The brief for this assignment calls for the following main criteria for the drawing:
- Outdoor scene in A1 or A2;
- Shows depth – aerial or linear perspective;
- Natural objects;
- Straight lined objects.
The scene selection and approach are closely aligned. The instructions provide the following approach:
- Preliminary drawings to experiment with the composition.
- Make sketches to practise the perspective of the scene right.
- Broad sketches in charcoal or diluted ink and brush and trial other media.
- With an A2 or A1 keeping your preliminary sketches around you for reference.
That is a very wide brief, and my first thought was around countryside landscapes. To help consider that idea I started with some preliminary thumbnail sketches of suitable scenes:
These are all from around the Lazonby area, as there are some very good opportunities for creating scenes around Cumbria and the Eden Valley. To supplement that, however, I looked back over some of the work from this part:
Many of these basic ideas provide an opportunity to meet the brief. If I’m willing to work primarily from photographs I a also have access to a large library of photographs of suitable scenes.
So, what should I use to help me select the best sort of scene and my approach to the drawing?
- Scope for interest in a larger format: This needs to be A1 or A2, which is much bigger than I normally do. It also suggests I shouldn’t be using a very “fiddly” medium, as the guideline is around 2 hours work. A scene of this size in coloured pencils, for example, would take much more than this.
- Something which is personal to me: As that will tend to show through positively in the final drawing.
- Something that meets the course marking criteria: Demonstration of
technical and Visual Skills; Quality of Outcome; Demonstration of
Creativity; and Context
I’m not keen on the idea of working A1 or A2 on site, and so I’ve decided that the final scene will be completed in the studio. This means that, in the end, I will be working from my sketchbook with the backing of one or more photographs taken on scene. It would be best if at least some of the sketching was done on site, which would limit the set of possible scenes somewhat to London, Cumbria, or Whitstable.
During the Townscape exercises I have built significant visual notes in sketch and photograph form of different scenes in London that would meet the brief. Possibly the most ambitious London scene to progress to the Assignment piece would be the line drawing of the Thames near St Pauls. The scene has scope for demonstrating both linear and atmospheric perspective, and has a good range of natural and man made elements. This has significant scope for improvement, and yet much of the visual notes are at least partially complete. Further, as I work in London I have plenty of opportunity to be able to revisit the location to gather further visual information if (and when) needed. As this is in many ways a constructed scene based on a real part of London I travel through regularly it has at least some personal connection for me.
The Scene of St Paul’s from the bridge is similarly rich in possibilities. As a larger format piece there would be significant scope to improve on the rendering of the Cathedral and the location. The scene includes trees to meet the natural objects part of the brief, and is awash with linear perspective opportunities. This is slightly less ambitious to complete than the one above, but still leaves plenty of scope for the assignment. It has less of a personal connection, however, as I visit the area less frequently.
Clearly a version of the Neptune scene would be feasible as an Assignment piece, and I would expect this to work well at larger scale. It has the advantage that I’ve already thought through many of the aspects of it, and have a series of sketches available to work from. It is also easy for me to revisit the scene to gather additional visual notes. It includes natural and man-made objects, as well as both atmospheric and linear perspective. This scene seems to have significant scope to work as an assignment piece, and is quite personal to me.
I would be less keen on new versions of the other scenes that I’ve already worked through in the previous exercises of the part. They are less interesting, and don’t really have the scope to become an assignment piece I’m happy with. There are many other Whitstable scenes that I could use as a start point, however, such as Whitstable Harbour.
As I’m going to be moving elements around the final scene will be at least partially constructed and so starting with reference photographs doesn’t seem unreasonable. For the Lazonby images, for example, I could combine one of the more scenic views I found with a small montage of the local church and the railway bridge in the mid-ground:
This has scope for atmospheric and linear perspective. Scaling this up to a larger format should allow plenty of scope for showing the fields beyond in the mid-ground through to the hills beyond, with use of atmospheric perspective. As I will be in Cumbria again in the first week of September there will be scope for me to gather further visual notes if needed.
One idea that I’ve been thinking about for a while is a scene of Leeds Castle which brings the castle and lake together in way that would make a good composition but can’t be obtained in reality:
This would be challenging to get right, but has a lot to interest at a large format. Leeds Castle is a large and complex building, with plenty of scope for demonstrating linear perspective. The waterfall and pond in front then allows for interesting water rendering, with the possibility some wildlife – such as ducks to be judiciously placed. The scene includes tress and bushes to meet the organic part of the brief. There is some scope for me to re-visit Leeds Castle during the Assignment period if I need to gather further visual notes, but it is relatively limited.
As well as scene I also need to consider the media I wish to use, and overall approach to the work. The main media that I’ve enjoyed and liked the results for are:
- Charcoal – always a good “go to” medium, especially for large scale work. Limited to black/grey, but a good range of tones;
- Brush pen, as for the London scene. This seems to give good results and has significant scope for expression. This, of course, leads to the possibility of taking a Chinese Brush Painting approach – which (to my mind) is more akin to drawing than painting. This, in turn, leads to Ink and wash, which gave good results for the trees and Neptune scene. It has the advantage of allowing either colour or greyscale and allowing the level of detail to vary according to the
- Soft Pastel, which gave me some good results in my early experiments and provides good scope for colour whilst providing some scope along the lines of charcoal. If I wanted to add some detail that would be possible by the judicious addition of some conte stick and charcoal pencil. This is, of course, a media in its own right.
- Water colour pencil, with water to improve colour. The main issue here is that it would be quite slow to build up a scene at A2 or A1 size.
- Colour pencil could work, but it would be very slow to work on at this scale. In some ways, however, it worked reasonably in the still life images.
Initially I’m going to eliminate the water colour pencil and coloured pencil approaches for the assignment piece – which means that I should be looking to experiment using the other approaches. Although I haven’t given priority to writing it up I have been considering a number of artists during this part. This includes those pointed to by my tutor in the Part 2 Assignment and those from the different research points during the part. This should help to support my sketchbook experiments.
From this I tried further sketchbook experiments:
Some of this was during my time in Cumbria with the visual notes being made insitu rather than later. I’ve decided that I like the look of the charcoal more than the colour and/or ink work. I’m also leaning strongly towards the countryside scenes which fit well with charcoal as a medium. The feel that charcoal gives works well with mountains and hills over other media. It should be possible to do the same with soft pastels or conte, but I’m not feeling it so far.
Whilst I was in Cumbria I dropped in to an exhibition at Brantwood by Donald Wilkinson called Northern Light. The images were quite impressionistic, with many of the being “monoprint and pastel” along with some ink and wash drawings. In some ways this reflects well with what I’m trying to achieve – although I think the brief will need a little more detail than he tends to include. This lead to a couple of experiments using conte crayon:
I think I’m closing in on both a scene and composition I’m happy with taking forward to an assignment piece. I’m going to start in charcoal and see how that goes. If I get time then I may try other media, but the next step is to refine the composition, approach to building the scene and mark making.
Composition: For the composition, I mapped out a grid in ink, and then worked through the composition, with horizon and vanishing points, until I got something I was happy with. Its a mix of sketches, with some backup from photographs taken at the scene – and a bit of linear perspective theory mixed in:
With this scene in mind I experimented further with getting an image I was happy with:
Approach: These experiments are on A4 paper, but taking segments of the image as a whole. Still not the same scale as the final image will be, but much closer than the previous work. The second sketch is also on paper that I’ve bought at A1 size and cut down. This paper is working well with the charcoal, and is also a paper I’ve used during Life Drawing sessions. I tried some of the other papers as well, but settle back on the white cartridge paper.
I liked the basic effect of these first 2 images, but needed to concentrate on light direction and tonal qualities more in the final image. The clouds are starting to work, but the trees need quite a bit more consideration. In particular, the trees are somewhat transparent and that effect isn’t coming through. It means that they look like solid forms rather than whispy translucent objects.
Needs work: Some of the mountains are (effectively) lit from the wrong side. On happy accidents, I really like the look of the window, especially the open segment. This really was an accident where I outlined the frame with the rubber ready to re-shade it, and just stopped there.
Material: I tried using black conte crayon rather than charcoal. The conte is quite different to work with, and in particular is more “sticky” to the paper. In some ways the conte provides a more definite result – though with less scope for error. The wax in the conte pencil means that there is less scope to “keep pushing around” the colour. It does give quite a good impressionistic result though. This, in turn, lead to experiments with a limited colour palette and charcoal vs conte experiments.
Fixative: I’ve also been experimenting with fixative. Initially I was using hair spray as a fixative – but I have an artist quality aerosol fixative for the final image. (Its just simpler to carry hair spray.) I’ve also tried putting a layer of liquid fixative sprayed from a spritzer on the paper part way through building the image., and I have aerosol fixative when this is appropriate. Lastly, I’ve used a water-based liquid fixative (Spectra Fix). This last one gives good results, but makes the paper sufficiently wet that its only usable on heavy or stretched paper. I like the results of the spritzer fixative (though its a little high odour), and so will carry a small spritzer of it for outside use.
I started by transferring the composition to the paper using the grid method, and then methodically built the image from the top down:
I feel the final result is a real step forward for my drawing. It isn’t perfect by a long way, but I am happy with the composition and image overall. I’m happy with the linear perspective, and with the drop-off in detail through depth in the image. There are some areas where the tonal range might be improved, and possibly a better approach to the rendering of the mountains might be worth experimenting with in the future.