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.
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.
There are so many landscape artists that this research point became almost overwhelming. I therefore decided to provide a brief overview in this post on the named artists in the course manual plus other artists whose work I have recently seen in exhibitions. I will then pick a couple of artists whose work I find interesting to research further in later posts.
Durer’s (1471-1528) landscapes are the earliest surviving examples in Western art of pure landscape studies. During a journey through the Alps in 1494-5 he recorded a series of topographical watercolours; these studies were then often used in this later etchings and woodcuts, for which he is probably better known.
Whilst Claude Lorraine (c 1600-82) lived prior to the Romantic period his landscapes to me have that idealised, romantic, pastoral feel. Figures are often present in his landscapes and the peasants have that clean, happy, contented feel which is probably far removed from the actual reality of often living in poverty with poor working conditions. Whilst I can admired the technical ability in his landscapes the works themselves do not really engaged me as the viewer; perhaps they are just too far removed from my own interests.
As landscape as a genre in itself becomes established, there is a proliferation of artists working in this field. JMW Turner (1775-1851), John Constable (1776-1837), Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) to name just a few.
Perhaps one of my favourites painters of this period is Samuel Palmer (1805-1881). It is the fairytale, mystical quality which his drawings and paintings process that I find intriguing; I can look at some of his images for a long time and keep finding new things. Also his range of mark making and the stylised quality of this forms draws me into the images. This stylised form recurs in later landscapes I have seen by artists such as Paul Nash (e.g. The Falling Stars, 1912 and Landscape of the Vernal Equinox (III), 1944) and even Grant Wood (e.g. Young Corn, 1931).
I recently visited the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam and his landscapes moved away from depicting the ideal to depicting reality as he saw it. I particularly admire the mark-making in his drawings and his ability to show the ordinary as a subject worthy of drawing or painting.
Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) is probably best known for her close-ups of flowers, however, it is her landscape which I enjoy. Her ability to take a panoramic view and just put the essence of the shapes and colours into the image without it being distracted by detail is something I would like to achieve in my drawings; the shapes in many of her landscape take on animal or human form.
L.S. Lowry (1887-1976) is a painter whose paintings I know well but actually know very little about the artist. I grew up seeing Lowry’s pictures on television and knew the associated phrase (wrong in my view) ‘matchstick men and matchstick cats and dogs’, later made into a pop song. Lowry painted the industrial north and the associated houses and landscapes. I have never been that struck by his paintings as I found them a bit of a ‘variation on the theme of’. However, on looking closer at his paintings one of the things I gain from the images is the depth of field he creates in some of the images by having a strong fore, middle and background, whilst using aerial perspective to fade away the background.
I went to the recent Paul Nash exhibition at the Tate (see post here) and have always been drawn to his early images of trees (e.g. The Three in the Night, 1913 and Tree Group 1913) and also his depictions of the battle fields of World War 1 (e.g. We Are Making a New World, 1918). At the exhibition I found the landscapes whilst he lived at Dymchurch fascinating. Perhaps it is because this is very familiar territory to me that I was drawn to these images but what I particularly liked was the strong graphic nature of the paintings with very little detail, highlighting for me the isolation of the individual in a vast expanse of the landscape and man’s need to control nature.
Grant Wood (1891-1942) is probably best known for his painting American Gothic which I recently saw at the Royal Academy exhibition, America after the Fall. However, he also painting landscapes using stylised forms (as indicated previously) and it is these which I found interesting. In many ways they do not show the poverty and problems of the depression of the time but rather a sanitized version of reality.
John Piper (1903-92) is another artist I have always felt drawn towards for his often dark depictions of buildings, such as The Gatehouse, Knole, 1942. What I was less aware of were his depictions of the wider landscape, such as Tryan Mountain, 1950 and his move towards abstraction, such as House at Niton.
I came across Barbara Rae (b 1943) a few years ago and what struck me in her paintings was her ability to take a landscape (sometimes focusing in on one small part) and convey the mood she feels when painting the image. She creates the drama she sees in the landscape with vivid colours and abstract strokes; getting away from representation is something I struggle with, so I admire artists who can do achieve this style.
George Shaw (b 1966) is not an artist I was aware of before undertaking this research. His early paintings of the estate where he grew up remind me of my own upbringing on a council estate. He paints the ordinary houses, garages and other buildings which were as familiar to him as the London churches and squares where familiar to JMW Turner. I really like the absence of people and for me the way his images, rather than conveying a harshness and brutality, convey a warmth, understanding and sympathy with the surroundings.
Sarah Woodfine (b 1968) creates drawings mixing the real and the imaginary. She uses optical illusions and puts the drawings into a three-dimensional space to create a fantasy environment; this seems to come from her training as a sculptor. I have never thought about cutting up drawings and creating in effect mini-theatrical scenes. Something I might try in the future.
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.