Posted in Coursework, Part 5

Cycle 1: Tonal study


For this first cycle I’ve decided to follow up on my tutor’s suggestion of focusing on tonal work. Thus I would like to achieve the following:

  • Tonal drawing with no visible outline.
  • Grey scale rather colour.
  • Matching tone and medium to subject; and
  • Conveying the feeling of the scene – rather than accurate technical portrayal.


The obvious start point here is the Odilion Redon tonal work:

Strangely, for me, the Jackson Pollock “Figures in a Landscape” is also interesting:

This is similar in some ways to the Odilon Redon work. That is, the image is using a very dark overall image to highlight the subject, whilst leaving a dark and brooding overall effect.

Also fitting the idea would be this ink and watercolour image:

Cell Tower, Patrick Willett, Date:  2011 – 2012, Media:  inkwatercolor from

The following image by

Alpine Landscape, Pieter Bruegel the Elder , Date:  c.1555 – c.1556, Engraving from

In many ways these two images are diametrically opposed: The first is very loose with little to no detail and yet manages to convey a rich impression of the scene. The a rich impression. The second relies on painstaking detail to convey its image. Of the two I would prefer to be aiming at the looser approach.

Adriana Burgos, Ebenezer, Ink wash study en plein air from

Previous Coursework


First start was a mountain stream near Elbigenalp using conte:

Elbigenalp Mountain Stream , A4, black conte.
Elbigenalp Mountain Stream , A4, black conte.

In this image I tried the suggested approach of starting with a grey scale in conte and then adding and subtracting to form the image. The result leaves a good impression – though the putty rubber can’t fully extract the conte on this paper. This means that the image has an overall grey feel to it. I deliberately have stay with a lighter overall feel than the Pollock/Redon work – as I feel that is more appropriate to the scene.

Next I decided to try with Charcoal, but otherwise a very similar approach:

Rockcliffe winter sunset, A4, Charcoal on cartridge paper

I adjusted the approach slightly by mapping out the scene in pencil slightly when I started, and then left the centre of the setting sun clear of charcoal. The idea was that this would be whiter than would otherwise be achievable, This and the use of charcoal definitely resulted in a better tonal range, though I’ve ended up smudging the trees in places. Despite this I’m happy that it portrays the feeling of the scene well, and is an improvement over the previous approach.

The initial mapping of the scene isn’t directly visible, but I think I will carry it forwards for future attempts of this type. Interestingly, that was also the approach I took for the Part 3 Assignment. The other significant chagne of approach is working background to foreground (mostly).

Aira force, Cumbra. Charcoal. A4

Unfortunately I then got a lesson on being careful with Fixative, as I washed out much of the drawing on application. Too much and too close. The following shows the issue:

I could touch this bit up, but there is also a general bleed on the page so don’t think I’ll bother. I also went back and inspected the previous drawing, however, and there is a similar issue. I need to be much more careful with this fixative.

A larger study

As part of this cycle I’ve taken the Rockcliffe winter sunset and scaled it up a little:

Rockcliffe winter sunset, A1, Charcoal..

In building the image I decided to “prune” the trees rather drastically, as a trying to render the branches as they really were would have been a mass of unreadable lines. I feel this approach conveys the scene and makes it more readable.

One of the learning elements from my recent art viewing, especially Rembrandt, that this leans on is the idea that to have a section of the composition looking bright the rest must, necessarily, be darker. This lead me to work much harder on the overall tonal range of the image.

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