Check and log: Landscape drawing
In what way did you simplify and select in your study? Were you able to focus on simple shapes and patterns amid all the visual information available to you?
I looked for shapes and details that seemed essential to describe what I saw and to give a sense of place, adding other elements I felt would be interesting. For example, the large rocks in the foreground and middle ground were essential as they defined the character of the place for me, whereas the thorn tree in the middle ground was not essential, but provided an interesting focal point for that section of the drawing. Fortunately, Dartmoor is a relatively ‘simple’ landscape (the open moor, at least), consisting of bold shapes and colours. However, I did choose not to include all the trees that I saw in the middle ground and background, as I wanted the focus to remain very much on the foreground.
How did you create a sense of distance and form in your sketches?
I did this by use of aerial perspective – making the foreground more detailed, with greater intensity of colour and texture, contrast and tone, reducing these aspects as the space receded. Additionally, I tried to create compositions that emphasised space and distance. For example, in the drawing of the twisting tree, in the Sketchbook Walk exercise, I included the bench in the distance as I felt the small scale of it would indicate how far back the space went. When looking at form, I found it useful to spend some time observing before I started to draw, really getting a feel for shapes and the substance of things. I think I had some success in this when it came to drawing rocks and trees, but perhaps less so in the drawings of clouds. Negative space was also useful in indicating form, as noting where things overlapped gave an idea of their form and relative distance from one another. The main way I showed formed, though, was through the use of light and shade (for example, in my sketches of the yew trees and of the stones on Dartmoor).
How did you use light and shade? Was it successful?
As mentioned above, I used light and shade to indicate form, as well as to show where the light was coming from (although in my large study the light was actually quite flat, with relatively subdued shadows apart from those in the foreground). Although I would’ve liked to have had stronger light for the large study, with more emphasised and longer shadows, I do feel I managed to capture the light reasonably well in some of my sketches (the conte crayon cloud sketch, the long shadow of the thorn tree on Dartmoor, the strong shadows between the rocks on the tor, and the white edged clouds with the sun setting behind them).
What additional preliminary work would have been helpful towards the larger study?
I think it would have been useful to have gained a little more experience in using water-soluble colour pencils prior to doing the larger study, as I found them quite difficult to use (subdued colours, and incompatibility when used with water on cartridge paper). Had time permitted, I would have liked to have made far more sketches, not because I think I skimped on them, but because making them actually fostered a love of sketching! The three sketches I made prior to doing the larger study were a case in point. I enjoyed the freedom of sketching different viewpoints from an exploratory perspective, rather than with a view to producing a finished piece of work. It does seem a shame, in a way, that the next bit of the course involves looking at buildings, as there seem to be fewer opportunities there for that kind of ‘loose’ sketching – but maybe it’s not impossible.