Exercise 43: A limited palette study from your sketches

Using your sketches from the previous exercise, select a drawing to develop in colour. Use only two or three colours – conté pencils, coloured pencils, or ink.

underdrawing for limited palette townscape study

underdrawing for limited palette townscape study

I decided to opt for the least familiar medium for this study – conté pencils (although I actually used a combination of conté and pastel pencils – equally unfamiliar with each of them), as I didn’t want to cling to old favourites. I began by making an underdrawing, using a light mustard coloured pastel pencil (the colour of which disappeared as I progressed) – just enough to have a sense of what was going where.

Having found this part of the course challenging to say the least, I felt trepidatious about what was to follow, especially as I had gone for what felt like a relatively complicated composition. It was tempting to choose a simpler scene, but I love this view of the town with its uneven sprawl of rooftops, trees and hills, so that was the deciding factor. Looking at it objectively, I thought there was interest in the houses receding into the river valley, with the hills behind serving to frame the whole scene.

I wanted to focus on a sense of place rather than topographical accuracy – more ‘impression’ than ‘illustration’. To this end, I ‘lost’ a few houses at the back end of the mid-ground, as well as ignoring an array of lamp posts, bollards, and road markings.

Adhering to the limitation of just three colours was harder than expected (although I did it). This was largely due to wanting a greater range of tones. I think that range would have been easier to achieve had I opted to use coloured pencils or inks, but the pastel pencils were a bit ‘all or nothing’. One thing I noticed was that they had a tendency to ‘lift’ the top layer of paper, given half a chance. I was working on cartridge paper (130gsm) though, so maybe things would have been different had I chosen pastel paper. Consequently, I had to limit the amount of pressure I used. That said, I feel I conveyed the tonal differences quite well. Initially, I was going to use black as my third colour, but substituted violet at the last minute, as I thought it might have a less deadening effect (and I think that proved to be the case).

Bearing in mind what I’d learnt so far in Part 3, I simplified the background into bands of (mostly) even colour (which is what they were in reality, which helped), introduced more detail into the mid-ground, and reserved the main body of details and textures for the foreground. Parallel perspective didn’t get much of a look in, as virtually nothing here was parallel (a couple of rooftops was the extent of it). I did my best with angular perspective, but the sloping streets made that rather more complicated.

My viewpoint was from further up on a higher street which overlooked the one on which the white house sat (that being my focal point). I estimated the eye level to be a tad above centre, with the light coming from the right (such as it was… the light had been very low that day). As I said in my last post, I liked the fact that the white house was so dominant in this scene, despite only being viewed from its side. With so much going on, a large area of relatively negative space felt desirable.

finished picture, pastel/conte pencils, A3

finished picture, pastel/conte pencils, A3

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