Exercise 42: A sketchbook of townscape drawings

Focus on one building – deciding which by making sketches of several others. Make notes about your observations. Be selective.

narrow passageway, 4B pencil

narrow passageway, 4B pencil

I took to the back streets for many of these sketches, wanting a different feel to that of the main street I chose for the townscape in line drawing.

To begin with, I drew one of the many narrow passageways tucked away in this town (see above):

  • residential
  • textural (cracked plaster, old tiles, slates, weeds)
  • claustrophobic but intriguing
  • flat light, white sky (December morning)
  • crooked path
  • low garage doors (eye level halfway up doors on right)
  • hard to get differing viewpoints due to narrowness
  • 4B pencil
along the River Dart

along the River Dart, 4B pencil

Next, a view along the off-shoot of the River Dart, where a few small boats are moored (see above):

  • 4B pencil
  • eye level just below tree on right hand side
  • buoys in foreground, string of boats behind
  • tree-lined (dark on left, light on right)
  • pools of water (only a little)
  • small stones along river bank
  • buildings curve around to left in middle distance
  • hills in background
  • flat light
town window

town window, 4B pencil and Inktense wash

The picture above shows the window above a local bookshop:

  • low light coming from right hand side
  • wooden letters spelling out ‘PEACE’
  • white moulded wooden window frame
  • pink painted slate tiles (less lurid than here – more creamy pale pink)
  • 4B pencil and Inktense wash
watercolour and pen sketch of an old street

watercolour and pen sketch of an old street

Next, I moved to one of the two places I thought I might select for the limited palette exercise (the one that this exercise leads up to – see above). It’s a very old street (containing the oldest house in the town, in fact):

  • pale grey sky/low light
  • main focus = blue and white house in foreground, right hand side
  • eye level just above horizontal bar on right hand ground floor window
  • irregularly-sized houses
  • pavement on left slopes down to road
  • car on right is far too big
  • tree-lined hills in background (good framing device)
  • ArtPen (water-soluble ink) and watercolour washes
  • pavement a bit too dark
  • good stone textures on left hand house
  • like this mix of colours – bright cerulean blue contrasting with soft earth tones of brown and green, whites, creams, and greys
  • just before midday (December)
  • cold
  • grey shadows (under cars)
  • kind of house I drew as a child – solidity and balance
old doorway, 4B pencil and Inktense wash

old doorway, 4B pencil and Inktense wash

Above is a doorway detail from the focal house:

  • 4B pencil and Inktense wash
  • cerulean blue paintwork on wood
  • white painted render
  • decorative mouldings
  • tarnished brass door furniture
  • house name in gold lettering on window above door
charcoal tonal sketch

charcoal tonal sketch

Then I did a couple of quick charcoal tonal sketches of the house (see above and below).

charcoal sketch, wider view

charcoal sketch, wider view

Next, I moved on to the other building I had in mind for the limited palette study – a large white house (actually a cluster of houses), parts of which could be seen from a wide variety of viewpoints (see below):

  • looking down on house from higher road (sloping)
  • 4B pencil
  • chaos of trees and bushes to left – varying textures
  • dark grey roads
  • stone wall running along higher road (browns and greys)
  • eye level at top of low wall on right hand side (one behind the main stone wall)
  • green hills in background (left)
  • zig zag of walls to the right
  • white sky, flat light, shadows minimal (indicated by darker areas on road)
  • three roads going uphill in different directions and different angles
  • lower left hand road slopes downwards
  • textures of foliage and stone
  • orange-red bushes bookend dark green ones to the left
  • dark conifers to the left
  • silver birch with thin ‘weeping’ branches
  • windows all varied in numbers of panes and styles
  • quiet – no one around
  • intrigued by these houses… together but separate
white house sketch in 4B pencil

white house sketch in 4B pencil

The sketch below shows a view of the other side of the white house (further up the road on which I was standing):

  • 4B pencil
  • interesting composition of hills in background, rooftops in mid-ground, and stone walls and trees in foreground
  • eye level just above centre
  • white house on left hand side of sketch (alcove with pot in it)
  • love the hills – vivid green, despite their distance
  • this view makes me feel happy
  • variety of trees – evergreens, orange-gold, and near-skeletal
  • rooftops are brown and grey (dark tones)
  • terracotta chimney pots
  • hedge boundaries on hills
white house sketch, side view, 4B pencil

white house sketch, side view, 4B pencil

Finally, I made a quick pencil sketch including just a corner of the white house (see below):

  • corner of white house seen on right hand side
  • curve of the stone wall (dividing the higher and lower streets)
  • dismissed this view due to too much empty road in foreground
white house sketch, corner view, 4B pencil

white house sketch, corner view, 4B pencil

Despite concerns about a possible confusion of detail in the mid-ground, I chose to go with the penultimate view for my limited palette study (see next post), for several reasons:

  • I liked the dominance of the white house in terms of size, although you only see the side of it with relatively little detail – a strong negative shape
  • contrast of rooftops receding into distance, with their many chimney pots
  • variety of trees at different points in the composition
  • combination of townscape and landscape
  • strong backdrop of hills
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