Category Archives: Pt 3/project 3

Part three, Project 3- reflections

Having completed part three, project 3 here are some reflections on my progress so far.

  • How did you simplify and select? Were you able to focus on simple shapes and patterns amid all the visual information available to you?

In the Exercise 1,  I managed to simplify the main shapes of the church, stonework and trees.  Even the detailed pen sketch includes only the details I considered relevant to the subject, as given the detailed nature of the drawing, I could have included a lot more.  There was a lot of detail in the church brickwork which I simplified into small areas to suggest the bricks.  In the dam drawing, the main patterns were the distant trees, the railings and the reeds in the foreground.  I left out fussy details of wooden walkways, and foreground vegetation.  It was hard not to add too much detail in both of these exercises and I tried to include just enough foliage to create a sense of the vegetation.

  • How did you create a sense of distance and form?

In exercise 2 the background trees are smaller, hazy and less defined to put them at a distance.  I did include shading and lighter areas to try to give these trees 3D form however,  In exercise 1 the stonework has clear highlights where light hits them from the side to give a sense of 3D form.  There are also some very deep dark shadows as contrast and to bring the foreground forward.  I might have reduced the intensity of tone in the background shadows – would that have pushed them further into the background?

  • Were you able to use light and shade successfully?

I think the pastel picture of the dam could have been more exaggerated in its sense of distance, by using lighter and more pastel colours in the background, to contrast more with the darker, detailed foreground.  In the church drawings, the large foreground headstones are dark monoliths which dominate the drawing, while background trees create dark contrast for the lighter mid-ground stonework to emerge from.

  • What additional preliminary work would have been helpful towards the larger study?

More sketches in colour would have helped and more experimentation  and studies using different media.  That seems to be my bug-bear at the moment- mastering pastels and colours!  I think I should do more work in my sketchbooks of elements of the subject, rather than always focusing on the whole composition.

Part Three, Project 3, Exercise 2 -Foreground, middle ground, background

Choose one of your sketches or photographs – or if you prefer, return to a location and draw on the spot. You’ll also need to use your viewfinder and a grid if you’re enlarging one of your sketches or working from a photograph.  The aim of this exercise is to establish a foreground, middle ground and background in your drawing. If you can compose and structure your drawing to include these divisions, you’ll begin to establish a sense of space in the structure of your drawing. This way of organising space is characteristic of the French classical painters Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain, who in turn influenced the British landscape artist, JMW Turner.

Before I did this exercise I had a look at work of the artists referred to in the course notes:


Landscape with a Calm (Un Tem[p]s calme et serein) (1650 – 1651) Nicolas Poussin (French, 1594 – 1665) oil on canvas.  Described by website as follows:

In the late 1640s and early 1650s, Nicolas Poussin turned from historical narrative to landscape painting. Landscape with a Calm does not illustrate a story but rather evokes a mood. The ordered composition and clear, golden light contribute to A Calm’s utter tranquility, while glowing, gem-like colors and fluid paint strokes enliven this scene of benevolent nature. Poussin’s sketching campaigns in the Roman countryside with his friend and fellow landscape painter Claude Lorrain account, in part, for its fresh observation of cloud-scattered sky and grazing goats.

Look also at the following link for examples of paintings by Claude Lorrain:  In many of these paintings the landscape is organised so that there is a clear fore- middle- and back-ground with a strong sense of the scene receding far into the distance before you.

JMW Turner, who was greatly influenced by both Lorrain and Poussin, also achieves this in his works.  For example, in this watercolour Mountainous Landscape: A Scottish River c.1801–3 where the fore- mid- and background are clear.  The background, which is less defined, more hazy and more blue, recedes away, while the foreground is clearer and more detailed. The midgound shows the effect of light and includes a small feature to emphasise the distance from the foreground.

Mountainous Landscape: A Scottish River circa 1801-3 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Mountainous Landscape: A Scottish River circa 1801-3 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

I used one of the sketches from project 2 for this exercise.



Lymm Dam: Conte crayons and soft pastels on A3 Pastel paper

I chose my sketch of Lymm Dam to work on.  There were various things about the sketch that I liked:

Compositionally, I liked that the page was divided into three vertically and that the church tower sits about a third of the way along horizontally.  The railings lead the eye across the page and divide the page.  There is also a fore-, mid- and background receding away from the viewer with the trees sitting in the mist beyond.  As suggested in the course notes, the edge of the water where it meets the trees serves as a feature that frames the middle distance.  The background “horizon” is the line of trees beyond the dam, and the church tower in the background.  These are not actually that far away and I did not make the division between these and sky particularly hazy as suggested to create a sense of distance.  Would this have been appropriate in this case?

I also like the colours.  It is just autumn now and the colours in the trees are reflected in the water.  The reeds in the foreground are dark green, more defined and darker in colour so that they sit very much in the foreground- this helps give a sense of depth.

However, I was frustrated by the process of painting this picture. I am struggling to master using pastels- I started with conte crayons and then added stronger colours and highlights using soft pastels.  The effect works really well when viewed from a distance but up close it looks very clumsy and I don’t like the way the colour skims across the surface leaving white “spots” where the valleys in the paper are.  I struggled to get the pastels to fill the valleys and to create deep full continuous colour.  If I were to do this again I would either master pastels properly(!), use smoother paper(?) or use a different medium (Colour pencils?)

I think the sense of depth works- the background trees are misty and recede into the background while the foreground reeds are larger, darker and more dominating.  The water has a different texture which I think looks like water.  I really like the reflections and the autumnal colours.  The railings also stand out in the foreground and add to the sense of structure in the pictures composition.  I was torn between making these bright white so they really stood out and adding some creamy yellow so they were not quite so dominant.  In the end I made them brighter close up  and less so as they receded.

There was not very much directional light on the day I viewed this scene and the world was shrouded in an autumnal mist with a cold grey sky.

Part Three, Project 3, Exercise 1 -Developing your studies

Review your preparatory drawings from Project 2 and select those that have most of the elements that you would like to include in a larger drawing. It may be that you’ve already produced a composition that you now feel is strong enough to take further. You could decide to focus on a single form that dominates the composition, or you may have in mind a group of forms that can be positioned in an interesting manner, using repeated colours, lines, marks, textures and so on across the picture plane. Whatever you decide, try to be adventurous in your subject and in your composition. Test your growing skills and show that you can work beyond the expected.

I looked at my sketches from project 2 but decided to revisit the churchyard to investigate alternative views to draw.  I had already drawn a sketch of the churchyard but I thought it was a bit flat and although it had fore- & mid- ground they were on the same level at the bottom of the page.  I found some interesting headstones that I drew from a low perspective sitting on the ground and looking up past them towards the church.   I chose to work on a sketch of this view of the churchyard for this exercise.
This sketch is quite rough, using charcoal pencil, and was purely an information capturing exercise. I liked the way that the headstones in the foreground dominate the picture and the way they are in deep shadow, with the church and a number of headstones and memorial stones creating interest behind.  I like the textures and colours in the stonework.  The headstones produce repeating shapes acoross the picture that are silhouetted against the church stonework and trees/ vegetation.
I got a bit caught up in this view and when I got home I tried doing a different interpretation using bold felt tips- trying to reduce the colours down to a monochrome image:
I like the way I managed to simplify some of the detail and the slightly quirky nature of all the stonework.  The lines are not quite straight or in perspective- which adds interest to the drawing.
I developed the drawing further to produce a very technical drawing, with shading marked in using hatching and cross hatching:
St Mary’s Church:  pen on Daler Rowney Aquafine smooth 300gsm A3 watercolour paper 
However, in response to this drawing, even though I was pleased with the result, I was getting frustrated with myself for being too tight in my approach, so i started to experiment further.  I wanted to see if I could still produce a “sense of place” using a more abstract interpretation.  My first attempt was using indian ink (dry/wet brush, pen and ink, splashes, drips and droplets…) to capture the main elements in an abstract manner…..
I was quite encouraged by this experiment.  although it was fairly random, it captured the main elements of the picture (light/ shade/ shapes) and created an interesting drawing.
Then I had a go using a variety of colour media (acrylic inks, pastel, pen).
This picture tightened up more than I had intended, but nowhere near as much as the pen and ink drawing.  In some parts of the page it is quite abstract.  The colour creates depth and interest, I like the shapes and some of the accidental effects (colours intermingling, splashes etc).  You can see what it is a drawing of but you also know looking at it that it is an interpretation of the scene rather than a reproduction.
Observational Skills: I think the subject was well observed and well investigated through different approaches and media

Technically, I am using different media with varying effect and success, and am experimenting with different techniques.

Content: In retrospect I think the subject may be a bit busy and not have enough calm areas.  There is also a lot of “dark” as the sun was actually behind the church.  Unfortunately, this side of the church does not get direct sun, but it would have been nice to have some sunlit walls to contrast the dark areas. I did use some artistic licence to achieve this in one or two of these drawings.

Creativity – I dont know how to measure my own creativity, but I try to be creative by experimenting with different materials and techniques.   In this exercise I was much more creative than usual because I was so aware of being very tight in my first effort and wanted to prove to myself that I could loosen up and interpret the drawing in different ways.  I hope/think I achieved this?

what I would do differently:  I might try a different view another time.  As I worked on this picture I grew frustrated by the lack of strong light/dark contrasts.  However, where the church was in the sun there were limited objects of interest to use as foreground.  I would like to develop my style more to be looser and to master some of these media more so the abstract effects I created were more deliberate than accidental.