Monthly Archives: July 2017

Part 3: Project 5: Exercise 1: Sketchbook of townscape drawings

I am always reminded that you learn by your mistakes… but as an adult there’s always an element of wanting to be the best, so it’s quite hard to exhibit your failings. The temptation is to show the product not the process.

So, in the spirit of learning and process, this exercise started with a failure – an abandonment – a resolution – and a ‘new’ start!!!


I pre-planned and made two nice 10 cm square in my sketchbook… so far, so good.

But I was worried about sitting in a public place drawing a building (it’s a townscape there are going to be people!!!!!) so I tried to find a place where nobody would see my sketch.


So, to avoid the problem I set off round the village.

Here there would be no prying eyes… or at worst friendly ones I could chat to!

The first, and unexpected, issue was I felt uncomfortable sketching people’s private houses (a bit like a spy!) without asking permission. It seemed odd. And for the pub I would have had to sit in full view of all the drinkers.

Walking through the village I started seeing the buildings as cuboids with perspective lines, rather than as ‘houses’ with gardens, trees, windows and patterned bricks… which was really weird.

After a while I walked to the end of the village, into a field looking onto the edge of a newish housing estate with a big hedge round it and nestled myself into a hedge. At worst I would have the odd walker stroll past (and they couldn’t come up from behind because of the hedge)… but it was late and overcast so that was unlikely. And nobody in the garden would see me because of the high fence.

I set to work.

Why it failed and what I learnt:

The instruction was to draw a section… I thought I’d just get the shape of the whole building first – a habit. That’s what you do when you draw a building.

That was  a mistake: I didn’t follow the instruction: to draw a section, to get a feel for texture, material and patterns etc. This would inform my drawing of the whole building and make it ‘physical’.

No, I had to try to do a quick sketch of the whole building first!!!

But I couldn’t see the bottom of the house as a high hedge came about a third of the way up and this meant the lines of the roof and walls were ‘floating’ in space.

So, faced with a real building (rather than books on a table) I couldn’t get the perspective right by eye. I drew what I saw but when I looked at it on the page it was wrong, and the perspective lines didn’t look right.

After a few attempts I gave up and resorted to imagining where my eyes would come on the hedge… half way up… how much of the building was below my eye line and how much above. I drew an imaginary eye line (as it went off the paper I couldn’t draw a real one) and then found the vanishing points.

Which wasn’t entirely straightforward as having got the one on the left it was a bit of trial and error to get the right angle for the one on the right… but by slowly ‘constructing’ the building and playing with the lines, trying to match the angles I saw, and by using a horizontal pencil in the picture plane to judge the angles, I managed to get the overall shape in the next box.

It was very pleasing!

And then I added a few general details to the building.

But that was not the exercise.

At this point, I realised why we’d been asked to use a 3B pencil – it’s the first creamy softness where you can get a really black line (great for shadows on buildings which give it a 3D quality; soft enough to use for shading but also hard enough to use for line).

I learnt…

I’ve learnt that real buildings are much trickier than books… you’re nearer and the scale messes up your judgement of perspective. Parts of the building may be hidden (with books you can see the whole book so it’s much easier to work out perspective, when the whole object is in your central field of vision). Also real buildings may not be perfectly true.


I’m going to bite the bullet, vault the psychological hurdle, and go into Cambridge.

Once I’ve done it it won’t be so bad.

I’ll have a much bigger range of buildings, nobody will worry if I’m drawing a street… and if somebody has a peep so be it. It doesn’t matter, and if they ask what I’m doing I can have a conversation and tell them about the OCA!

Here goes!!!!!!








Town was great!!!!

And you can get coffee!

I sat on the wall on King’s Parade facing King’s College with my back to the throng of multi language tourists and sketched away…

The only interruption was a Chinese woman asking me to sign a petition against organ harvesting in China and a nice young woman who asked if she could have a look. I enjoyed talking to them so that’s a big hurdle over. Weird, all that worry and when it came to it I enjoyed it!

King’s College is horrendous to draw… it’s so complicated and my sketches looked awful – to my eye. I struggled to find the vanishing points of a multi faceted building and imagined 3D models. But I persevered and found a view that I thought would be interesting.

And I could draw up at home.

To be honest I’d no idea how I was going to turn my preparatory sketches into a finished drawing.

The only two irritations on the day were when my tin can of pencils blew off the wall. And when a tourist sat too closes and knocked everything flying!!!

At home:

A miraculous thing happened… I found I’d got enough information… to start making a drawing.

Slowly, like assembling a really complicated jigsaw it started to make sence – I could find my eye line and vanishing points and it started coming together.

And the notes REALLY helped, they put me back emotionally on the wall. A bit like acting, putting yourself in another time and place.

I had to simplify what I saw and used aerial perspective as in the distance the detail receded and everything got smaller.

When I added colour the chapel suddenly emerged.

The biggest surprise:

Is that I can’t trust my eye for anything that’s outside my central field of vision.

Inside my field of vision my perspective lines are quite accurate.

But outside they are invariably wrong – I know it’s because I’ve moved my head and eyes, effectively am drawing a new picture from a different point of view with different vanishing points! The perspective lines for my new picture will probably be right… but they’ll be wrong for my original picture.

In everyday life we just accept our view of the world and it doesn’t bother us as we stitch together a 3D view of the world all around us constantly flicking our eyes and moving our head… but for a painting to look ‘right’ it can only have one point of view.

In this sense a camera with a wide-angle lens – like an iPhone – is useful as it can be an aid in constructing a single point of view.

And it’s also useful for checking detail.

But notes and sketches give you so much more than a camera! They can give you humanity and life – a photograph is dead.

(And the danger is a photograph captures you in its spell and you slavishly copy it!)… when – as I’m learning – a lot of art is about simplification and composition. But using a camera as a drawing aid is, I think, okay.


Although I can see numerous faults I’m really proud I went out, made sketches, and produced something that is recognizably King’s College!!!!






Part 3: Project 5: Townscapes Research point: John Virtue and contemporary townscape artists

In choosing modern contemporary artists I included a little information on each artist from the site where I found the painting. I researched ‘Best contemporary cityscape painters’… all the results were from America and England so I tried finding an example from Indonesia (my son has just been travelling there and has been telling me about the culture). It occurred to me that by always finding Western examples – which almost by definition would be steeped in Western art culture/contemporary media/training – I was missing out on a world of art with different art histories and cultures. Unfortunately I found it very hard to find examples… all the easy searches threw up westernised versions of Indonesia for sale to the western market!!! However, I eventually found a famous Indonesian artist (Affandi) – now dead but still contemporary and ironically he painted Chicago for his cityscape! And included him.


John Virtue is a contemporary artist who was Associate Artist at the National Gallery from 2003/5… he was tasked with continuing/applying the tradition of famous traditional landscape artists (Rubens, Ruisdale, Turner, Constable) to townscapes.

He works in monochrome using white acrylic, black ink and shellac on large canvases.

Critics say he paintings have elements of oriental brush-painting and American Abstract Expressionism.

At the end of his two years he held an exhibition of his work created over the two years. Here are a couple of quotes taken from the exhibition website:

‘My day consists of getting up early, drawing from the South Bank of the Thames, drawing from the roof of Somerset House, and finally drawing from the roof of the National Gallery. Then I start the day and I work on the images here (in the studio) from drawings that I’m making every day.’

‘I have no interest in recording a rhetorical history of London; really I’m interested in making exciting abstractions from what I perceive. So in a sense I’m not a Londoner painting London out of any roots or any kind of affection – I’m an accidental tourist here, but I intend to go on working particularly on sites around the river Thames.’ 

And some of the paintings he created:



Firstly, I should state a dislike for these paintings… which I looked at in an earlier post.

They have no power or grab on me, are emotionally dead (I can’t find any connection) and feel more like dry academic studies – from somebody with painterly techniques – than passionate paintings.


So… he says he’s looking for abstractions, out of no connection with the city, but merely as a prompt for abstract patterns and shapes. If so then they are not truly abstract but directly linked with the city. In as far as he is using the visual language of the city as his building blocks.

Indeed, these go further and are not abstract. They are representative… if with a Turnerish twist. Turner was misty… unclear… but had a clarity of vision and soul that fill his paintings with humanity… these are Turner packaged without the genius.

Inside the wrapping they are empty!

As to American Abstract Expressionism here’s a painting by Franz Kline:


That’s abstract, powerful and effects us at the deepest subconscious level.

John Virtue’s London drawings are nothing like that!!!!!

Neither abtract nor powerful.

Does he use oriental brush teqhniques?

Well, he uses a brush and black ink… though white acrylic rather than white paper so he can make mistakes?! I had a look at oriental brush painting and it was very diverse (like saying something is like western oil painting!) but this picture came up a lot if we go back to it’s pre Westernised beginnings:


What there is here is (yes, it’s black and white with strong contrasts!) a representational work with great economy which captures the essence of the horses both representationally and emotionally/as living creatures… personality.

Qualities which seem inherent in the style.

John’s paintings, by his own admission, have no human connection with the subject matter (he has no roots in London – he’s looking for visual suggestions for abstractions)… and is trying to paint an abstraction which is the polar opposite to the spirit of oriental brush painting.

He captures nothing of London.

So to another monochrome study of London…


Date: 30 September 2016
Size: 594 x 420mm (A2)
Price: £ 12,950.00

Stephen Wiltshire can draw a lifelike representation of a cityscape after only seeing it for a few minutes. He is world famous and in great demand, as can be seen from the price of this sketch!

If a kid was really, really good and had a photographic memory… so they could sketch a cityscape with infinite detail, this is what it would look like.

It’s very skilled and clever, and must take a long time. But I can’t see the point or the art in it? What’s the message, where’s the empathy… what can I connect with???

It just feels like the overwhelming accumulation of detail.

Skill and memory not art.

Now for some colour!!!!


Wayne Thiebaud – Valley Streets, 2003 (San Fransisco)

Although famous for bright pop art pictures of well-known objects like ice cream cones Wayne also painted many city scapes after he moved to San Fransisco in the early 70’s.

I like this much better.

You can feel there’s a ‘person’ painting this.

It’s a voice… he makes choices…

I love the geometric simplification of the structure and repeated forms… semi circles, domes, rectangles. The way the blue shadows unify the picture. The anonymous back of a tower block in the foreground.

The yellow sky and the yellow building by the road… it’s almost a colourist composition.

And yet for all it’s ‘simplicity’ and ‘abstracted’ form and colour I can feel a real city throbbing beneath his brush.

This is a city the artist is reacting to. We see it through his eyes.

It is a human, vibrant piece of work.

And something completely different…



Richard Estes – oil on canvas h: 96.52 x w: 152.4 cm (American). He was one of the founders of the photorealist movement of the late 60’s.
The skill is wonderful… but why????
I feel like I’m looking at a photograph… if I wanted to look at a photograph I’d go buy one.
The realism is a barrier… a camera is a machine (albeit framed and photo-shopped by a human!).
And so, away from Western painters to an Indonesian artist
And about as far away from photo realism as you can get!!!!


Cityscape of Chicago, 1958

AFFANDI (Indonesian, 1907-1990)

Cityscape of Chicago

I love this.

Black and red and yellow neon… a dour sky… heavy impasto.

Somehow it just captures the feel of looking out of a hotel window onto the city at night.

It’s full of energy and passion – both of its creation and of the city.

It captures an essence of the city, the feel of the living breathing city, you don’t see with your eyes but hold the feeling in your heart.


There are many ways to paint a city (but not abstract as true abstract does not refer to a representational or emotional reality) from photo realist, to detailed child sketch, to personal voice and – thinking of Hopper – the loneliness of the people… the city as backdrop and environment to experienced humanity.

The painting communicates many things apart from a visual accuracy – a trump de l’oeil – or window onto the world.

And what works for me, however it’s done, is when an artist creates a connected vision of the city and captures it’s feel and emotion… their human connection to cold concrete buildings and hard geometric shapes that make a city.

There’s more than one way to draw a city, and it’s not about the style chosen it’s about the message and voice of the artist!!!





Part 3: Project 4 (perspective): Exercise 3 – Aerial or atmospheric perspective


As I live near Cambridge which is flat as a pancake landscapes with Foreground, middle ground and background are difficult to find. So I decided to use photographs. I chose photographs… rather than paintings… because in a painting the simplification, composition and colours have all been done for you.

You’re just copying.

Whereas in a photograph I have to simplify, recompose and pick the colours.



Firstly I tried colour using pastel and conte crayon. Using these on A5 (half an A4 page) was challenging as they are blunt instruments and it’s very difficult to get detail.

However, it forced me to focus on the colour gradation.

In both of these the atmospheric effects of the moisture in the air (I was really surprised that you don’t get aerial perspective in bone dry deserts!) – is obvious and works. The far mountains are less vivid and bluer… and look distant.

The near colours are brighter and not tinged with blue.

Another effect of aerial perspective is the diminishing size and detail, and details less distinct’ of objects – in the Yorkshire dales the sheep and the walls get smaller which makes it look like we are looking at something 3D.


A strange thing happened in the conte crayon of the Lakes… I love the colour composition. (I know that’s not what this exercise is about) – apart from the light blue lake which is a bit of a dead spot in the middle… it’s really buzzing!!!!

I think if I’d added a tiny bit of red to the light blue, so it was just a little purple, it would have tied it into the rest of the drawing.

This is one of the few things I’ve done that I really like!

PS: I used a ‘blending stick’ and had to keep cleaning it (by using the sandpaper) like a paintbrush. If I didn’t it made all my colours muddy.

Also, being a sketchbook and not pastel paper the bite in the paper filled up very quickly and then it became very difficult to change the colour as the pastel just slid over the paper. By the time I’d got to the conte crayons I’d got the hang of the supporting surface drawing medium combo much better.



Having used colour I switched to monotone and chose charcoal for the Scottish mountains and graphite for the Dales river.

(Though I gave up with a graphite stick as it was too difficult and switched to an HB pencil… To keep it monotone I kept with one grade of pencil as although 3H-6B are all pencil if I used the full range they are so different it would be like having a colours.)

I didn’t think this would be as effective (the far distance is not blue but just fainter).


The Scottish mountains don’t need colour and work brilliantly.

A couple of things I noticed:


I was worried that I couldn’t get a very black shade and that it was so fluid it would be difficult to use. But I was really pleased…

It’s very subtle and I used a ‘blending stick’ all the time which helped get the folds in the mountain.

I like the tiny, tiny sliver of the farthest distant mountain which is tonally very close to the one in front of it but really looks like it’s far distant.

All in all, I was very pleased with this, I didn’t expect it to work at all… it’s just a bit of charcoal, very low tech, but it’s quite atmospheric.


I found this frustrating… the HB pencil had a very limited tonal range (even with pressing hard and using the putty rubber).

The near hill was lighter than the darker hill which messed up the aerial perspective… I could have changed it but didn’t. Maybe I was too tied to the reality of the photograph?

To actually ‘copy’ the foreground grass and entwined tree roots/branches on the far bank would have taken hours so I was forced to look for patterns and ways of suggesting this.

Objects getting smaller and detail diminishing worked well to show distance.


Leaving blank paper (it cleaned up really easily with a ruler even though it got covered with dust) worked really well for the water.


Aerial perspective is a great way of giving the illusion of distance in landscapes and could easily be combined with parallel and angular perspective… a far door of a building would not be as bright as a closer one, even if it was (when close up) the same colour… the blue haze is most useful for far distant views… and the diminishing of size and detail would work in almost any drawing.


Part 3: Project 4 (perspective): Exercise 2 – addition – Sketch Rome by Sir Muirhead Bone and add perspective lines.


Very interesting!!!!

I struggled for ages with this and as I suspected real life is harder than books!!!

(As an aside copying a drawing made me realise how much you miss from not seeing/hearing/touching/feeling the emotion impact… let alone that the visual information has been pre-simplified!… so all in all… a very dry and emotionally unrewarding exercise. Though technically I learnt a lot!!!).

Which, I suppose, is the point.

What I struggled with is that I didn’t know the eye line… so had to guess?!

Remembering that if the eye line is wrong all the perspective will be wrong!!!!!!!

Then, having made a choice about eye line, there were multiple angular vanishing points which I decided were due to: a building not parallel to the others; a slight bend in the road; a house built on a slightly uneven surface (where’s the vanishing point of a building built at an angle, aiming up into the sky… say on a hill… it must be above the horizon, in between the ‘horizontal’ and ‘vertical’ eye line?); or the artist making a mistake.

I struggled to make the vanishing point of the trees work as logically if the road carried on to the horizon, and the trees were parallel to the road, they would eventually meet on the eye line and have the same vanishing point.

By using the top and bottom of the trees I found a vanishing point slightly to the right of my original. I then noticed that some of the angular perspective lines on the building met up… and some didn’t. Hence my conclusion that there were errors or complexities.

It then occurred to me that instead of thinking of the trees as separate objects they could be an extension of the building – a big rectangular ‘space’ with the building, road and trees all included. Just because in real life they are ‘seperate’ doesn’t mean you have to think of them like that.

Thinking of blocks and shapes of ‘space’ rather than millions of individual separate objects would let you manipulate 3D reality space much more easily.


Buildings (and even trees, which could be a sphere on a cone???) – it must be impossible to draw a townscape with accurate perspective by eye, other than within a very narrow field of vision… so, I think I would always use perspective to get it right.

There’s enough human ‘interpretation’ on the rest of the drawing in terms of shape, line, shading, simplification and tone etc for it not to be a photograph or machine print.

Canaletto used a camera obscrura to get his structure right… it was how he painted up his ‘geometrically correct outline’ that was genius.

So, I’m going to use perspective!!!!!!





Part 3: Project 4 (perspective): Exercise 2: Angular perspective.


I chose to do this indoors as I wanted to try to understand the theory (which I thought would work better with books) before I ventured out into the real world and faced the randomness of visual reality. Streets that curve, buildings not true and buildings built on undulating surfaces.

It’s easier to move a book than a building.

Also with books I can arrange them in a way that tests my understanding rather than having to find real viewpoints.

The downside is that my books were all underneath my eye line whereas buildings would be above and below. But as the principle is the same above and below the eye line decided I could live with that.

What I learnt:

What struck me (after working on this for an hour) was that it was the same as parallel perspective in that it unified multiple fields of vision into a single, consistent, viewpoint… which is how our brain works. We may stitch multiple viewpoints together to give us a mental ‘image’ of our surroundings but we can only see a single, narrow, field of vision at anyone one time. We are a bit like a movie camera taking many individual shots (our field of vision) and then stitching them together to give us a visual awareness of our surroundings.

But we ever only see one viewpoint at a time, so any picture that has multiple viewpoints will look unreal.

Angular perspective:

If I have an object in parallel perspective and turn it, it then has angular perspective.

What hasn’t changed is my eye line!

So, it’s really important to get the eye line right… which is the height of your eyes when you’re looking horizontally.

Then, whether it’s parallel or angular you can plot the perspective.

In drawing this I noticed I was quite accurate in the small books inside my field of vision… but progressively less accurate as the objects got bigger (the table) or were outside my original field of vision.

When I started drawing the lines (and as the textbook said many of them were off my page!) the shapes looked wrong… yet when I persevered and eventually coloured them in so I could see them they looked right.

I almost had to work against my own intuition!!!!

That doesn’t look right…

But it did!

Thinking about this… it would be possible to have a ‘panorama’ (or even a room) which was made up of many points of view each correct within its own field of vision. And somehow join the edges??? But you would have to ‘read’ the painting differently as at any one time only one small section would look ‘right’.

The whole drawing would capture the way we work in the real world constantly glancing around and moving our head but because the whole drawing is inside our field of vision we would intuitively expect it to be from one viewpoint – as when we view a village from the mountainside.

I’m sure some artists will have experimented with this!

Interesting… as paintings which are otherwise very visually unreal – Expressionist paintings for example (which use exaggerated colours and simplified forms) usually, as far as I can tell, still use a ‘single field of vision’ or window onto the world technique… even if what we see through the window is ’emotionally’ real rather than visually real.

Finally it occurred to me there must be a vertical vanishing point as well as a horizontal one – I guess it would be in the sky above our heads or at the centre of the earth beneath our feet?????

But for the moment I’m just going to do it by eye!


Part 3: Project 4 (perspective): Ex: 1 Parallel perspective – an interior view


I loved doing this!!

I’d done three-quarters of Painting 1 a few years ago so remembered  this… but for some reason had it in my head that the Vanishing Point was always the horizon not the height of your eyes. But obviously things look different whether you’re standing up or sitting down. It’s very clear in the door illustration in the text-book.

So that’s a big difference and very useful point to note… though I guess sometimes they’re the same thing?

Doing the sketch then adding in the perspective lines was brilliant.

The biggest shock was that I got the mat in front of me very close. In fact everything in my ‘field of vision’ was fairly accurate. Having said that adding the lines to the mat made the pattern on the mat much more realistic.

The second shock was just how nice the composition looked – so simple… you could almost paint it. Though I did cheat by simplifying the garden and changing the French windows to an arch. The perspective takes the eye through the arch into the garden and you get that wonderful feeling just before you walk out of a building into space.

However, the structures out of my field of vision – where I have to turn my head were way out.

I had a think about this and maybe it’s because if I’m looking at something on an angle, I turn my head to the right to look at the garage wall, it’s no longer parallel perspective??? (because I’m now looking at the building corner on and my parallel. If parallel is straight in front of me it moves as I turn my head so the garage is now two point perspective from my new point of view?!


So, I might accurately be drawing what I see… but it’s another drawing (getting in Cubist territory rather than single point perspective). And it looks wrong because it’s from a different point of wiew than the rug. Two fairly radical points of view (a 45 degree head turn) in one drawing. When I add the lines (for parallel perspective) it looks ‘right’ because it pulls it back to a single perspective. A bit like taking a photograph on an iPhone which has a single perspective but a much wider field of vision than our eyes.

This makes me think about our eye as a piece of visual machinery!!!!!

And how any drawing that includes more than our field of vision and which we have to ‘correct’ is artificial… something we could never see in real life?!!!!!!! Maybe we ‘accept’ it because our brain is used to single point perspective and happily applies that to the whole picture?

Which then raises the whole question of how much manipulation our brain (like photoshopping software?) does to the image we actually see?!! And how much is the visual reality – if there is such a thing – of the original optical information?

My tutor is trying to speed me on and I have a deadline for the end of July… and it’s the 26th already!

Better crack on with two point perspective.


Part 3: Project 3: Composition Ex: 2 Foreground, middle ground and background


Well that was a steep learning curve!!!

Just tried to draw my photograph and found it was nearly impossible… it works as a photograph (maybe the visual language of photographs is different to drawing… that would make sense as it’s a different medium). The photograph is detail based and a nightmare to draw. Even if I spent weeks on it it would be difficult to ‘read’ if you didn’t already know it was a guided busway, bike path and bus stop.

So, I had a radical rethink – ditched the idea – started again – and made a montage out of three photographs.


Ideally, I’d be able to draw the cows (or whatever the foreground focus was) in different positions and change the sky so I could compose drawings in my sketch book… rather than be restricted by a photograph(s)!!!

Then I could compose the picture by putting the cows in exactly the right pose… with the sunlight falling on them just so, add the perfect sky and a distant horizon.

I invented the bramble patch on the left and the long grass on the right.

Questions from ‘Tip’ to answer here:

How did you simplify and select? 

In the first exercise, I didn’t! I composed in camera but found this didn’t work for drawing as it didn’t simplify or select… it just composed by framing. Next time I’ll try to think what’s important… what am I trying to say (vegetarianism… aesthetic… whatever it may be). And what elements would help me then I’ll take the main ingredients (like making a cake) select and simplify with reference to a message or purpose.

In the second exercise – having completely recomposed my drawing!!!! – I simplified by looking tonally and selecting three basic tones… light grey to black. It’s a bit like seeing tonally instead of in colour and then simplifying all the tones to three basic ones. I covered these with: 2H; HB; 3B and 6B pencils. Interestingly (for me!!) I started thinking of the pencils almost as different colours the tones and effects were so different.

You’ve also got how hard you press and what part of the pencil lead you use… so very sensitive. I used a rubber to highlight with limited effect. My idea was that a highlight simplifies a drawing as it says so much. But the paper had a big bite and I had to work on shapes so found it hard to lift tone.

Compositionally, I simplified by deleting unecessary cows (so was beginning to think independantly – ie: not copying… but creating a picture that doesn’t exist in reality)… and that said what I wanted which was in essance that these cows were protecting their calf a bit like mums at a school gate with attitude!

I also changed the scrubby field and made it into an almost white cornfield. This was a simplification but also I like the idea of incorporating a structural element of horizontal strips in to a landscape! So it’s not only ‘nature’ but has an underlying visual structure like a skeleton with the flesh on top. And I deleted the bushes in the mid distance and added cows in instead.

In the brambles and long grass in the foreground I selected by looking. That is I looked at grass and brambles lots and instead of trying to draw them photorealistically tried ‘creating them’ by selecting tonal patterns and lines, and really simplifying the complexity to suggest the foliage.

Were you able to focus on simple shapes and patterns amid all the visual information available to you?

More as I went along.

It’s really hard to explain but the more I drew… clouds…. cows… grass… brambles… I found shapes and patterns within complex forms. Comlpexity seemed to start to simplyfiy so patterns distilled out of chaos and a few strokes would take the place of many and the drawing got easier and more effective.

And for instance it was really cool that the distant trees picked up the pattern of the clouds.

How did you create a sense of distance and form?

Form I created tonally. Mainly using reflected light and shadow.

For distance I used the cows getting smaller (placing a mid distance cows and others father away to ‘walk’ the viewer to the fence on the cornfield)… then the tree line and in the far distance some tiny trees on the very horizon; detail getting less, the tone going dark to light on the land and from light to dark in the sky.

Were you able to use light and shade successfully?

I think so?!

Shade on the grass put the cows in the meadow, anchored them to the grass. Shade also gave shape and mass to cows, trees and clouds.

Light worked alongside shade!!!

Always remembering that I had to keep the light source in the same position in the sky.

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

I would have sketched lots of cows in my sketch book so I was familiar with their shape, how they moved, how light fell on a cow… found their personalities.

Also, I would have designed the bigger piece in my sketch book so I was moving away from ‘reality’… AND NOT USED A CAMERA INSTEAD OF SKETCHES. Though there is (I think) a place for photographs as a reference… as long as you’re not copying them.


This exercise really made me think about the sub structure (black and white) of a drawing… because nature is so many shades of grey if you don’t use colour you have to use tone.

It’s given me a new tool and a new way of seeing.

It also made me think about drawings in a much bigger way… whether they are still lifes or lanscapes… and I’ve begun to look and analyse drawings with an awareness of foreground, mid ground and background.

And (for some strange reason I can’t comprehend) started me thinking about the whole range of compositions and what you choose to put in a picture… and how you then draw what you put in!!!