Assignment three

A1 Paper, pastel.


(1) Technical and visual skills:

Part three deals with trees, landscape, composition, perspective and townscape. So I am referring my assessment to these.

Materials: I chose pastel as I wanted the softness and fluidity of charcoal (for a ‘country scene’) but with colour. I think this worked well with the vegetation and trees. Less so with the building as pastel is not suited to fine lines… maybe I could have used a different media here… pencil crayon which would have given me control. And for people pastel had positives and negatives… it was good for modelling and tone but not good for any fine marks… creases in clothes or details of faces.

But given that the drawing is mainly water and vegetation it was a good choice.


I had to overdraw quickly and boldly as the paper had limited bite and not constantly rework… the colour goes grey and the pastel slides over the top. This meant looking and thinking hard before applying the pastel.

Another technique was laying a light blanket colour (say black). Then working in vegetation and building up quick layers of pastel. Finishing by adding hard black for the darkest shadows, working over the edges and adding highlights. This was what I did for the trees and bushes learning as I went along. I think the technique worked well.

I discovered the paper left pinpricks of white paper even when heavily chalked… it was like another colour… and had to decide whether to leave these in, or blend over them using a finger – which softened, evened and greyed the tone – or a stump (but it tended to scrape away the pastel and left it shiny and unworkeable).

Colour hygiene was vital… wiping finger, stump and pastel before applying as they all picked up colour easily.

Finally, I put the paper on a drawing board and worked from the top downwards so the falling chalk didn’t spoil my previous work. Constantly blowing to remove the dust.

All of these, though not mastered, I think I coped with well.

What I didn’t realise was that I couldn’t pastel over the pencil… so that’s a technique I’ve yet to master!

I don’t know how I’d draw this directly with pastels????? Or whether there a way of sketching it first that you can easily colour over?

Observational skills:

Difficult for me to say but I think I observed the shapes and colours well.

Visual awareness:

Not sure how this differs from observational skills?

Design and composition:

I’m quite pleased with this… I decided to split my drawing between town and gown… the colleges with their ornate gardens and manicured hedges, money and ancient buildings. Nature tamed and controlled… academia and study. And the other half the town… tourists having fun, open, wild, uncontrolled with random punts.

I used the building and gardens for the college and the river and people having fun on the punts for the town… the university bound by the wall (which slices the drawing in two) and the river unbound.

This meant I couldn’t use the river for perspective (I only had one bank) so I used the river wall for linear perspective.

There is aerial perspective in the people and trees getting smaller and losing detail. The colours on the people are less bright in the distance.

In the composition I wanted no people on the university side and the river to be full of people… and those people to tell a narrative… lots of little stories going on.

Also the people on the river are having to work – they are not rooted – as soon as they stop punting they would get washed away. Whereas the buildings are much more permanent… not skating but almost part of the land.

In terms of design I’ve got half the drawing dominated by lines and colour and the other much more monochrome and random. Which I think works well.

Finally, this is a much simplified and altered view. I’ve taken out a bridge – removed hedges and flowers – moved boats around – put somebody on the bridge.

(2) Quality of outcome:

I think the final piece realises my basic concept well without overstating it.

That is, the drawing works as a pleasant drawing of the river Cam and the punts and can be enjoyed on that level.

But the eye is constantly flickering between the colourful ‘gown’ and the busy ‘town’ and you tend to view each other separately. But they are connected.

However, each time you visually switch you have to cross the boundary, the wall, which is a metaphor for the very real boundary between Cambridge city and the universities. You can’t look at them both together. I think this works really well.

Less effective, are the narratives of the people on the boats. They are recognizably people but the detail isn’t good enough for the viewer to read their stories.

(3) Demonstration of creativity:

It’s difficult to judge your own creativity!

But… I think it’s quite creative to take a traditional format… a view of the river Cam. Drawn with a traditional medium. And subvert it to make a political drawing.

Political in that Cambridge is a divided city – with animosity on the town side for the power and privilege.

And to find a way to put that into a ‘pretty’ drawing is creative.

(4) Context reflection:

I’m really enjoying reading ‘concepts of modern art’ From Fauvism to Postmodernism by Nikos Stangos. I’m about half way through on Abstract Expressionism.

What really hits me is that art, post photography, is not a linear progression.

But (at least in the period covered by this book) a series of attempts to give a soul to art. It seems very ideologically based… as if the artists had to have a manifesto worked out to justify and validate their art. The artworks then became a reification of their theory.

When one theory failed or reached a dead-end another was born like seeds in sand. To use a biblical reference, they quickly blossom and die.

What this means is they can’t be ‘copied’ because without the underlying understanding (of the manifesto) the paintings won’t be ideologically coherent. But then the manifestos were often fluid, driven by a single powerful individual, and changed over time. So, although we might intuitively know an American Abstract Expressionist painting when we see one… it might be difficult to state in exact terms precisely what that is.

And then, you’re also into the arena of who determines which definition of, say ‘cubism’, is ‘correct’?!

They may be useful labels but seem to be more about the history of the psycholgy of art and artists than useful artistic terms.

However, as I go through the course I’m trying to relate my practice and works of art I see to the different ism’s. The ideas in the ‘isms’ are useful for understanding how a particular approach might work… just not useful as a straight jacket!

My conclusion (at the moment) is that art is as multi faceted as humanity. It affects the viewer because of the human element they recognise and connect with… be that an emotion, a social point, aesthetic beauty, surface ‘reality’, the spirit of the age… anything which makes up a human is the matter of art.

So, all the ‘ism’s’ could be seen as an existential crisis. Artists putting themselves in ideological boxes to give their art meaning, a meaning that was robbed by photography… when, quite simply, humanity’s soul is art’s soul.

With this in mind, I’m trying to give my Assignments a meaning.

In the context of modern art I don’t see this assignment as belonging to any ‘ism’ but in the nature of all art – I’m thinking of plays, film, music… it is both entertainment (a pretty picture) and has a meaning (shows us the divided nature of a city).

See below for preliminary sketches:











Part 3: Project 5: Exercise 4: Statues

This feels like it may be a bit of preparation for Part 4???

I decided to treat this as a way of using different media (and initially had thought of using colour) to draw the same object and see which worked best. And also to draw a series of sketches of the same statue and see if I got better/saw more relationships/tones/shapes the more I drew it.

My main priority was to get a ‘feel’ of the statue as well as a visual resemblance.

As St Ives is my nearest town I headed out as I was sure I’d seen a statue in the market square.

And, sure enough, there was a very stern looking Oliver Cromwell!


Interestingly the bustle of people (it was market day) didn’t bother me – the wind was more of a problem as it blew the page up.

I also missed using a putty rubber with charcoal… in retrospect I probably could have done but would have had to do it sequentially, and it’s quite nice using putty rubber and charcoal together so you’re constantly picking one up and swapping over. A bit like having a conversation rather than a monologue!

The details (and face!) on this don’t work, they’re smudgy and indistinct, but the posture and position in space is quite good. Maybe that’s because charcoal is fluid and lets you look at the overall shape?

I decided not to use colour as the statue was a uniform grey with tiny bits of stain… so decided to go for pencil next and improve the detail.


It’s weird… the bit I like the best is the bit I did quickest (his right leg from the ankle down to his shoe sticking out over the plinth – and the bits I liked least were those I worked on most… like his hands and face.

In retrospect the hands aren’t as bad as I thought, though the book seems to have shrunk! And his left arm shoulder to elbow is too long.

But it’s beginning to get a ‘personality’… not sure how that’s happening but he’s beginning to connect with the viewer.

I then wondered what it would be like if I used graphite pen. It flows like a pen (has graphite in it??) but looks like an HB pencil… only you don’t have to press on.

Maybe I’d get detail and fluidity?


The book has shrunk even more!!!!!

And the left shoulder is still much too long…

But, his face looks a bit like Cromwell??? and from the waist down it’s quite pleasing. Shame about the middle!!!!!

Next, I thought I’d try a black byro. It is more forgiving than black ink and lets you find a line without making big black patches (though that didn’t quite work when I had to move his left shoulder!)…

I thought it might split the difference between the qualities of the 3B pencil and the graphite pen.


I struggled with making him look down but eventually managed to make him make eye contact. I also tried to get his hair which I noticed I’d (mainly) been missing.

The book and the hand holding the gloves works much better – I tried looking at the statue and relating all the bits to each other. His sword is more effective but the pointing finger and foreshortened arm still need a lot of work… though are a little bit better.

Belly button down this works.

His waistcoat was really difficult as it didn’t have any obvious folds and was quite smooth. And I found it hard to judge the exact angles at the bottom. I think maybe this is where a pencil or charcoal would come in to add tone?!

But… the sketch has got better and this is beginning to both look a bit like the statue and take on a personality.


Statues, like people, are very hard to draw.

I don’t know how much of the personality of the original person they capture but to make them work you’ve not only got to get a physical likeness, but also capture (create) something of the personality of the original person and also the moment in action.

Not dead stone (being on a plinth we know it’s a statue) but a ‘real’ person we relate to!!!

Part 3: Project 5: Exercise 3: A limited palette study


Were you able to convey a sense of depth with your limited colour palette?

The short answer is yes!

From black through all the tonal ranges of red… and pressing harder or softer and mixing with white right up to pure white you have all the tonal ranges anybody could want.

And if a set of pencils from 4H to 6B can seem like a box of colours adding red gives you a whole new dimension!!!

Aerial perspective gives depth (as well as linear perspective) and shadows give 3D modelling.

The issue is not whether it is possible but the restrictions of my skill and of using conte on drawing paper.

Wonderful things could be achieved with these three colours but you almost need to get it right first time. The eye is very, very good at picking up a wrong perspective line and with such a beautiful chalky subtle medium having to use them like pencils was frustrating and difficult.

Over working quickly fills the bite on the paper and after an initial overdrawing/mixing more alterations just go a horrible grey colour.

The bits I like the best were the chimney pots:


A couple of quick marks (SIMPLIFICATION AGAIN!!!) and these have the look and feel of chimney pots!

They are fresh and clean and work.

So, I think my problem with this task was it has lots of perspective lines which I had to work to get right… constantly blowing the chalk away and making fine adjustments… most of the detail had to be reworked too so looks tight.

Also I pinned up my preliminary sketch and balanced the book on my knee. Which was good… I liked sketching my sketch! It made me work intuitively and simplify again. But the small size of paper and only having one hand – I was holding my sketchbook with the other – was frustrating.

What I really wanted was to be at an easel and free. To use my whole body to draw.

It was a very unhappy mix of working in a tight way with a loose medium.

Maybe I should have torn out some pages… put them on the easel and just done a whole set of very quick sketches not worrying if I got the perspective exactly right?


This has come up before but different media are better for different things. So for perspective line heavy drawings and detailed work small paper and conte crayons are difficult.

I would think they’re better suited to tonal rather than line work… on bigger pieces of paper… and on proper pastel paper. But, they would be brilliant for quick sketches of people or landscapes… an odd house or a castle would be fine as you don’t have lots of perspective lines all relating to each other.

And you’ve (ideally) got to get it right first time as conte crayons don’t tolerate re-drawing very well.

I think you could do a good street scene with conte crayons but you might have to go semi abstract on a bigger piece of paper and not worry about getting all your perspective lines right: windows, rooftops, paving stones, doorways etc.

But then, if you’re skilled enough, at an easel, and have a nice big bit of paper maybe you can just do it intuitively??!!!!!




Part 3: Project 5: Exercise 2: Study of a townscape using line

Forgot to do notes at the time as had already done them for King’s College chapel… so did these first thing this morning.

My biggest memory is how I couldn’t see anything on the opposite pavement as people kept standing the way… and then moved… so I just kept getting glimpses.

And that end of the working day has a very special feel – just when things are gearing down but there are still lots of people around. Plus there was lots of cloud so no shadows.



Preliminary sketch:


Strangely, the thing I love about this the most are the people! (…especially the young girl in the foreground just left of centre)

I had seconds to draw them but they add real life and vigour to the drawing.

It’s almost like two drawings… one tight and studied (the buildings) where I had ample time to draw and the other loose and free (the people) where I had to draw by instinct.

I had the same problems with finding the perspective as I’d had in the previous exercise, when I turned my head it’s a different point of view and the perspective lines change. But I think if I did more I could begin to apply a single point of view, imaginary eye line and vanishing points and, for instance, get the litter bin right!

Drawn up picture:


This was very interesting and the thing I enjoyed most, again, was the people!!!

I tried to do these not by copying the preliminary drawings but by trying to replicate that way of working. By turning off my thinking head and just being in the moment and trying to make them ‘appear’!

How I drew it up:

Firstly I drew up the perspective lines and got the basic ‘architectural’ structures in place… then I added windows etc by hand and ruler. When felt I had enough perspective superstructure in pencil I started using black drawing pen.

When all the buildings were in place I drew the people.

Then I reviewed my drawing and changed the bits that didn’t feel right – I darkened the road. And added in any detail I’d missed like a chair in the cafe window.

What surprised me (because my sketch looked ‘rubbish’ as a drawing) was how much information I’d collected. It’s a learning process, I was thinking of it as a finished piece and judging it on how ‘nice’ it looked, whereas it isn’t that at all – its raw material to make the finished drawing.

It made me think of simplification – and working loosely.

And practice!  I would think the more on site sketching you do the better you get at perspective.

Did your preliminary sketches give you enough information for your final piece of work?

In a one word answer… yes!

And no!!

What I wanted to capture was a feel of the street and the sketch captured that. I wanted to use people as foreground detail, middle ground interest and background.

It had enough information to work out the perspective lines (though I still got some wrong!!) and aerial perspective with the details on the houses getting less distinct and objects smaller.

What would you do differently next time?

As I spent about two hours doing this and looked in detail at the bits that didn’t move… anything above head height!!!! I thought I’d included detail in my main preliminary drawing.

Next time I would do a big preliminary drawing for composition, mood and detail.

But I would also do several small sketches… say of a doorway or a window for tricky bits in the foreground or middle ground.

And make notes at the time – including colour notes and sounds/light/atmosphere.


This taught me the value of preliminary sketches and notes. And not to think of the sketches as in any way ‘finished’.

It also took me another step away from photographs… hurray!!!!!! (I didn’t take any photographs of the street).

And… again… it brought me up against the looseness versus tightness in drawing. I like looseness… and how I love people, movement and narrative in drawing.

A great exercise.


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.