Exercise Plotting space through composition and structure

Aim of the exercise: To establish a foreground, middle ground and background in the drawing. Using A3 paper choose to enlarge a sketch or a photograph, or to return to a location and draw on the spot.

What I experienced:

Completed 31/07/13. I returned to the location where I did the drawings for the 360 degree exercise. I felt that to try and draw the scene east directly at A3 would be a challenge. In fact it felt such a challenge that I found myself putting it off for a couple of days (I managed to run through quite a few excuses in this time ‘not enough sun’, too much sun’ too cloudy’ too clear, not enough definition, too windy, etc etc). In the end, it really was a case of just admitting to myself that I was putting it off because I didn’t think I could do it. So it was back to reminding myself that good or bad, what did it matter how the drawing came out as long as I learnt something from doing it. I have been trying to make this my motto for this part of the course.

As the weather, once again, was a little on the dodgy side I used the car again as a mobile studio and stuck my viewfinder to the visor, which had worked quite well last time, and meant that I did not have to keep trying to hold it in the same place. I sketched rough positions with a graphite pencil, used ink from a Rotring art pen (scribbled onto a bit of plastic) and a waterbrush to indicate hedges, bushes etc, trying to ensure that I used lighter mixes in the background and progressively darker as I came forward. Next I used watersoluble graphite for increased tonal contrast, a little white pastel to knock back a couple of parts that I used too darker ink washes in (the furthest cloud and the roof of the house) and finished with the Rotring art pen to add some definition as needed. I purposefully tried to keep everything quite loose and experimented as I went along to see what marks worked and what didn’t. I tried to keep in mind at all times, foreground, middle ground and background and that details should be most in the foreground and become progressively less detailed the further back into the drawing that I went, and that the size of objects should decrease progressively as well. I stopped when I realised I was beginning to fiddle. I put the drawing to one side and took a short break before looking at it again to review. At this point I decided that I still needed a little more tonal contrast and darkened up some areas in the trees and foreground and also made the foremost cloud darker and then decided to call it finished (figure 1).

Figure 1

Figure 1

Things I feel went well: After the initial hiccup, of falling into the putting it off frame of mind, I was pleased that I just got on with it, and I am pleased that I attempted drawing it from life. I am also pleased that I took the opportunity to try and combine some different media. I think that I have managed to show a clear foreground, middle ground and background, even if somewhat clumsily. I think that I have managed to simplify elements quite well, although I am not sure if I have simplified some of the trees and bushes too much. I think that the pen work at the end works quite well and I am pleased that I did not just outline things, I think that the pen work is reasonably lively.

Things I feel did not go well: I drew the path in very clumsily and could have made it a more interesting shape. I found it quite hard to both simplify and to get enough detail and I think that I have not always got the balance right. After spending quite a while drawing clouds I have then managed to draw a very clumsy sky. The effect in the sky I wanted had gone by the time I was ready to do the sky in the drawing and though I tried to do it from memory, it is a pretty clumsy attempt. I think that it would have been helpful if I had actually taken a break at this point and then come back to the drawing fresher. By the time I got to the sky I was pretty tired. I completely forgot to record any cloud shadows passing over the land. I think that it would have been good if I had tried to combine colour as well. I have made the top of the hedge coming down from the right too even. A lot of my shading with the bushes and trees is very clumsy, I got quite lost with this. Compositionally wise it leaves a lot to be desired. It would have been better if I had tried out composition ideas in thumbnails first, possibly trying different ratios of sky to land, and/or perhaps introducing higher verticals. I am still finding it quite difficult to change what is there.

What I would like to do following this exercise: I would like to return to this scene in the near future and try a colour version of it and work on the aspects that did not go well this time. I need to continue to look at how artists tackle landscapes in their drawings and practice some of the marks that they make. Instead of trying things out in the drawing as I went along it would have been better to have experimented in my sketchbook first. Having said that, I am pleased that I tried out various ideas on this drawing, it gave a chance to see how they went together and also gave me the opportunity to try and improve on the initial drawing.

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3 Responses to Exercise Plotting space through composition and structure

  1. mags says:

    You’ve really captured a feeling of recession here, Chris. Lovely. I don’t see any of it as ‘clumsy’ in any way. This will be my next exercise, and I can feel the doubts creeping in (although nowhere near as much as they’re doing for the perspective exercises!). I shall keep reminding myself of your words… ‘as long as I learn’. That’s what it’s all about it.

    • christedder says:

      Thank you very much Mags. Good luck with your next exercises, particularly the perspective ones. You have probably already got books on perspective so I do not know if this is any help but I did find two particularly helpful: Perspective Without Pain by Phil Metzger, North Light Books 1992, and The Artist’s Guide to Perspective by Janet Shearer, New Holland Publishers 2003.

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