Exercise 41: Study of a townscape in 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 a success. Make notes about the weather conditions and general mood. Decide on what sort of marks fit the mood and shapes of this study. Complete the study in pen and ink or a black drawing pen.
As my sketchbook for this part of the course is in landscape format, it was a bit unwieldy spread open vertically (wobbly ring-binding), so I chose to do my preliminary sketch on A3 paper as that’s the size I was going to be using for the study. I wanted to feature the main street in my town, as I’ve always liked the gate/arch that divides it. The view I chose was looking down the hill – a tricky scene, as I was at one of the narrowest points in the street, even though it’s the widest point in the drawing. The road widens just beyond the arch, and then narrows again (as well as inclining upwards once more, albeit slightly). As a result, there wasn’t much in the way of parallel lines on which to hang my perspective! I dealt with this by looking for the closest to parallel lines I could find, and then making an educated guess, relying mostly on what my eyes were telling me. It worked out better than I expected (although it did take a very long time) and I think it conveys a clear foreground/middle ground/background.
The course book suggested focusing on what interested me, so I decided to lose the cars altogether (being a very narrow street, they would have filled a good deal of the lower half of the picture). Instead, I chose to concentrate on the gate/arch, the winding street and the narrowness (as emphasised by the shops on one side and scaffolding on the other). Aware that the scene could quickly become claustrophobic, I chose to use a clear linear approach, juxtaposing the (relatively) straight vertical lines with the sinuous curves of the street itself. I do feel this enhanced the character of the place, with its partial double-width pavement on one side and extremely narrow one on the other, as well as the winding nature of the view.
Next, I annotated the sketch with information on date, time, light, textures and colours (see above). I wanted to include a few figures, but not so as to detract from the main features. I remembered a couple of Kurt Jackson sketches that showed people as transparent outlines (see below), and adapted this idea for the people in my drawing. Initially, I depicted them as transparent too, but decided I preferred them as blank outlines here. The main figure, to the left of the foreground, was actually a last minute idea (and was actually my husband-to-be… albeit not recognisably). Since sharing the finished drawing with the OCA Sketchbooks group on Facebook, people have described the figures as both ‘intriguing’ and ‘menacing’ – the former was my intention, but the latter interests me greatly!
On the subject of contextual research for this piece, in addition to Kurt Jackson, I was thinking of an artist my tutor suggested I look at – Jessica Cooper. Although her landscapes/townscapes tend to be far ’emptier’ than my study here, I used her painting The Harbour Wall as a reference for the buildings in the far distance, at the other end of the street (see below).
Having completed the preliminary sketch in pencil, I would have been happy to stick with it as my finished study. However, the brief asked for pen and ink or drawing pen to be used, so I tried both on a copy of the sketch (see below), scribbling notes and thoughts as I went along.
I was doing the study on cartridge paper, and tested pen and ink on it, only to find that it bled quite badly. Therefore, I opted for liner pen, using multiple lines for some of the details in the foreground (not quite continuous line, but related).
Having completed the liner pen part of the study (see above), I made a couple of photocopies of it, and tried out ink wash on one, and carbon pencil shading on the other (see below).
There was a haphazard quality to the ink wash (on the left), which I rather liked, but I thought it might be too much for the paper in question. The carbon pencil (on the right) offered the possibility of varying tones but with a little more control (and it wouldn’t warp the paper). It also captured the inky blackness of the shop in the foreground. I was selective about adding tone (it was an exercise in line, after all), but feel it added a degree of depth to the picture, without compromising the emphasis on line.