Exercise Study of a townscape using line

Aim of the exercise: Using two sketchbook pages make a preliminary drawing establishing primary focus, foreground, middle ground and background. Make notes about weather conditions and how they affect the approach to and general mood of the drawing. Complete the study in pen and ink or a black drawing pen.

What I experienced:

Completed 11/08/13. As my sketchbooks are ring bound drawing across two pages, particularly in pen did not seem very practical so for both the preliminary drawing and the final drawing I used the next size sketchbook so for the double spread A5 I used A4 and for the double spread A4 I used A3.

perspec1_NEWOn 08/08/13 I headed to town to find myself a view to draw with an aim to getting the preliminary drawing done. I found an interesting view from a large bookshop window on the first floor. I was very unsure though that I could actually draw it but it would certainly be a challenge and as such it seemed a good one to pick. It was a mainly cloudy day but when the sun came out briefly it was amazing how much the appearance of the scene changed. Much more tonal contrast and an increase in the number of people out as well. I spent some time looking at the scene and became fascinated with how the various shapes fitted together and this would hopefully help to get the perspective right as well. I used a Rotring Artpen and sketched directly, drawing by sight, measuring and comparing angles with an outstretched pen. I had quite a restricted view through the window (the view from the cafe on the next floor up was more open but unfortunately the table was taken) so I drew what I could see. I tried not to fuss and to work my way steadily through the drawing without overthinking it too much. At the end I used a water brush to give a little bit of tone to the drawing. Overall I was quite pleased with the completed drawing. I still struggled to draw a straight line and I did not recognise that some of my horizontal lines were not straight until the end of the drawing (the buildings facing were parallel so there should not be a downward lean to the lines). I tried to think about focal point, and considered the top corner of the front building to be it, but find that my eye is more naturally drawn to the furthest figure. I also tried for foreground, middle ground and background. I found myself concentrating so much on trying to draw the scene that it was more difficult to consider textures. It was the most complicated building scene I have ever attempted so I felt very pleased to have given it a go and enjoyed attempting to draw it.

perspec2_NEWBefore attempting the final drawing of the above scene I felt that more practice at perspective would definitely help. On 09/08/13 I attempted to draw what I could see while looking through a first floor window. Again it was noticeable how much colours, tones and contrast changed as the weather varied during the drawing. To help me understand the perspective better I tried measuring the angles I could see against a frame and found this quite helpful as an aid to understanding better what I was seeing. I made a fundamental mistake with the largest house, drawing too much space between the door and the windows and not enough space above the windows. I used a pencil first to work out where I was and then drew with a Pitt artist pen. I then decided to play with some colour using Stabillo point 68 felt tips, both direct to paper and scribbled onto plastic and then diluted with a water brush and applied. Once again I found I was quite clumsy when it came to showing textures of the houses. I tried to show aerial perspective by using paler and bluer toned colours as I moved futher back in the drawing. I enjoyed trying to use the Stabillo pens but the drawing has ended up looking rather illustrative. The drawing took me a long time as I was very slow at sorting out the perspective stage and then again when adding the colour. It was however good practice and I am pleased that I attempted it.

perspec3_NEWOn 10/08/13 I had another attempt, this time with single point perspective. I visited a local church and attempted to draw part of it from the side. I tried using the frame again to help measure angles, and despite the fact that it was single point, so should have been much simpler, with the vanishing point off the paper, I found it hard to visualise. It took me so long to draw it that it became too late to attempt to add colour so having taken some photographs I took the drawing home. When I checked the perspective with an extended piece of paper I had managed to get the roof angles and some of the pillar angles wrong and on correcting them the drawing appeared to improve. Unfortunately I have drawn the windows very badly, having tried to draw quickly with the pen and not fuss, in the end all I have managed to achieve is careless. I will need to observe much better next time. I decided to try watercolour for adding colour, a medium that I have not used very much. I have ended up with quite a clumsy application but it was fun to try. Though I drew in pencil first to establish the main shapes everything was then drawn direct in pen using a Pitt artist pen, prior to adding the watercolour.

townscape using line_NEWOn 12/08/13 I had my first chance to return to town and was lucky enough to be able to sit in the cafe with the view through the second floor window. I checked that it was okay to draw from the cafe and they were very kind and said I could draw for as long as I liked (which was a good job considering how long the drawing took me) and I just made sure that I bought something to drink regularly and had lunch etc as well, so that they were not losing out on custom. Luckily (for me) it turned out to be a very quiet day for the cafe. This window gave me a wider view than I had drawn for my preliminary sketch. As I would have attempted it with a double spread A4 sketchbook I used an A3. It took me quite a long time to draw all the main shapes and perspective in pencil first. I then used a Pitt Artist pen, superfine, for the main drawing, and a Unipen 0.05 for the cathedral. Many of the buildings are very old and some angles did not necessarily follow the line that I expected. I established my eye level and main vanishing points and measured angles and sizes with an outstretched pencil. The only time that I used a ruler was to check whether my vertical lines were straight, as at A3 I was finding it hard to tell. Once again I found it difficult to think about anything else than just trying to draw what I could see accurately and textures once again have been quite clumsily treated. I was seriously running out of time by the time I drew the details on the building on the left and have drawn them very badly. I was extremely tired by then and in hindsight should have just left it. Also the shops running up to the cathedral were deep in shadow by this time and I couldn’t see enough to add details to this area. We were to do a line drawing but tone would have helped some areas to become clearer. I could have indicated tone with line (which I had left until last as the shadows were changing constantly throughout the day) but with time having run out (cafe was closing) I felt that it was definitely time to call a halt. At some point hopefully I will get quicker and then be able to manage to get more done. I will have a think as to whether to go back on another occasion to add tone. I was pleased to finish the drawing but I managed to draw it with absolutely no atmosphere and I actually prefer the sketch, as rough as that is.

Things that I feel went well: I enjoyed attempting the drawing and I am pleased that I attempted it at A3. I tried to observe very carefully what I was seeing and on the whole I think that I used well every bit of visual information available to help me. I felt pleased that I had been brave enough to tackle the subject and just knuckled down and got on with it, keeping my internal critic a little more in check. I feel that there is a clear background and middle ground, even if perhaps foreground is not quite so well defined. I tried to increase line strength to help bring the nearer buildings forward but it hasn’t been fully successful. Even though I have got a little muddled with sizes of the people I am pleased that I attempted to draw them from life (I just should have been braver to put more of them in, as there was a lot more of them than that).

Things that I feel did not go well: I feel that the finished drawing is tight, stilted and sterile and hasn’t really got any sense of life to it. It is reasonably accurate but extremely pedestrian. The instructions spoke about making notes about the weather conditions and deciding  how it affected the approach to the drawing, deciding on what marks fitted the mood and shapes. All of that pretty much went out of my head when I started trying to actually draw it. I found it so hard to draw and it required so much concentration that I really didn’t get the chance to think about anything else. The only point with the weather that I did notice was how much the shadows changed throughout the day and that when I was drawing the cathedral, it was sharply detailed at that point in bright light. At other times I could see that there was much less detail obvious in a much softer light, which would have resulted in a different treatment of it perhaps. I need to find a way of being able to take that extra leap forward, that will take me beyond trying to replicate the scene, and instead to interpreting it. Hopefully, the more I draw, the more I will get closer to being able to take that next step. Because I ended up taking so long over the drawing it would have been better to have returned to finish it rather than hurry the nearest left hand buildings as I really have made a right mess of them. I took a dip pen and ink with me but completely forgot about them and drew instead with a Pitt Artist pen and a Unipen. I feel that a dip pen may have enabled me to get more variation into my lines. I have made the last section of the building on the right too long, it should have been narrower.

What I would like to do following this exercise: I need to continue to investigate different artists approaches to showing texture of buildings in their drawings. I will also need to continue to try and draw various buildings and structures so that I can become more confident in using perspective. It will also be helpful to continue to regularly check angles that I see when I am out or indoors, so that I can understand better the discrepancy between what I think that I see and what is actually there. This should also help in developing my understanding of perspective.

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