Aim of exercise: to choose an expansive landscape where have an open view in all directions. Using a viewfinder to find a focal point, draw a fifteen minute drawing of the view north, south, east and west. This will teach how the landscape view changes by just shifting your viewpoint slightly.
What I experienced:
Completed 20/07/13. I had picked an area that gave me good all round views but unfortunately, after being dry for ages, it started to rain on the day I was planning on doing this exercise. It was mainly only light drizzle, but was too wet to sit out in with a sketchbook. And, because of being so behind with the course, and with heavy work commitments all this week, I decided that rain or not I needed to get the exercise done (particularly as I felt rather unsure about it and had no intention of allowing myself to procrastinate over it) so I moved to plan B. With the car parked in a pull-in on a nearby hill I drew the view east and south and then turned the car round and drew the view west and north. So not quite in the order that the OCA book said but still the 4 directions so I felt it didn’t matter if the order was a little different. As the drizzle continued for most of the rest of the day I felt pleased that at least it enabled me to get the exercise completed.
I decided that I would try and draw each view in a different media 1) for the challenge 2) to experiment with how to portray landscapes in the various media 3) I was interested to see the effect that the different media had on the final outcome. All drawings were drawn in my A4 sketchbook.
For the first drawing east I chose to use watersoluble graphite in 3 grades, light, medium and dark. I used the viewfinder to settle on a focal point and chose to make the house, whose roof and part of the end wall could just be seen, as the focal point. I spent a time just looking at the scene, before drawing, trying to work out what to include and not and where elements came, such as background, middleground or foreground. I also tried to ignore my internal critic which was telling me there was no way I was going to be able to draw that. I set the timer for 15 minutes and started to draw as fast as I could using the light grade pencil to draw the scene and shade in tonal areas. I failed miserably with the time. When the timer went off I was about halfway through the drawing. All the main areas were in but there was very little tonal work, apart from main areas marked. It meant a decision as to whether I stopped there or carried on. I decided that I was going to learn more by completing the drawing than leaving it unfinished. So rightly or wrongly I continued. I enjoyed the challenge of trying to draw the tonal areas on the trees and hedge but struggled to do it effectively. The light was very flat and I was finding it hard to see tonal contrasts. This is certainly an area that I will need to improve in. The drawing took between 30 and 35 minutes so was twice the time that it should have taken but I have never tried to draw such a complicated landscape and was pleased that I stuck with it. And for an A4 drawing, 35 minutes, for me, was positively racing. I normally draw very slowly.
Next I attempted south choosing to use a bamboo pen and Winsor and Newton ink. Once again I set the timer and once again I drew as quickly as I could but still was not finished by the time the timer went off. Again I chose to continue and stopped drawing at about 25 minutes. Once again I struggled with how to show tone and made the background trees too strong in tone so that they did not recede enough. In the scene they appeared dark compared to the grasses but I couldn’t work out how to have them as a dark tone while having them recede. This is something that I will need to look into further. I liked how as the ink ran out on the bamboo pen I got a lighter tone. I just found it difficult to judge how much ink was on the nib. I would think that it was running out and was going to give me a pale line and instead find it was still quite strong.
For the next drawing I drew west and chose to use Daler Rowney Artists Sketching Sanguine Smooth pencil, Artists Sketching Sepia Drawing Dark and Artists Sketching Black Smooth. I haven’t used these before. This proved to be a challenging view as there was not a tremendous amount in it and I got very lost tonally while trying to shade the long background hedge and also shaded straight over one of the fences. It was only afterwards that I thought about the fact that I could have added in a much taller tree to give some height to the scene, I could have added birds, I could have added some tall umbellifers in the foreground to give a frame, there was quite a lot I could have done to improve the composition but I did not think of any of them at the time. I measured and measured again, and then again, the angle of the barn. Common sense said that the roof would angle down towards the horizon line, but which one, the one to my right or to my left. With a pencil held outstretched it appeared to slope down towards the left. As I’ve already said, I checked this several times. Yet in the photograph it is clear that it does actually slope to the right. It shows that I really need to get better at measuring angles. This time I went over time by just under 10 minutes.
For the last drawing north I used Pitt artist’s brush pens in sepia, dark brown and black. Again, I haven’t used these in a drawing of this size before. I altered the scene a little and decided that in the time there was not much chance of drawing all the trunks for the orchard so just showed a few. Once again I struggled to show the tone successfully in tree masses. Even though I drew as fast as I could I was over time by between 5-8 minutes. I found the pens quite difficult to use to depict the scene and have ended up with some scruffy marks when I was aiming for free flowing.
It was interesting to see that just by a quarter turn the landscape completely changed and showed the possibilities available just by altering position.
Things I feel went well: I was very pleased to just get on and complete the exercise despite feeling that the drawings were going quite badly and despite the fact that this was not the place I had originally decided to do the drawings from. I found using the viewfinder very helpful and it also helped that I was able to stick it to the visor in the car etc and look through it without having to keep holding it up. I was also pleased to try the different media for each drawing, most of which I have little experience with and certainly not for an A4 landscape and therefore was pleased that I had taken the risk to move outside my comfort zone. I was also pleased that though I went over time with each drawing, I gradually was getting closer to the 15 minutes. Well, almost! Certainly for the size and complexity of the sketches, they are the quickest that I have managed when drawing outside. I think that the drawings are reasonably accurate.
Things I feel did not go well: I consistently struggled to show tone in trees and bushes successfully. I was not very successful in showing some items as receding e.g. the trees in the drawing south. I found it difficult to separate tree masses into tonal areas to show structure accurately. I found it difficult to envisage what I could do to improve a scene compositionally. Overall tonal control across the drawings was poor. I did not use a wide enough range of marks.
What I would like to do following this exercise: I’ve already recorded in the previous exercise the steps I would like to take following that exercise, all of which are still relavant for this exercise. In addition I would like to look at other artists landscape drawings/paintings and gain a better understanding as to how they have treated foreground, middleground and background and the various methods they have used to show recession.