Proj 3, Ex. 2: Foreground, Middle Ground and Background

For this exercise I went to the top of a hill near Hythe, as I knew a place where I could stop and sketch by the roadside.  I wanted to use charcoal for this image as I need to develop my skills in using this medium.  I concentrated on mark-marking to capture the essence of the scene rather than trying to capture the detail.

I think the drawing is quite successful as the background is more faded and contains a lot less detail than the middle and fore-grounds, as I used the side and thick end of the stick.  I introduced more detail in the middle ground using a harder and finer compressed charcoal stick and then a charcoal pencil for the foreground.  I lifted out some highlights using a pencil eraser and used a putty rubber to generally lighten some areas.

The parts of the image which did not work quite so well are the vines on the foreground tree trunk, the perspective of the fence and the grey compressed charcoal on the bollard in the foreground.

I then drew the scene looking across the valley in pen and ink.  Again, I think I have captured the view and made the differential between the three zones quite distinct, although I think I could have added slightly more detail to the middle ground and increased the range of values.

On the way back home I could not resist drawing the scene below as I liked the way the tress were coming down the side of the hill and the overall shape of the two trees at the bottom of the hill.  I deliberately decided to keep this sketch quite simple to see if ‘less is more’ and think it has worked quite well.

I then had a break from the course for 10 days to deal with some other major commitments and when I came back I thought I would try to redraw the scene across Wye Valley entirely from memory.  I hoped without the scene in front of me I would concentrate more on making marks rather then detailing the view.  I used a sponge, the side and ends of wedge and cone foam brushes, and pen and ink.  I must admit this is the first time I have tried to make a drawing entirely from memory and the result is surprising good.

Once this was completed it inspired me to go one step further and combine the two approaches – drawing both from the scene and from memory.  Whilst I had been out drawing landscapes one thing that struck me was the range of colours there were in roadside verges.  I decided to try a drawing using memory and some chance to create the background, and then travel to a scene to add foreground detail.

I create the coloured background in watercolour using a sponge for the back/middle ground,  flicking the paint and using the side and top edge of a wedge sponge brush for the foreground.

The next day I drove to the roadside verge and started adding the detail of the plants in ink.  Originally I was going to add much more detail, but once I had completed the dominant plant species shown, I stood back from the drawing and decided to stop.  I liked the way the viewer can fill in the rest of the plants using the colour splashes to trigger their imagination and own memories.

I am beginning to really like this combination of chance with detail in my drawings and will explore it more in future drawings.

Proj 3, Ex. 1: Developing Your Studies

I looked back at my sketch walk drawings and 360 degree studies and chose to develop the Dungeness studies.  I tried out a couple of compositions before decided to have the power station buildings as the background with the huts and beach in the foreground.

Even whilst doing the initial sketches I knew I was not completely happy with the composition but thought I would adjust it as I developed the main picture.  I prepared a paper with an ink wash to give some random variety to the sky and added a yellow ochre band at the bottom of the page.  I then used conte crayon to develop the buildings and rest of the picture.

I think this image is unsuccessful.  Whilst I do like the simple block shape of the power station looming over the landscape,  the perspective of the middle and fore ground is wrong, the marks are not varied enough, the path is all wrong and the colours are wrong.  Also, once again, whilst I enjoy drawings which have gestural marks which show energy, this drawing has defaulted to my restrained approach of depicted the visual appearance in too literal a way.  It is not the move towards a more abstracted drawing that I wanted for this drawing and admire in other artists.

I thought back to my feedback from my tutor at the last assignment and decided to go back over all the work I have completed to date, lay it out and reflect on what has worked and what was less successful, look at her assignment reports and look at a way forwards for the rest of the module.

This ‘failed’ drawing is a good thing as it has made me question my approach and review my progress.  This is also probably a good time to undertake the review as I am about half way through the course and need to reflect to improve.  I shall undertake this reflection this weekend and my next post will detail the result.

Proj 2, Ex. 3: 360 degree Studies

I took this exercise to be about finding drawings in unexpected places.  I therefore choose to go to a place where I knew the landscape would be pretty uninspiring and see what, if anything, I could draw.  I went to Oare Marshes, a flat marsh landscape next to the estuary with lots of mudflats.  My first two drawings show part of an old WW2 concrete structure in the foreground and then the vegetation extending back to the estuary in the first drawing and to the power lines in the other direction.

My next drawing shows the layers of vegetation plus various plants and the final drawing in ink looks across to the wind turbines on the Isle of Sheppey.  These four drawings did bring home to me that you can find a subject in any landscape and whilst I might not choose to develop any of them further, just drawing them sparks ideas for other locations.

I decided to extend the idea of this exercise and complete a larger panorama drawing.  I want to have some definite fore, middle and background so picked a higher viewpoint looking across a valley at the top of Wye Hill.  At my last feedback my tutor encouraged me to use charcoal more so I decided to use this medium for this drawing.  The drawing was completed over two days at the same time each day to try to keep the light the same.   It is 1.10m long by 0.32 m high.


I enjoyed undertaking the panorama so went down to the coast to complete a drawing in colour using conte crayons.   This is of the salt marsh at Pegwell Bay with Ramsgate cliffs in the background.  this drawing is 1.07 m long by 0.38 m high.


I think the charcoal drawing is the more successful of the two panoramas as it has a greater depth of field and a better variety of marks and tones (although this is difficult to see in the blog photograph).

Proj 2, Ex. 2: Sketchbook Walk

For my sketchbook walk I chose to go to Dungeness, a place I visit quite often both for the nature reserve and because I like the variety of the environment – quite bleak beaches, old and new beach houses, converted industrial buildings, unusual beach plants and, of course, the power station.

For my sketch walk, I kept my materials quite simple – pencil, pen and A3 paper attached to a drawing board.  My four small sketches show the diversity of buildings at the site – a broken down wooden hut, a group of more traditional beach houses, a former lookout building now converted to a modern home (right next to the lighthouse fog horn) and a final sketch of the beach itself.

Whilst there I decided to do a larger pen and ink drawing of the old lighthouse and round keepers residence with the new automatic lighthouse in the background.   I used a sketching water-brush to wash the ink and provide the tone.

Finally, I also drew the power station in pencil, setting it in the context of the single landscape.


I enjoyed this sketch walk as, despite my initial reservation of drawing outdoors, I am finding that my confidence is growing and I am becoming less concerned with passers-by.  The sketches are not my best work but do capture something about the place.

Proj 1, Ex. 3: Study of Several Trees

Whilst I was sitting in the woodland two things struck me – one was the range of greens in layers from the tree canopy down to the undergrowth and the second was the way the light was dappled.  I therefore decided to capture this in oil pastels on a textured paper.  I kept to a very loose style only picking out a couple of the tree trunks, avoiding adding any real detail of the individual plants and trees to order to concentrate on the effect of the light and colours.


I am quite satisfied with the result and think I have captured what I set out to achieve.  It is a long way removed from my normal style of precise and detailed drawings but I am trying to try different methods and styles in order to explore my creativity more.

Following my last assignment my tutor suggested I try to use charcoal more and also to rub back with an eraser to create highlights.  I found this small patch of woodland where the tree trunks did not have any noticeable bark, were a silver-grey in colour, overall were quite bare (not the norm for this time of year) and quite strange shapes.  I used charcoal for this drawing, using the grain of the textured paper to create the ground and background foliage.  I rubbed in the charcoal for the tree trunks to create that smoother surface and then adding back in small patches of texture.  I used the point, edge and sides of the charcoal to create different marks.    I finally added the highlights to the sides of the trunks using a pencil eraser.


I am happy with the resultant picture as I think it captures the overall feeling I had of this patch of woodland and I fairly successfully used a medium I would hesitate to use before undertaking this drawing.

Proj 1, Ex.2: An Individual Tree

At this time of year it was surprising difficult to select an individual tree, without the clutter of surrounding woodland or other features.  My first tree is in pencil, with charcoal pencil to add the darker elements.  I tried to capture the overall shape of the tree concentrating on the shape of the branches, rather than drawing the individual leaves.  I was aware of my tutor comments from my last assignment submission which indicated I needed to bring out the shape of the object more and have a greater variety in my shading to achieve this.


Although the drawing does achieve this to a degree, I still feel it is slightly flat.

For my next drawing I looked back at my drawings from Unit 2 and felt that my more successful drawings had been when I was using pen and ink.  Whilst I used to think that using pen and ink would make me hesitant in my mark marking, afraid of making mistakes, the reverse is true.  I tend to just go for it, incorporating and using any mistakes in my mark making into the overall drawing.  I used a Rotring drawing pen for this drawing – a happy accident occurred whilst undertaking this drawing in that I changed the cartridge beofre going out and instead of a black cartridge I inserted a blue cartridge so as I drew,  the colour slowing began to change creating the various shades, giving form and a sense of depth to the tree.  I also added a wash to parts of the tree to blur the shape, adding further depth.


This i a better image than the first drawing, however, I still need to work on my shading to give form and add a greater range of tones.

Proj 1, Ex. 1: Sketching Individual Trees

In preparing for this exercise I decided to go out and do some sketches of trees in order to get into the mode of drawing trees.  My first sketch is of a small tree near to my home in pen and ink.  I then did a study of the leaves from this tree using the three watercolour pencils I had with me at the time.  Both are A3.

I then went further afield and found a couple of other trees to sketch.  The first is in pen and ink, the second uses Sepia and Brown pencil.  Both A3.

I now felt ready to tackle the exercise.  I knew of a church nearby that had a variety of trees in the graveyard and thought this would be a good place to sit quietly and sketch.  I did the pencil sketch of the main outline first, followed by a pen and ink (line/ink wash) drawing to show the main shapes of the foliage.  Both A3.

The shading on the pen and ink drawing did not turn out quite as I expected as the ink changed from black to blue part way through the drawing as I had changed the cartridge in my Art Pen just before coming out and had inserted a blue cartridge rather than black.  However, I quite like to more subtle blue colour.

The tree I had picked for the first two drawings was not suitable for the next part of the exercise as very little truck or branches could be seen.  I therefore drew a different tree using pen and pencil.  I drew the main truck and branches I could see in pen and indicated the shape of the foliage in pencil.  In the corner I added the detail for the foliage.  Again A3.


This tree was at the edge of the graveyard and was leaning towards an open field and I think I have captured this in the shading for the foliage.

I enjoyed this exercise and it has boosted my confidence to sketch outdoors.  Whilst I have not captured a fully realist drawing of the trees, I think the drawings do convey the overall shape of the trees and their different densities.