Category Archives: Part 3

The artist and the sea. Edinburgh art centre.

I was lucky to have the opportunity to visit the Edinburgh Art Centre at the weekend, where there was an exhibition entitled the artist and the sea. I was interested to see this as I wanted to relate it to some of the tree and cloud work we did in part three, as I realise all these subjects can be expressed in a myriad of ways.

What struck me was the variety of both subject and styles  exhibited; from abstract to large figurative paintings.  The sense of the sea was expressed in a variety of manners; Through portraits of fishermen, collages of shipbuilders, abstract waves, and raditiona/ contemporary coastal scenes.

There were two pictures that stood out for me from the perspective of my interest in drawing.  The first is “Back from the Gulf, HMS Brecon in Dry Dock, Leith” by Douglas Grey (1988).  It is an etching on paper but I was struck by the looseness on his depiction of such a large detailed subject. He noted that he could respond to the scene on a personal level as many of his male relatives had worked in the shipyards.  Both the boat and the figure at its prow cast a sense of loneliness.


The next picture is “The Perimeter Road, Leith Docks” by Kate Downie (1985).  Ink, watercolour and acrylic.  I really like the honesty of this image- I can almost smell the salty air around the loosely drawn flotsam in the foreground.  It is not a romantic image of  the coastline, but one I can relate to- industrialisation, the man made coastal road, rubbish!IMG_1104

Assignment Three

Draw an outdoor scene of your choice. Try to find a view that includes some natural objects – trees, shrubs, pot plants, fields, garden plants. Also try to find a view that will allow you to demonstrate your understanding of aerial or linear perspective – in other words a view that has some demonstrable depth to it. Look for a view that offers an opportunity to draw straight-lined objects as well as items drawn from nature: buildings, walls, fences, gates and so on.

Do some preliminary drawings in your sketchbook to experiment with the composition. Try different versions, eliminating and moving objects if necessary to create a pleasing composition. Make some sketches to practise getting the perspective of the scene right.  Next do some broad sketches in charcoal or diluted ink and brush and trial other media before you select which to use. 

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I started this assignment by trying to find a scene I was happy to draw and inspired by, but which also fitted the criteria described.  I did a variety of quick sketches- both line and tonal- to explore various options, of which a couple of pages are shown above.

I finally settled on a view of the same building I used for the small sketches in exercise 1 Part 3, Project 5, Ex 1.  Looking past the tudor style building there are a row of small cottages in contrasting stone.  The cottages recede into the sort of culvert which is dark with trees and the whole is in a gulley as trees and rocks ascend behind them.  It made it very tricky to catch the building in good light as the light tends to come from behind for much of the day and with the recent grey wet weather, the light was making it look very flat and dreary.  I finally came across a day when the light was adding to the scene and creating a sense of atmosphere, so I took a number of photographs to help me to capture it in my final piece of work.  The watery wintery light was shining on the windows and white plasterwork of the foreground building, creating shades, whilst the cottage receded into dark shadow along the path.


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I also played around with a couple of loose, bold approaches exploring which view to use and how I might use interesting media and effects in the final work.  The colour sketch was a far cry from what I was trying to achieve as it completely lacked subtlety.  However, I did enjoy the loose wash effect in the ink/wash drawing.

I started the final picture by taking time to get the perspective of the initial drawing accurate.  Linear perspective came into play both looking along the line of the cottages, and also looking up towards the roof of the foreground building.  I was a little undecided about how to start the work but decided (with reference to the sketches above) that using pen and ink for the tudor-style building and a contrasting finish on the cottages would be a good approach.


I am interested in the effect using washes creates so I thought I would try to create a sense of shade by using a watercolour wash as a background.  I also used water colour to detect the clouds in the sky so they would appear loose and fresh.  I worked up the tudor frontage using pen and ink and an indian ink wash in a number of layers, then used a combination of colour pencils and crayons for the stonework.  In places I used some ink wash to darken and deepen shadow.



Mixed Media on A2 Mixed Media Paper 250gsm

I am very pleased and surprised by the finished drawing.  I was pleased by the looseness of the pavement and the deep shadow around and beyond the last cottage, which contrasts with the light freshness of the windows in the foreground.  The whiteness of the paper lifts the white plasterwork and there is a definitely sense of shadow and sunlight.  When I did this it was during Christmas, so i decided to include the village christmas trees on fixed the front of the building- complete with lights/ baubles!  It was a happy accident really as I think the green lifts it and helps link the whole subject together.  At the back there are plants growing up the walls and there is green algae growing the the brickwork. The sign was also green!

I believe I have successfully put theory into practice here.  The perspective looks correct to me and there is a definitely sense of the cottages receding.  The atmosphere along that path in winter is rather dark, damp and cold- I would like to think I had captured that. The windows and doors in the cottages are quite rustic- while those in the tudor style building look more refined -the widows are reflecting the sky and some of the trees- there is a hint of that.

I was very pleased by my choice of media.  I was amazed by some of the effects I managed to create using just coloured pencils, by blending and creating layers, and using mineral spirits to merge colours together.  They were effective in creating textures of the stonework and plants/trees and the grey tones were not overly bright in trying to capture the sense of atmosphere.

Demonstration of Technical & visual skills-  I think compositionally this assignment demonstrates an understanding of various elements studied in part three.  It shows perspective, depth, has an interesting composition,and successful  use of a variety of media.  I spent a lot of time developing ideas for this by living with it in the back of my mind over a few weeks, which helped enormously with he end result.

Quality of outcome– I feel I achieved what I set out to do- in fact I feel I delivered more than I expected to be able to.  It was a subject that interested me and as I could relate to it and feel it strongly I think this was expressed directly in the visual communication of my thoughts and emotional response.

Demonstration of creativity– I find it very hard not to have a fairly detailed approach in my finished work.  In this case I feel it works however, as looseness and imaginative effects are evident in some areas of this picture, while in other more restrained areas I had to experiment to create affects using the chosen media.


Part Three, Project 5, Exercise 4 -Statues

Statue drawings can become a source of inspiration for further pieces as well as being completed drawings in their own right.  Decide what interests you about the particular statue. You could focus on silhouette, tone and negative shapes. Alternatively you could look at the textures created by erosion and lichens. Look at the play of light on the statue created by the other objects nearby or draw the statue in context – what’s beside, behind or in front.  Consider how you can make your drawings more interesting by adjusting your viewpoint. 


I visited Warrington Cemetery and spent an afternoon drawing statues.  I tried various media (pencils, charcoal and pen and ink).


I was pleased with the drawing of the praying angel as I thought that looking down on it from behind, was a less obvious perspective, which gave a sense of narrative.  It was actually placed next to a grave but I did not draw that in.


I did the cherubs as a deliberately loose pencil sketch to loosen myself up and try avoid getting bogged down by trying to capture minute details. (It helped that it was cold so I was less inclined to linger!)


I felt that the pencil sketch of Mary was in contrast very flat and stilted.  Also quite inaccurate as she was not that wide!  It is recognisable but has no soul!  Maybe context might have helped?


I worked the pen and ink sketch up with an ink wash which generated an enhanced sense of form that the initial sketch lacked.  It was standing in front of a large tree and the dark background also helps to bring the figure forward.









Part Three, Project 5, Exercise 3 -A limited palette study

Using your sketches from the previous exercise, select a drawing to develop in colour.  Begin with a horizontal line that defines your personal eye level. Use a limited palette for this exercise – no more than three colours. Traditionally these would have been deep brown, sanguine (red brown), black and white, but decide which works best for your subject. Use conté pencils, coloured pencils or ink and work on smooth or rough paper.

Conte crayon on A2 kraft paper

I reworked a different view of the house in exercsie 2, using conte pencils in traditional black, sanguine, brown and white colours.  I used A3 kraft paper as I thought it might give an interesting effect- as that the house is white!  I am not sure that the finish on the house is particularly effective, as where the paper shows through the white it just looks dirty and badly drawn! I was struggling to cover the paper completely. However, the tone of the paper works better for the canal which gives quite an effective watery finish.  I think the coloured paper might have been a mistake overall (if I did it again I would choose white) as there are limited areas where it felt right to leave the paper unmarked.  Had I used white paper, there would have been a large central expanse relatively unmarked (walls of the house) from which I could have built up tone and detail around it.

I was careful not to overstate the objects beyond the bridge, which helps them to recede into the distance.  The verticals are not completely accurate, but the building does have 3D form (maybe the fact it is an old house means your brain is more willing to forgive inaccuracies of perspective etc.  In a new building it might be more obvious!?)


Charcoal on A2 cartridge paper

I thought I would have a try at using just shades of grey on white A2 cartridge paper.  This is a scene from the back of the village showing roofs and chimneys etc.  I was drawn to the interesting shapes and the fact it is dominantly dark.  (As usual it was a very grey day!)  I was pleased with the outcome and felt that the light on the foreground roof brought it forward whilst the dark roofs in the background sent them into the distance.  It was hard to describe the form of the cylindrical chimneys in the mid-ground and they became a little over worked as a result.  I liked being able to leave the paper to show through where white plasterwork, reflections and light were depicted.


Pastels on A4 grey pastel paper

This is a small A4 pastel image of the centre of the village.  I sued rather more colour on this sketch which was really just an experiment to see if I could depict form using just a few colours but without defining outlines too much.  It is a loose sketch which has a sense of movement (not that buildings move!) and depth.  The colder colours of the rocks bring the cross into the foreground while the warmer colours on the shops recede and give a sense of sunlight shining on them. (Maybe the touches of pink tie the whole together?) I was able to resist overdoing the detail on the shop fronts which also helped put them into the background.




Part Three, Project 5, Exercise 2 -Study of a townscape using line

Use two sketchbook pages to make a preliminary drawing of this study. Establish the primary focus and any other shapes and objects you think necessary to make this drawing interesting and unexpected. Make notes about the weather conditions and how they affect your approach to the drawing and establish the general mood. Decide what sort of marks fit the mood and shapes of this study. Find the centre point of your paper and relate this to the focal point of your preliminary drawings; decide on the foreground, middle ground and background. Complete the study in pen and ink or a black drawing pen or fine brush pen.


I was finding with this project that I kept being side tracked by different views and wanting to try different things.  I visited Stratford upon Avon and did some sketches of Shakespeare’s birthplace in charcoal. I have included these here because they are line drawings, even though they aren’t exactly what was asked for!  The first one gives quite a good sense of place- helped by the figure walking by with an umbrella.  It was a dreary wet day with wet pavements (I could have made this more obvious!)

Shakespeare’s birthplace- charcoal A2 cartridge paper

I did a similar sketch trying to loosen up and be less concerned about accuracy.  It creates a completely different feel but is obviously less recognisable(?), although as a quick sketch of a 16th century building it does work.IMG_0973

I tried a quick sketch of a village pub, trying not to get bogged down with detail- focusing on the main shapes and tonal structure.


Finally I focused non this two page drawing on the canal in the centre of the village.  The view is fairly iconic here and has been drawn and photographed in multiple ways.  I decided to centre my composition on the bridge rather than the house, which then brought the railings and the pub wall into the foreground at interesting angles/ perspective.  I was very pleased with the sketchbook line drawing (Ink with indian ink wash)IMG_1003

The initial sketchbook drawing provided a lot of information (and experience) of the scene for when I worked it up to a larger final piece.  I decided to try A1 cartridge paper, but was disappointed that what appeared loose and fresh in the sketchbook just seemed to look a bit wrong and overworked on the final piece.  I homed into the bridge more in the final piece and included the front end of a canal boat that had moored up.  I thought this successfully gave a greater sense of depth.  However, I should have kept the objects under the bridge lighter/ more hazy, to emphasise depth further.  I used additional media to develop the picture from a basic line drawing, which I felt would look too sparse on such a large piece of paper.  I used brush pen, water colour, pastels, dip pen and ink.  I am not all that pleased with the outcome and think that I would have had more success on smaller paper.



Part Three, Project 5, Exercise 1 -Sketchbook of townscape drawings

Streets in townscapes, from industrial buildings to a collection of domestic houses, offer diverse opportunities for using a variety of colour media.  Focus on one particular building, for example a corner site or a building façade, and notice how the other buildings support your main focus.  Make written notes about your sense of the place. Take note of your eye level which will become the horizon line.  

Make a detailed study with a 3B pencil, in a 10cm square, showing a section of the building to help you get the essence of the structures in front of you. Draw a second 10cm square tonal study showing how the light falls across the building.  Make notes about the direction and strength of light, time of day, shadows, colour,the use of the buildings, movement of people and anything else that will help your decision-making for a larger piece of work.  Decide on the most interesting view. Sometimes it’s only when you begin to draw that you spot an exciting view. Plan in your sketchbook where everything you intend to include in your drawing will be. Draw the main shapes in pencil or charcoal before you commit yourself to colour. Find your own unique view of your chosen place. Your drawing should have a sense of the actual location but you don’t have to include everything you can see. 

This exercise evolved away from the initial instructions.  I carried out a few initial small sketches and really like the value they give to your thought process.  However, the light was rather grey and flat during the days I was trying to do this and I always seemed to be in the village in the early morning, meaning it was pretty quiet and devoid of people, so I felt there was a limited amount to say about atmosphere, colour, light, people…..etc.  The process of making these small sketches was an effective way to determine the important shapes and to work out what to leave out from the scene, without committing a lot of wasted time and effort into the work.


I progressed away from the initial exercise to drawing a variety of scenes in my sketchbook thinking about the sense of place, atmosphere, interesting shapes, light, texture, colours etc.  However, I did not create a finished piece from all of these drawings.  I found I was veering away from the course a little as I was interested in the subject matter, but was finding it hard to settle on one scene and develop it.  However, the final piece for assignment three was a development of the work done in the 10cm x 10cm sketches above and I felt that the observations made during this time were a key part of the evolution of the assignment.



Part Three, Project 4, Exercise 3 -Aerial or atmospheric perspective

This exercise is about tonal gradation. When you’re working with perspective and the suggestion of distance, you should notice that tonal values become lighter as the amount of space between the eye and the horizon increases. Detail is less clear and focus steadily reduced. If there is moisture in the air greater ‘fogging’ occurs and, even on a fine day, it can seem as though veils of blue are layered across the mid to far distance.  In hot and arid zones, aerial perspective barely exists and the hottest tones (such as the reds in the rocky outcrops of the Australian desert) retain their saturated depth far into the distance.

Using drawing media such as charcoal, soft graphite, conté sticks, soft chalky pastel, oil sticks and ink, make several tonal studies that analyse receding features of the landscape from foreground to mid and far distance.  With a light touch, establish the horizon before plotting the basic forms of objects in the landscape. Analyse the gradation of tone away into the distance. You may prefer to use a single colour, using monochrome as a tonal and atmospheric tool.

We were in the perfect place for this exercise- a week away in Scotland!!


Charcoal and pencil sketchbook drawing of a riding lesson with the hills in the distance.  I only had watercolour pencils at my disposal so the drawing is fairly crude, with the background hills much more blue/ purple than the green/orange autumnal trees in the foreground. However, in spite of the clumsy drawing/colouring I think it does give a sense of distance.

Charcoal A2 cartridge paper.  Using a different hotel view as my inspiration I used charcoal to create a landscape with receding hills.  I was very pleased with this picture- the hills in the distance in the valley definitely look a long way away and merge with the cloud in the sky.  The hills in the mid ground are more contrasted against the background- which was pretty accurate compared with what I could see.  The fact they are drawn more carefully brings them further forwards.  Then the foreground is darker and has more detail of trees and fields and hedgerows.  I added a few white crayon highlights just to bring out some of the close features and help smudge in the clouds.  IMG_0864

I spent some time drawing the hotel facade with the hills in the background on a two page spread of my sketchbook.  I started it as a pencil, then an ink drawing, before proceeding to add a watercolour wash.  There are a lot of trees in the foreground on the second page which reduced the interest of the view so I only coloured a section of it.

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The hills in the background are more grey/blue than the foreground and I do think they recede.  However, they should probably have been paler in colour to blend a little more with the sky.


I then proceeded to play around with this composition a little using acrylic inks, pastels and paint:  the resulting image of the hotel, looked ghostly and more like a castle.  paler swatches of colour created a sense of the background, merging with the sky.  Darker colours in the foreground with bright highlights brought the foreground forwards.   I was pleased with the effect as it creates a sense of a landscape without being a photorealistic representation of the scene.  I like the way the deep colours of the first wash show through and give the picture life.

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I tried a similar approach again trying to lose even more detail whilst still capturing a sense of place/ landscape and aerial perspective.  This was much less effective- it became too random and the colours are all too bright, meaning that the sense of a foreground/ mid ground and background is lost.  The pale mid section does not work either!


I had another attempt using oil pastels, watercolour pastels and intense colour blocks.  With a little acrylic paint thrown in!  This gives a sense of fore- mid and background effectively.  The hills recede and merge with the clouds and sky.  The building has a sense of 3D form mainly because the  trees to the right are in shadow, although I have not been too particular about detail in the buildings facade, which is actually fairly 2D in representation.  It looks fairly ghostly and blurred.  The light green grass in the foreground suggests a moment of sunshine on an otherwise gloomy day.  It definitely looks cloudy in the distance.


I did a few sketchbook exercises to play around with various media and trying to get a sense of aerial perspective.  Of the three picture below the top one works the best- using oil pastels and smearing it with mineral oil.


watercolour pencils-colours too intenseIMG_0894

Pastel pencils on black paper- pencils are too fineIMG_0893

watercolour washes- foreground works best- blotches of colour in the sky are not effective