This assignment was not a happy journey for me. I over-thought it and consequently struggled to get a satisfactory end result. In the end I submitted the assignment as to keep re-working it would not have been beneficial and would have put me further behind in the course.
At the start I thought I had a clear idea on how I wanted to proceed. Wye Valley has happy and peaceful memories for me as it was a place I escaped to when working at Imperial College at Wye. I was having a particularly stressful time in my job as I dealt with a number of staffing issues. I would therefore go to the top of the valley at lunchtime and chill-out. I wanted my drawing to convey the rolling nature of the views (so typical of Kent), to celebrate the making of marks and to be a larger drawing.
I went up to the top of the valley to make some sketches in charcoal & graphite and some smaller drawings in ink of close-ups of plants.
From these sketches and a previous panorama drawing completed for the 360 degree view exercise I worked out my composition.
I decided on a portrait composition as I thought it gave a better representation of the depth of the view and I could included more aerial perspective (as required by the assignment criteria).
I used A1, 640 gsm Waterford paper as I would be using both wet and dry techniques and I did not want to stretch the paper (this subsequently turned out to be a wise choice). I first put in some light pencil marks to roughly map out the composition and added random strokes of masking fluid to add some texture to the foreground area (it did not photograph well – the paper is white!).
I then applied a light ink wash and started to add loose marks to define the fore, middle and background.
I started to build up the layers, varying my mark making by using various materials to make the marks – brushes, charcoal sticks (end and edge), charcoal pencils, pen/ink, sponge brushes, sponges, etc. I finally added some charcoal dust at the top of the drawing to indicate the distance haze. I stood back from the drawing and was just not happy with the result.
For me some of the areas of the trees did not look right, overall the drawing was much darker than I wanted (it is lighter in the photograph than reality), there was not enough variety in the marks made and the perspective of the hills looked wrong.
I put it away for a day or so but on coming back to the drawing I still was not happy. A crisis of confidence then hit me and I decided to start again on something else for my assignment submission.
I went down to Reculver where I often walk and decided to do a sketchbook walk just recording the random things I noticed.
I then came home and started to think about my walk. One of the things that really stood out for me was how the inference of man had changed the nature of this country park. There were health and safety warning signs everywhere, a plastic mesh under the grass to prevent erosion on the main footpath, dog walkers everywhere, graffiti on signs, litter bins, a children’s play area, a visitors centre, etc, etc. The very countryside people came to enjoy was almost obscured by the other things. I began to think about doing a drawing depicting this aspect of my walk.
I tried out a few ideas before commencing the drawing.
I then started on the actual drawing, building up a background using ink before drawing in pen my stylised record of my walk, incorporating items I had seen and graffiti from the signs.
When I looked at this drawing, even though it was not finished, it just looked too contrived to me – overworked and over-thought. I decided to abandon this drawing and maybe come back to the idea at a later date.
After a third attempt I decided to take a break and leave the assignment for a week or so and then decide what to do.
Whilst taking a break I thought back to some comments John Virtue has said about his drawings – he often turned them on their side and upside down to get a different view. I decided to go back to my original drawing and try again.
I needed to lighten the drawing somehow so used a large sponge to wash off the ink and charcoal as best I could. I also used a pan scrubber to get some of the layers off!
I then turned the drawing on its side and applied a white ink and then white gouache wash to lighten the drawing. Some of the under drawing would still show through but in a way that mimics the layers of use the countryside has been subject to over the years.
I then went back up to the top of the valley and used marker pens to quickly sketch the composition again so I was working from a much less detailed sketch.
I then again built up the fore, middle and backgrounds using pens, brushes and sponges, trying this time not to overwork the drawing.
I added further tones to make the distanced and middle ground slightly darker and added the mist haze in the background.
Whilst I am happier with the result than the original drawing there is not enough texture in the middle and back grounds, it is now whiter than I would have liked (but I am cautious about making it too dark again) and the sense of recession in the landscape is not as clear as I would have liked. I would have liked the drawing to be more abstract but i seem to have a mental barrier to making things truly abstract. On the plus side the whole experience of this assignment has really brought home to me that it is better when I don’t over think things, even when a drawing is not go well you should persevere and that is amazing how you can wash and scrub off a drawing (including charcoal) providing you have used a good quality paper in the first place.