Aim of the exercise: to make four sketches during a walk, using a viewfinder to help focus on a point of interest. Draw rapidly and draw over mistakes rather than rubbing out. For each sketch we were asked to write the following 1) the time, weather conditions and direction of light and shadow 2) the main point of interest 3) note the division of space into foreground, middleground and background and make some brief descriptive notes of each space 4) some general notes on the pattern and textures you can see 5) note the repetition of large and small shapes 6) note the tonal values across the scene.
What I experienced:
Completed 18/07/13. I did this exercise over a couple of days, doing two of the drawings on the first day and the last two on the second. For the first drawing I tried to do it while standing but this proved to be problematic so I got a seat to be able to do the second drawing but then did not have time to do all four on the same evening. I did however return to the same place for the next day. I used my A5 sketchbook throughout.
With all of the drawings I tried to draw as rapidly as I could. The only drawing I rubbed out in was the third one where I got the bars of the gate in the wrong place and it proved to be too muddling to leave them in when correcting. Otherwise with all the drawings I drew over mistakes rather than erased as per the instructions. It proved to be very useful to write the observations as these helped to make me really think about aspects that perhaps I hadn’t fully considered and helped me to note things that would be very helpful if using the sketch for any further art work. It was also very helpful using the viewfinder, although I found it difficult to keep in exactly the same position. It was surprising how different the scene looked with even a little move out of position with the viewfinder but it was very helpful in trying to establish what would be the focal point and in reducing the amount of the information in front to draw.
The first drawing was of a disused building. I used Cretacolour monolith woodless graphite pencils in HB, 2B and 4B. I found it very difficult to draw a straight line while standing. From the photograph I can see that I have not drawn the building long enough and mine is rather wonky. The background wooded area was quite strong in tone as can be seen from the photograph. I lightened it considerably to make it recede but perhaps have lightened it too much. I put a path in rather clumsily in an attempt to lead to the focal point. As per the instructions I made the following notes in my sketch book. 17/07/13 18.00 Marshside – building on the green bank. The sun was from the left side and there was a warm light breeze and high wispy cloud. The building was the point of interest. Vegetation was all grown up behind and inside it. In the foreground was an onion field, the building was in the middleground and the background was the wooded area. The building was made of re-enforced concrete pillars and there was a metal bar running the length of the open side, presumably for support. Breeze block walls. Large flat rectangle for the field, rectangle for the building, tapering rectangular area for the vegetation. Tonal values were mainly mid tone. Darkest darks were inside the building. Lightest were the end wall of the building and the grassy area at the base of the building. The drawing took about 30 minutes.
The second drawing was of an umbellifer and vegetation and the landscape behind. I used Cretacolor monolith woodless graphite pencils in HB, 2B and 4B. Despite using the viewfinder I drew the umbellifer too long on the page and couldn’t fit in the full height of the vegetation. As per the instructions I wrote the following in my sketchbook. 17/07/13 20.00 Marshside – large umbellifer. Beautiful evening. Low sun from left side. Lovely warm light, despite the time still warm with a light wind. Wheat field middle ground. Wood and poplars background. Umbellifer and grasses foreground. The umbellifer is the main point of interest. Triangle of vegetation, flat triangular shape for the wheat field. Rounded wood and tall spiky poplars.There is an intermix of shapes in the vegetation. Tried to draw quickly but to show vegetation better could have done with longer. Once again the tonal value of the distant wood and poplars appeared to be quite dark and I couldn’t work out how you show that darkness of tone and still maintain aerial perspective, so I lightened the tones to make them recede. The middle ground was light in tone where the field was catching the sun. Most of the foreground vegetation was in shadow apart from the umbellifer and taller grasses that were catching the light. The drawing took about 30 minutes.
The third drawing was of a gate next to a dyke and was done the next day. This time I used a Cretacolor large soft lead in a wide clutch pencil. It didn’t say what HB it was but it was certainly, I would think, at least 4B and possibly softer. I struggled to show that the tree on the left was two trees, one in front and one behind and instead of making the background one paler in tone to make it recede I darkened it to help the front tree stand forward and lightened the front tree as that was receiving more light. It proved to be very unsuccessful and looks very muddled and a right mess. It was a good lesson in needing to remember what I had seen in the drawings from the research point, namely how to show a tree as being behind i.e. paler tone and less detail. I wrote the following in my sketchbook. 18.07.13 16.45 Marshside – gate at end of sheep field. Sunny intervals with building cloud. Light from right. Moderate easterly wind. Point of interest is the meeting of the gate and tree. Background is the distant landscape. Middle ground is the gate, foreground is the grasses alongside the dyke. Triangular shape of land, and triangular shape of reeds, also repeated in triangles of gate. Windblown grasses repeated in windblown tree. Straight edges repeated throughout drawing. Hard wood and metal for fence and gate. Trees and grasses soft and flexible in the wind. Crops in fields. Tonal values overall quite light. Background trees and middle distance trees appear the darkest. Once again the background tones actually looked quite dark, although clearly bluer. I am finding it hard to get the background tones right, pale enough to make them recede, yet they often appear quite dark in real life. Drawing took about 35 minutes.
The fourth drawing was looking down the road towards a tree tunnel. I decided to draw this as a portrait mode landscape. I used a 3B clutch pencil and the Cretacolor large soft lead wide clutch pencil. I really struggled to show the light and shade with the large tree masses and will definitely look more at how to tackle these. I can honestly say that I got in a right muddle with it. I was trying to draw as quickly as I could but couldn’t manage to sort them out quickly. Strangely enough, looking at the photograph of the scene now, the divisions of tone in the trees seem obvious, but on the day I found them very hard to separate and know how to tackle. I wrote in my sketchbook. 18/07/13 18.05 Marshside – looking up road to tree tunnel. Sunny, cloud clearing. Cool easterly moderate wind. Sun in front and to the left. Main point of interest is the tree tunnel. Background far fields, middleground tree tunnel, foreground grasses. Land consists of various tapering triangles. Telegraph poles make strong verticals. Almost X shape composition where various hedges, grasses etc converge. Textures – short spiky grass, longer seed head grasses, small leaves on trees catching the light and blowing in the wind. Long vertical repeated in next telegraph post. Triangular shapes repeated. Lots of shadow tones in tree, hedge and shadows on road. I still need to learn to put more dark tones in. Distant field, road, grasses and top of hedge are all light tones. Drawing took about 25 minutes.
Things that I felt went well: I started the exercise without procrastinating about it. Even though I felt the drawings were not going well I just got on and continued with them and just tried to concentrate on discovering what worked and what wasn’t so successful in depicting what was in front of me. I drew as rapidly as I could. Drawn reasonably accurately. I tried to use a variety of marks. Answering the questions really helped me to look much closer at the structure of the scene and I saw patterns and structure that I had not initially seen.
Things that I feel did go so well: I struggled to see and portray a good range of tones. My mark making is still clumsy. I became very muddled when trying to show light and shade within tree masses.
What I would like to do following this exercise: Study in more detail the marks that other artists have used in their drawings to depict landscapes. To look at how to tackle large tree masses and to how to simplify the tonal areas to show form successfully. When I am drawing something, continue to ask myself the kind of questions that we were asked to answer in this exercise as it helps to open my eyes to aspects I may not have seen or noted. To continue to try and draw more rapidly. To actively look to have a clear point of interest and lead the eye to this, rather than just trying to draw a scene. To work at simplifying what I see and then translating that onto paper. To use a viewfinder more and establish ways of being able to return the viewfinder to the same view point.
As a start towards studying the marks that artists make to depict landscapes I attempted to copy a drawing by Gordon Beningfield on p.116 Beningfield’s Countryside, 1980. This is an artist who’s work I admire. I think that both his sketches and his paintings are lovely. They show his deep love and knowledge of the countryside. In the drawing he used a much wider range of marks than I managed to use in my drawings above and in comparison my drawings above look very scribbly and messy by comparison. I really enjoyed attempting this and hopefully it will enable me to think about and to discover ways of increasing the range of marks that I use. I haven’t managed to recreate the tonal range that Beningfield achieved but it was fascinating to see and try out the marks that were used to build the elements up and how he had used light and shade to separate elements and to highlight them. His shading for the shadows on the gate had life and variation in them, something I would like to be able to achieve more.