In what way did you simplify and select in your study? Were you able to focus on simple shapes and patterns amid all the visual information available to you?
For me these two questions are intertwined I was able to simplify and select by putting everything into group shapes in the sketches and or blocks of colour in the larger study.
How did you create a sense of distance and form in your studies?
I created a sense of distance by using stronger shading or colour in the foreground with lighter shading or colour in the background to make the background look generally more misty. I also used softer pencils in the foreground or in sketches where I used pens I created a sense of distance by drawing simpler and smaller shapes between the more dominant ones to make them look like they are at the back.
How did you use light and shade? Was it successful?
In the sketch above I made the tree solid black and put the shadows in the foreground to depict the sun shining behind the tree then drew the leaves of the tree in a lighter pencil to show light shining through the trees. The result was definitely a success.
What additional preliminary work would have been helpful towards the larger study?
Like I said in the exercises, for me and where I am, to do the drawing trees exercises before the final study would have been a great help.
Look at the work of Claude Lorrain and Turner. Write notes on how these artists divide their landscapes into foreground, middle ground and background.
In the earlier research point I refrained from looking at the works of Claude Lorrain as I knew I would be looking at them again here. However looking at his paintings now, some of those artists may have possibly been influenced by Claud Lorrain himself.
I looked at quite a few of his paintings but for this research point I chose three to look at in detail.
The first painting that I chose out was ‘Landscape with Merchants’ a prime example of how Lorrain used different levels, like platforms, to divide his paintings into a foreground, middle ground and a background helping him to create a great sense of distance in his paintings with the foreground level being the clearest and the most colourful with each level on top fading to the background. In this painting he staggers each level to depict the river flowing in a snake like pattern around the hills into the distance.
Again with the next painting ‘Landscape with Aeneas at Delos’ he has used the layers in the same way but this time arranged them into what I would say blocks on the left which remind me of stepping stones and doing this has managed to depict the coastline of a sea or massive lake with one final layer set to one side allowing him to show the sea meeting the sky in the horizon.
Trees also play a big part in depicting distance in Lorrain’s drawings often using them to divide the foreground from the middle ground like in the ‘Landscape with Ascanius Shooting the Stag of Sylvia’ above’.
J M W Turner
I looked a few of Turner’s paintings, his later seascape paintings were a bit too stressful for me so I decided to take a closer look at his earlier work. The first painting I came across was ‘Composition of Tivoli’.
Realizing that it did have an uncanny resemblance to Lorrain’s paintings I decided to look at the web page from which the image came, which turned out to be an article on the Guardian’s website entitled ‘Turner Inspired – In the light of Claude‘.
Interestingly, the article goes on that Turner was even known as the British Claude and ‘In his immense and complex bequest, Turner left two landscapes to the nation to be hung next to a pair by Claude so that the affinities would be fully apparent to succeeding generations. You can see them in room 15 of the National Gallery to this day.’ says Laura Cumming who wrote the article.
‘What Turner took from Claude is all there at a glance: the aerial view, the graceful staging with great trees on either side and the landscape dissolving into the distance in untraceable gradations, the mastery of hazy golden sunrise and the luminous glow of dusk; Claude’s magical light.’
However, in ‘Mount Vesuvius in Eruption’ below he takes the magical light that he got from Lorrain to the next step and actually depicts the eruption of a volcano. In this painting Turner uses the same kind of levels as Lorrain but he wants the background and Vesuvius to dominate the painting and so drenches the foreground with light in the form of reflection off gentle waves.
‘The aim of this exercise was to establish a foreground, middle ground and background in your drawing. If you can compose and structure your drawing to include these divisions you are then beginning to establish a sense of space in the structure of your drawing. This way of organising space is characteristic of the French classical painters Nicholas Poussin and Claude Lorrain, who in turn influenced the British landscape artist, Joseph Mallord William Turner.’
Now I had already had a glimpsed at some of Claude Lorrain’s paintings but one painting that really inspired me for this exercise was Frederic Edwin Church Heart of the Andes that I looked at in an earlier research point Different Artists’ Depictions of Landscape.
With the red shirts and yellow shirts kicking off here in Bangkok my school has been closed for 3 or 4 days every week for the last week, with them calling a truce just for today, the king’s birthday. Anyway with time off work we made the decision to go away to Sarabruri for a couple of days and so I decided to take my pencils, an A3 drawing pad and drawing board.
The lodge where we stayed was overlooking some beautiful – what I would call – mountain shaped hills but when we arrived on the first day it was already knocking on so I set my alarm and got up at 6 am.
The mountains looked great with the mist glowing above and in front of them and I knew they wouldn’t look like that forever so I took a few snaps with the camera first and took a great shot, the one above, which was framed with a tree. Using my view finder I began to draw knowing that I could work from the photos later. I had decided to work entirely in Derwent watercolour pencil for the following reasons:
Less waxy than Derwent Artists’ Pencils
Easy to erase
Easy to blend
If I needed to I could use them wet
I decided to work from the background down to the foreground as I wanted to get the mountains and the sky just right, However I spent so long working on the mountains that the mist was clearing and I had to keep resorting back to looking at the photo on my Galaxy Tab.
The second step was the middle ground, the mist had all but lifted by now but using the photo on the tablet as reference I blocked in the middle ground areas with a a blend of grey, violet and blue and then drawing in the trees in thew distance with a 2 shades of green and grey to depict the trees appearing out of the mist.
Up until now everything was going well but I was about three hours in and so that I didn’t ignore the girlfriend I decided to finish off the foreground, frame the picture with a tree then finish the rest of the drawing off back home in Bangkok and too be honest I was a bit overwhelmed by how many trees I had to draw so needed a break anyway.
When it came to drawing the big trees in the foreground I started by drawing the outlines of the trees in a lighter coloured pencil, then using irregular hatching for the branches from dark to light colours.
I noticed there is a project coming up called Drawing Trees, for me it would have been better to have done that first before this project as I have been drawing nothing but trees since A Sketchbook Walk and it has been a struggle. and this exercise was no different.
Due to me not using watercolour paper I refrained from drawing wet until I needed to and that was on the largest tree and three at the side that I framed the drawing with.
To be honest not much of this drawing turned out the way I wanted it to, background great, middle-ground great but then the foreground just changed everything and made the drawing look like some kind of dodgy cartoon. However I am not going to start again as I believe I have achieved the goal of this exercise which was to establish a foreground, middle ground and background in my drawing.
For this exercise I had to draw comprehensive tonal studies of cloud formations in charcoal, oil pastel and conte with the aid of a putty rubber.
It’s in the transition from rainy season to dry season here in Thailand but most of the rain happens in the afternoon and as I drew most of the following around mid day most of the clouds seemed to be developing into rain clouds.
I probably went about this exercise the wrong way, instead of drawing sketches in my sketchbook as it seemed a lot of other students have done I used separate sheets of paper and tried filling them up with not just the clouds but the blue skies behind the clouds to try and capture how the rays of light bouncing of the clouds effected the skies around them, and what a task.
My first drawing was started in the morning from the car park at the Tesco Lotus shopping mall where I teach. I’m still really new to oil pastel so I started the drawing by drawing in the blue skies giving me the silhouette of the cloud then drawing in the dark parts of the cloud after. I could see it was going to take me a long time but luckily there was no strong winds, which is usually the norm here in Thailand during the rainy season, as the clouds just seem to form slowly through the course of the day, so I took a photo and finished the drawing at home.
The hardest part was depicting the sun shining behind the top of the clouds, I think I managed to do this by making the shadow of the cloud a lot darker in that area, so the white would look brighter.
I wasn’t going to be able to any more drawings until the next day so that night I decided to do something different. It was about 9 o’clock in the evening and I could see the moon shining through the sun so I took a photo of it from my window, When taking a photo of the night skies the camera seems to capture a lot more than what the eyes can see, I live on the 26th floor and I’ve often noticed that when taking photos of Bangkok at night clouds appear on photos that I didn’t think were there.
I originally thought that I could do the drawing just in conte but I only had three colours a dark brick, black and white but then as I started to draw more and more colours began to appear so I highlighted the moon and the clouds in yellow and orange hard pastel, a move that would change the course of the exercise.
The next drawings was done from my apartment window it was about half past two in the afternoon and the clouds were really starting to form now. One particular cloud caught my eye and because of the lack of wind I managed to get two drawings of it one using hard pastel for the blue skies.
To be honest I don’t think I captured the full body of the cloud very well in charcoal and it could have looked a lot fluffier than what it did. The next drawing in hard pastel was a lot better.
The next three drawings were done in my sketchbook in soft pastel. a medium that I wasn’t instructed to use in the brief but I really wanted to have ago in another medium as I wasn’t very keen on oil-pastel and because of the soft cloud formations and blue skies outside my window I thought it was very suitable, plus I haven’t done much work in soft pastel so far so it gave me a chance to use it.
The final drawing was done in the early evening and it looks like wain was on the way but it was a really nice evening the problem was lack of selection of colours in the soft pastel set that I bought so this is something I have to correct.
I haven’t done as many studies I would have liked to in this exercise but with the amount of work I have had on lately I’ve slipped right behind and I want to get moving with the final exercise in this module but I’ll hopefully be doing more cloud studies throughout this part of the course and adding them later.
For this research point I was to look at artists who worked in Series such as Monet, Pissarro or Cézanne and make notes in my learning log about the challenges they faced and how they tackled them.
I thought I would look at Camille Pissarro first as I remembered his various paintings of The Boulevard Montmartre through different seasons and different times of day.
I suspect that the first painting in this series would have been the Boulevard Montre 1897 above which from the shadows on the chimneys on the right looks like the scene is set in late afternoon or early evening.
Looking at the Boulevard Montre in Spring below I think it’s obvious that Pissarro’s biggest challenge was depicting the weather and he has tackled this by using a totally different colour pallet barring the chimneys on the right. Another challenge that I’m guessing he would have been thinking about while he was painting this would be duplicating the buildings so they seem to appear the same as in the original painting, however with different shadows and light shining from different directions he could add shadows where necessary to correct the shape of the buildings.
With Boulevard Montre in Spring Rain Below the biggest challenge for him would have been to make it look like the floor was wet, to give the effect of water it looks like he may have used a pallet knife as well as using colours that he has used in the sky so that it looks like it is reflective. With this painting it seems he has taken shelter lower to street level maybe with the balcony he was painting in earlier paintings above him to shield him from the rain but I’m wondering how long it took him to paint this and where his starting point was. If he has started from the flooded road he may have been painting in his original spot finishing at the rooftops and so the buildings look higher.
The Boulevard Montre at Night below seems to have been painted on a wet rainy night and it looks like he has used a palette knife for the entire painting in order to get that effect.
In The Boulevard Montre in Cloudy Weather below he has used a similar technique completing the painting with thicker brushstrokes and palette knife (I think) to create a blurry effect. I have also noticed that on clouded days some of the colours you see are a lot deeper probably due to lack of light being reflected off the buildings he seems to show this by using deep colours in certain places such as the rooftop on the right.
Really spent quite a while trying to continue what I had been doing in earlier research points and that is finding new artists to look at, unfortunately my keyword searches let me down this time so I went with the recommendations from the brief and looked at Claude Monet’s Series of paintings ‘Haystacks’. This series of 25 paintings were painted in the fields near his home in Giverny, France, he begun painting them at harvest time (end of summer) 1890 and continued painting through to the Spring of 1891.
The challenge that Monet faced, like Pissarro was to depict the different times of day as well as the different seasons, while still maintaining the texture of the haystacks and portraying the landscape in the background, he tackled this with a clever use of colour, different size brushstrokes and palette knife.
For this exercise I was to choose an expansive landscape where I had an open view in all directions, then using my viewfinder to find a focal point and to frame my view I was to complete a fifteen-minute drawing.
From there I was to turn my stool on the same spot to face West, South and East, each time repeating the process of finding a focal point and completing another fifteen-minute drawing.
With not much choice of expansive Landscapes in Bangkok I knew I would be going back to the park where I did the sketches for the last exercise ‘A Sketchbook Walk‘ but I wasn’t sure when I would get the chance to go back. Then with a stroke of luck the Thai government tried bringing an ‘Amnesty Bill’ in so exiled former president Thaksin Shinawatra could come back Thailand without being strung up, so the protesters hit the streets again and I got three days off.
Well to start with I didn’t have a stool and I would have looked a bit silly getting in the taxi with a buffet but it hadn’t rained for 2 days so I decided I would sit on the floor, so armed with my artist’s wrap, my A4 sketchbook, my small viewfinder and my small drawing board I headed to Suan Rot Fai again. I’d already decided where I was going to sit and I started drawing what I thought was North and what happened next was a series of accidents.
It was pretty clouded and I was pretty positive the direction I was looking was south and there was no need to look at the GPS on my phone so I pulled out my charcoal pencil from my artist’s wrap and started drawing, two trees in I realised I had forgot my cutter and a pencil sharpener was just not going to do the job so I finished the drawing in compressed charcoal hence the two bushes in front of the trees in the background came out looking more like coal slacks than bushes.
This first drawing did take me spot on 15 minutes and although I am not happy with the finished drawing as it looks more like Autumn in England than Rainy season in Thailand I thought I did quite well drawing the landscape with this medium for the first time.
As I turned 90 degrees anti-clockwise to draw what I thought was West I realised that the Sun had come out from the clouds behind me and it was nearly three in the afternoon so I was actually facing East, I’m usually great at guessing where North is…however I decided to carry on. East was very tricky it was the first time I had drawn water and I was facing a lake so I chose not to carry on in Charcoal but to switch to a 4B pencil, a decision I now regret.
Focusing on the tree directly in front of me, that looked like it was bending towards the water to get a drink, I began to draw. The whole process from beginning to end was a rush trying to finish in the 15 minute time frame and I was very lucky that it came out looking anything near the view I was drawing, I was going to leave the buildings in the background out but then decided to add them at the end. I wasn’t looking at the time but I reckon the drawing took me about ten minutes over the 15 minute time frame, the problem…too many trees!
As I turned North to face more trees, I decided to switch mediums again and this time began to draw in my trusty ball point pen, even though the sun was shining by now and I think I depicted this quite well in the sketch, it probably does look more like an Autumn Scene. It took no time at all to sketch everything out but then another 15 minutes to get the trees looking anything like trees. I feel now that a fine marker would have been a better choice of Medium.
The fourth and final drawing, which I thought would be the easiest was left incomplete dead on 15 minutes and after going over it about three times in charcoal, the medium that I thought was the safest for this type of landscape given the 15 minute time frame.
I am not impressed with my performance on this exercise, However I do feel that I have learnt something very important from it and that is choosing the right medium for the right job…the job being a 15 minute sketch in this type of environment.
What I did like about this exercise though were the notable changes in the landscape just by shifting my view a little, I could have got many great and very different drawings just by sitting in the same spot. I took advantage of this by finding the focal points that I thought would be best to start from given the 15 minute time frames.
The Brief for this exercise was to ‘Go for a walk in your local park, around your garden or somewhere you normally walk. Find a view that you like or are familiar with and use your viewfinder to help you focus on a point of interest. This could be a trees, a gate or a road.’
I had been working irregular hours over the last month as schools were on holiday and I had been working in the language center and with pretty earlier sunsets in Thailand I spent most of the day time I had left doing cloud drawings for the third exercise in this project. Finally I dropped on lucky with two days off which it turned out I needed for this exercise alone.
The only suitable place for this exercise and probably most of the others in this module is a place called ‘Suan Rot Fai’ (Suan=Park, Rot Fai = Train) which is basically a large park on the outskirts of Bangkok with lots of trees, lakes, grass, sculptures and a rotting train. So I set out armed with my artists wrap, filled with different pencils and charcoal and my viewfinder that I made in the first part of this course to see what I could draw. After a long walk around the park getting familiar with the sites, sculptures, trees and other landmarks, I decided that it was more like Disneyland than a park with scaled down replicas of famous Thai landmarks and a kind of theme park with traffic lights and statues of strange looking Asian Cartoon figures. Being spoil- for-choice on what to draw I made the decision to get some sketches of more natural looking subjects.
The first subject that caught my eye was some kind of park keepers shed, which was a bad choice for me really because when it comes to drawing any kind of structure like this I like the perspective to be perfect and although I followed the brief and didn’t erase any mistakes I might have made, I drew very slowly and the shed itself took me at least 30 minutes. It was in a great location and the trees above cast some lovely shadows which I think I did well to catch and I think I managed to do a great job depicting the light reflecting off the glass shutters at the side. When it came to drawing the trees I think I also did quite well but I could have chosen a better technique on drawing the leaves on the trees although the focal point of the picture, the shed, takes your mind off the rubbishy bits.
Bangkok is very flat and the first time I rode around this park on a mountain bike this year I realised that this was probably the only place in Bangkok that had sloping paths so I took the opportunity to make the second sketch of a path swooping round a bend it was about 4:30 in the afternoon by now and in Thailand time that’s nearly twilight so I had to work a lot faster now and I realised that this was probably going to be my last sketch of the day, not just because I didn’t think I’d have enough time to do another before it got dark but also because the park was filling up with people jogging and on bikes as the Thais don’t like to get sun tans and so they come out as the sun is going down.
This time I started by drawing the snaking outline of the cycle path and the trees on the left hand side of the road. There was a hell of a lot of trees here for my liking and it was difficult to see where the trees in the background came up to behind the trees in front but to be honest I think I did quite well drawing them and the light that shone down the short grass behind them. I also think I did quite well drawing the trees at the back on the right hand side of the road but totally messed up drawing thee trees closest on the right. However like the first drawing with the road acting as the point of focus it kind of takes your mind off how badly drawn they are.
The light shining on the road through the branches and leaves above was a challenge so I decided to go about this by hatching across the road to show the shadows coming off the trees, smudging the pencil lines with my finger and then erasing the areas of light with a putty rubber then where needed hatching again over the top for more shadow.
To do the last two sketches I came out again the next day which was unfortunately a public holiday so I was limited for where I could sketch in peace as the park was full, so much for not wanting to get a sun tan.
My third subject was something that I thought would be a lot easier to draw and found extremely difficult, logs against a tree. I sketched in the tree first to give myself a starting point with the logs and taking advantage of the negative space started work on the chopped down chunks of tree. However the hardest thing was making the logs look like logs as the texture was quite difficult to replicate in a quick sketch the tree behind however was a different kettle-of-fish I spent more time on that and I think I managed to pull off the texture quite well.
Behind the tree was a miniature junction painted on the floor-fail! I did love drawing the shape of the big trees in the background though, I can’t wait to start drawing trees later on in this module, there are some great eucalyptus trees in the park. The grass was also a task as it was very patchy and the grass in Thailand is very different from the grass in the U.K., more like a weed than grass. Overall I am not very happy with this drawing but it was the quickest so far I just have to improve before I start drawing the 360 degree studies in 15 minutes per drawing!
With the park being pretty full I found myself in places where the Thais wouldn’t go or at least wouldn’t be distracting me walking around in the background so I found myself looking at this clearing and with the sun beating down and everything in the foreground looking very dark it was the perfect opportunity to pull out my charcoal pencil. I had been using an HB pencil for the first three pencils and just wanted to use something different so I began with a charcoal pencil to draw in the tree, which when I finished reminded me of a Klimt painting for some reason then I drew in shadows with an EE, taking the shadows up to the road, drawing in the road with HB and then taking the shadows over the road.
Unlike the previous picture the grass here was real grass and perfectly cut so instead of having to draw individual blades i simply shaded then smudged. This time for the branches of the tree itself I left the squiggles alone and used and drew the leaves with marks similar to those used by Albrecht Durer in my previous post Research Point: Different Artists’ Depictions of Landscapes and then resorted to the squiggles for the trees in the background to give the effect that they are in the distance. Their is a small like at the back on the left I found this quite difficult to draw you can tell there is something there but you can’t quite make out what it is.
For the first research point in this part of the course, ‘Drawing Outdoors’ We were asked to look at different artists depictions of landscapes, for example Albrecht Dürer, Claude Lorrain and L.S. Lowry.
Albrecht Dürer 1471-1528 gave us some of the earliest and finest works of the ‘Northern Renaissance’ with some wonderful landscape paintings, however, with the next exercise ‘a sketchbook walk’ coming up, I decided to look for some of Dürer’s more sketchy works.
The first painting I came across was a painting called Quarry, I searched on Google to try to find more information on this painting but to no avail, all I found was other paintings in colour of the same name. Looking at the painting at a first glance I thought it was a drawing in pencil but then realized it was a watercolour but it does look like he may have used other media such as pencil to finish the piece. The mark making techniques he has used in the painting are very simple and yet he has managed to create a good sense of three dimension with thin strong lines for the turfs of grass and weeds in the foreground to the wide, smudged brush strokes for the trees in the background and everything else in between. I particularly like the mark making techniques he has used for the leafs of the trees as he has depicted what we see has very complex objects with a series of simple shapes.
Another painting that I really liked was ‘Forest Glade with a Walled Fountain by which Two Men are Sitting’. I haven’t found the details of this drawing but it looks more like a drawing in pen and ink than a drawing. At first I couldn’t determine whether the artist had no time to finish the painting or if he had deliberately left it unfinished but then I realized that he was trying to show the light shining in through the trees on the left hand side of the picture and the dark forest in the background.
Again, like the first painting he has used many different mark making techniques using hatching and cross hatching for the fountain, as well as the two men and various hatching techniques to show the density of the forest behind. I can also see that he has used the same simple marks for the leaves on the trees as the first painting which works really well.
L.S. Lowry (1 November 1887 – 23 February 1976)
Laurence Stephen Lowry, was born in Stretford, Lancashire in 1887 and as a northerner as always been a favourite of mine.
Lowry is famous for his paintings depicting life in various industrial districts in the Northwest of England in a very distinctive style of painting.
Because of his use of stylised figures and the lack of weather effects in many of his landscapes he is sometimes characterised as a naïve “Sunday painter”, although this is not the position of the galleries that have organised retrospectives of his works. – Wikipedia.
The oil painting, Industrial Landscape 1955, below is a great example of Lowry’s industrial landscape paintings. What I like about Lowry’s paintings especially this one is that the building, bridges, houses etc. are made up of very simple shapes, mostly rectangles and squares and yet he still manages to create feeling in his paintings with the help of factory smoke and dismal skies plus the background that fades to almost nothing helps not only to create a sense of distance but of smog and pollution being caused by the factory chimneys. Although the perspective is not perfect he creates a sense distance by painting the landscape lighter and lighter as he moves into the background eventually fading to a blue-grey; as well as painting objects like trees, bushes, chimneys and spires with simpler and smaller shapes so that they appear far-off.
I tried to find a larger image of the following painting but to no avail. Also titled An Industrial Landscape the painting was bought for 300 GBP in 1959 and sold for 600,000 GBP in 2007. Again you can see how he paints the buildings in lighter and lighter shades in the background to give the impression they are disappearing into an industrial smog.
Finding a Substitute for Claude Lorrain
I noticed that I would be researching Claude Lorrain again later on in this module and so I set out to find a substitute. I first searched for Claude Lorrain on Google which took me to the Baroque period from there I clicked on a link to Landscapes which took me to page of wonderful landscapes on Wikipedia with Landscape Paintings of artists from all different periods.
The first painting that jumped out at me was a painting by Caspar David Friedrich, titled Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, 1818, which is a classic image from German Romanticism. I recently watched a series of documentaries about German art on the BBC and this painting was used in the credits. My kind of painting really, simple and yet the landscape he has painted catches the imagination wondering what is below the peaks, and below the cloud line. Again as in paintings by the other artists in this research point the trees on the mountain ridges are made up of very simple squiggles and other shapes but its not something you notice straight away. I love the way he has used what I think are long twisted brush strokes with a darker colour over the lighter colour in the background to create the effect of mist rolling down the ills to the center of the picture.
The next image that caught my attention was a painting by Frederic Edwin Church titled The Heart of the Andes, 1859. Unlike the previous painting this is by no means simple, I couldn’t even begin to think about where this guy started or what techniques he used, say, for the trees, but the mountains in the background are pure inspiration. They seem to be layers and layers of colour painted over the blue sky background making their way to ground level with the white snowcapped mountains in the background taking your mind on a journey around the mountains in front to get to them.