t quite work.

What would I do differently next time? Possibly I need to work out out the underlying placement of the leg slightly better to improve my understanding of the way the trouser leg falls off it.

What to take forwards? The 5B pencil is starting to work out surprisingly well. Not as good as charcoal, but worth persevering with for the moment.

Additional sketches

In the following I was trying to :

In these cases I was focusing somewhat on form, and the drapery depicted in the statue. Much of the attitude of the different figures shows through in the drapery and what it reveals of the underlying body language. The difference between the crossed arms with zigzag cloak and the flowing scholar with book statues are quite significant.

Angel with a limited palette

As an experiment I decided to try a small limited palette study statue:


Reflecting on this I realised that one of the issues I had with the drawing was the sketchpad showing through in more places than I wanted. The pencils I’m using are watercolour ones, and the paper is reasonably heavy – so I decided to apply water carefully using a plain water brush pen that I carry. The result is (to my mind) an improvement:


This has more clearly blended the colours and removed the majority of the unwanted white showing through on the image. As a further experiment I decided to add a level of fineliner to provide dark emphasis:


This was really an experiment too far. The fineliner provides a bit too much emphsis, and looks like what it is – an overlay in a different medium. Possibly a better approach would have been to use the coloured pencils again – but with a sharper point and slightly more pressure. Time to move on…

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