On A3 paper, draw the view from a window or door, including some natural elements and straight-lined objects in order to demonstrate your understanding of aerial or linear perspective.
The choice for this assignment rather made itself, as there was only one window at home which a view meeting the criteria. However, I spent the duration of Part 3 photographing said view at different times of day, in different weather, and from varying angles, in order to build up a range of options from which to choose. I narrowed them down to what I felt were the most interesting, finally arriving at a choice of two. The first was a wide view (see compositional sketch 1 below).
This view included more wall, and a variety of shed rooftops. It can be seen more clearly from the perspective sketch below.
Whilst I quite liked the strange placement of the closed window (almost) at the centre of the composition, I was less happy with the fact that many of the natural elements were diminished from this angle. The second choice could be seen by standing nearer the window (see sketches below).
This viewpoint served to focus the eye on the foliage in the yard below, and the trees in the distance, whilst the windows (one open, one closed) divided the composition loosely into thirds. I stood slightly to the left of the window, in order to get what I felt was the best placement of the trees. My eye level was more or less half way up the upper section of wall opposite the window. I was careful to observe the angles of the walls and window bars, in order to get the linear perspective right (likewise noting the reduction in scale of the distant windows and trees).
In the first tonal sketch (below), I used ink and white gouache…
…and in the second (below) I used compressed charcoal.
These two sketches confirmed my choice of viewpoint. The wider view felt more architectural, whilst this one had a greater intensity of focus, which I seem to gravitate towards instinctively. I preferred the balance of natural elements to built ones here. None of the possible views offered a great deal of excitement, tonally speaking, suggesting it might be wise to emphasise colour in this picture.
A number of artists played their part, contextually, in the run up to this assignment. Initially (some two months ago), I had the idea to do the drawing in gouache and graphite. This was prompted by seeing studies by Alex Lowery (see below), at Sladers Yard gallery in Dorset, in November. In his studies, he had graphite drawings extending beyond sections painted in gouache. Although these were studies for subsequent works, I liked the idea of the combination as a choice in itself. However, I felt I needed to explore other options, having already used watercolour in my two previous assignments.
Another artist who seemed pertinent to this project, right from the outset, was George Shaw (who I discussed earlier in Part 3) – the predominance of walls and trees suggested him instantly. However, his hyper-realistic approach seemed better suited to painting, and I wanted to focus more overtly on drawing.
Anne Redpath‘s The Sitting Room (see above) was another point of reference, with its emphasis on form and texture rather than detail.
I found myself seeking out a wide range of pictures depicting gardens and walls for this exercise, and one artist who surfaced several times was Carel Weight. In Garden of Eden (see above), there a receding wall on the right, as there is in my picture, but I was more struck by the intensity of colour, achieved without feeling ‘sunny’, which was something I hoped to capture.
Another artist who turned up during my research was Antonio Lopez Garcia (see above). I was especially drawn to The Window for, whilst it is somewhat removed from my own in terms of subject matter, I found it interesting to see how a seemingly mundane setting can be so imbued with atmosphere. This reference is more a bookmark for myself for future projects (particularly ones exploring childhood and home, two themes of great interest to me).
I also looked at the work of Joan Eardley who, amongst other things, painted the tenement areas of Glasgow in the 1950’s (see above). I particularly liked her rich use of colour, and bold, sketchy style of drawing. I thought these offered possibilities for approaches to my own piece.
I did the coloured pencil study (see above) in response to a drawing by Felicity House (see below). I found it useful to see a picture in this monochrome way – it seems to clarify the balance of elements, and this helped me make some slight adjustments prior to working on the finished piece. For example, I felt the central tree was too dark in relation to those on either side of it. Also, I saw I had forgotten to include the thin white strip of exterior window frame on the right hand side (likewise the reflection of the latch), and needed to make certain areas of the view which were behind glass a little lighter and marginally less sharp (as they were partly obscured by reflection or condensation). I wasn’t happy with so many fiddly plant pots, either, and the study helped me to decide to simplify that part in the final drawing.
As mentioned earlier, I wanted to emphasise colour in this assignment, and looked at Matisse for this – in particular, two of his ‘open window’ paintings (see below). Their colours glow. Beautiful loose quality to them, too.
In searching for ways artists had depicted scenes similar to my won, I came across Dennis Campay (new to me). Breakfast Flower (2013, see below) shows a far more built up view than the one I see from my window, yet there is something reminiscent in the framing and the angles of the buildings. Additionally, I took the idea for adding mauve tones to the brick wall from this picture – it seemed a way of relating the red brick to the blue window.
When I was still toying with using watercolour/gouache, I found View from a Window by Paul Klee (see below), and thought such an approach could work equally well in pastels. As with Matisse, this encouraged me to be bolder with colour, although I made a conscious decision not to use black. Given that my outlook was relatively enclosed, I thought it might have a claustrophobic effect (which could be interesting in another picture, perhaps).
I made a further partial sketch, in watercolour, pencil, and charcoal (see below), whilst looking at different ways of approaching the picture. I painted watercolour very loosely, first, and then drew into it with graphite. I think moving to charcoal wasn’t a great idea, though, and left the sketch there. Using a variety of pencil grades might have offered more possibilities for degrees of subtlety (or lack of it).
I made the above sketch after looking at the work of Linda Partrick (see below), also new to me. Her loose, sketchy style seems very atmospheric, and chimes with the way I’ve been thinking recently. Something to explore beyond the assignment.
I also did a page of brick studies, thinking about how to depict the wall facing the window (see below) – gouache (the naive style of which I liked a lot, but didn’t feel was right for this drawing), graphite stick, coloured pencils, and pastels. I preferred the pastel version that merely hinted at the texture of the bricks, rather than the others which emphasised each individual one. I felt that pastels would soften elements that could appear too rigid in a scene already dominated by walls and straight lines.
The idea for suggesting bricks in this way, rather than drawing each one, came from another work by Felicity House (see below). I liked her handling of trees in pastel, too. Experimenting after looking at this picture I found that, contrary to what I’d expected, it worked best drawing line work first, then dragging pastels across afterwards (in varying degrees of pressure). Doing it this way, the harsher lines were partially blended by the overlaid pastels, creating a more natural effect.
Perhaps the greatest influence on my finished drawing, though, was Mighty Spring by Lucy Duke (see below). I soon discovered that such seemingly simple marks are anything but! Likewise this manner of overlaying colours. However, the vibrancy was infectious, and provided encouragement (yet again) to be bolder with colour. It also made me conscious of working within a restricted palette – mine was largely green, blue, mauve, and brick red. With hindsight, I think I might have been more successful with this approach had my view offered more in the way of natural elements. The energy was hard to maintain within the confines of the walls (although not impossible, I think). A few more curves and irregular shapes might have offered more opportunities for such mark-making.
I experimented with what to include or leave out from the yard, eventually opting for a ‘less is more’ approach, focusing on colour and texture. As so often, the finished piece is not very much like the picture I started out with in my mind. I had decided to use pastels both in response to some of the work I’ve mentioned above, but also because I felt I’d neglected them rather (for neglect read ‘avoid’). Initially, I regretted my choice strongly! But I made myself persevere, to see where the drawing might take me. Having reached the other end of it, I’m pleased I carried on, and do feel I learnt a lot in the process – particularly about layering pastels, and about allowing the texture of the paper to show through (previously, I’ve tended to smudge pastels, often creating little more than a neutral blur).
I think the perspective works reasonably well – certainly an improvement on earlier attempts in Part 3. Also, I like the palette. I believe I was right to leave out certain details (the extra pots, for example), although I did introduce one in the lower centre (and a few more, plus Buddha figure, on the ledge above), in order to connect the two sides of the picture. Prior to that, it had felt rather divided. I wanted to retain some feeling of space – the enclosed yard would have felt suffocating had I included all the furniture and objects that are actually there.
I think the composition works, despite the somewhat odd outlook, and feel the planting leads the eye upwards towards the more open part of the view. I think the height here is ambiguous, largely due to the varying heights of the different walls. I was drawing from a first floor window, and the lower part of the wall (the rendered area below the brick wall, facing the window) is about five feet high. The section above, maybe, ten feet? The stone wall on the rightI would estimate to be about twelve feet high, perhaps a little less. It’s hard to say for certain, as I’ve only ever viewed it from above (it’s our neighbours yard).
The lighter area at the bottom of the right hand window was a reflection from outside, to the left (as the window opens outwards). the other more obscured areas on some of the panes were patches of condensation, which clouded the views through the glass just a little.
The light was fairly subdued. A muted winter day, with few shadows of note. The darkest areas were the interior of the left hand window (which was closed) and the un-illuminated windows in the distance.
I opted to work on A2 paper, as pastels seem to demand a larger support. I taped a border around the paper, enhancing the sense of looking through a window. The final piece took far in excess of the two hours mentioned in the course notes – more like four or five (spread over two days). I think this is partly because I tend to work slowly (although drawing more has increased my speed when sketching), and partly because I used a medium with which I was less familiar. My aim for this piece was to explore the scene through the chosen medium (to be led by it’s strengths and limitations), rather than trying to ‘make a picture’. With pastels, this meant not overworking every detail, looking instead at texture and colour. I’m trying to reassess my idea of what constitutes a ‘finished picture’, generally – especially as much of the work that interests me most often has an unfinished quality. My intention was to view the assignment as a whole, including all the preparatory sketches and studies, the contextual research, as well as the final drawing. A few days before working on the assignment, I dreamt I met David Hockney in a cafe, over a cup of tea. There, he told me to ‘stop worrying and just be curious’. I took the advice when working on this project, and let myself be led by curiosity…
Reflections on assessment criteria:
Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills
Materials: I came to this assignment feeling reasonably confident that I would work in one combination of media (watercolour and graphite), when in fact exploratory sketches and broad contextual research led me in a different direction entirely, once again emphasising the importance of solid preparation. Perhaps an assignment isn’t the best place to try a medium with which one is unconfident or unfamiliar, but it felt necessary to introduce an element of risk, rather than playing it safe with something I’ve used in two previous assignments. I used a combination of hard pastels and pastel pencils, working on pastel paper.
Techniques: I used the pastels both on their sides and as ‘points’, with varying degrees of pressure (from building dense layers to merely grazing the paper). Additionally, I allowed the paper’s inherent texture to show through, instead of necessarily smudging the pastels as I’ve done previously. Also, I chose to work on A2, rather than the specified A3, as the medium seemed better suited to a larger scale.
Observational skills: These were essential for working out correct perspective. I spent a good while looking at how all the angles I could see related to one another, using methods of comparative measurement. Similarly, I looked closely for differing areas of tone (given that this was a scene in subdued and rather flat light, that meant looking very closely indeed).
Visual awareness: I was aware that, as this view was rather enclosed, it was important to consider whether I wanted to enhance this quality or counterbalance it. I opted for the latter, emphasising the natural elements available, and relating them so as to strengthen that focus (for example, concentrating on the planting in the yard, with its vertical format leading the eye upwards towards the treetops).
Design and compositional skills: As stated above, I did a series of compositional thumbnail sketches, narrowing the choices to two, finally opting for the one that focused on balancing the natural elements against the built ones, rather than the other, which had a far more architectural flavour. Also, I used the windows to frame the composition, dividing it loosely into thirds, which further served to lead the eye upwards. Initially, I had no items at the centre of the picture, but chose to include just a few, in order to tie the two sides of the composition together.
Quality of Outcome
Content: I think that, given the somewhat odd outlook, the final drawing has been reasonably successful. It was important to be selective about what to include and discard, whilst leaving enough space for the eye to move around the picture. I would be happier to have a greater sense of fluidity and movement here, but that was always going to be a challenge, given the scene I’d chosen to depict.
Application of knowledge: I think that greater experience of using pastels would have resulted in a slightly less static picture, perhaps. However, given my limited knowledge of them, I think I did reasonably well. Thinking back over areas covered in Part 3, I was aware that I felt most comfortable when tackling natural subjects, but considering my earlier dismay at getting to grips with linear perspective, I’d say the assignment shows a significant improvement in that regard.
Presentation of work in a coherent manner: I made notes throughout the assignment, both in my sketchbook and in my blog (in draft form), in order to have a clear record of the process involved.
Discernment: I feel this was most apparent in the selection process for what to include/exclude. As my sketches show, there were a number of elements which appeared and then disappeared as I progressed. Also, I tried to retain a clear view of those aspects of my contextual research which were most relevant to this project. As ever, I set out with an impression of what I wanted to achieve, whilst holding the intention to remain flexible and responsive to the view before me.
Conceptualisation of thoughts: This is a view with which I’m very familiar, and I wanted to convey something of my relationship to it. This was possibly the main reason I chose to focus on the view up to the treetops, as I regularly wish there was less standing in between them and me. I think this was achieved by the compositional devices outlined above.
Communication of ideas: Again, I used composition to focus the attention on the elements that supported the concept behind this picture, thus hopefully communicating the idea of relationship to nature, rather than containment by built structures.
Demonstration of Creativity
Imagination: This was demonstrated by enhancing the colours used, to enliven a relatively dull scene, and by focusing attention on the natural elements, so as not to permit the rigid forms of buildings to dominate.
Experimentation: Demonstrated by sketches and studies made in an exploratory manner. Trying out a number of approaches suggested by a variety of contextual research. Using a medium that pushed me outside of what felt comfortable and familiar, and allowing myself to be led by its integral properties.
Invention: Playing with the reality of the scene, moving elements around or losing them altogether where I felt it might improve the overall outcome. Using colour to enhance and support my concept for the picture.
Development of a personal voice: I was less conscious of this during the assignment – or during the final drawing, at least. That’s probably due to my relative unease with the chosen medium. An evolving personal voice was possibly more apparent in my contextual references. I do have a strengthening sense of which work interests me. Hopefully, my skills will continue to sharpen, and allow that voice to speak a little more clearly. For my last assignment I wrote, ‘perhaps the development of that voice is something that happens through such interaction [with other people], as it would in a conversation – I say/draw one thing, someone responds, and that response then shapes my next statement/drawing, and so on’. I would qualify that statement now by saying that the interaction is as much between myself and my work as it is between myself and other people. Thus, my response to one drawing shapes my approach to the next.
Reflection: I’m past the halfway point of this course now, and it’s interesting to reflect on where I began and where I find myself currently. I can see that much has changed – sharper observational skills (which could nevertheless stand to be far sharper still), a greater willingness to experiment, an increased understanding of the value of looking at themes and subjects more deeply and thoroughly, and the necessity for working regularly, even if it’s a one-minute sketch a day. I feel that my sketching abilities have come on since starting Part 3 – I’ve let go of the notion that every picture has to be a ‘finished’ piece of work in itself. Hopefully, this will bear fruit in Part 4, the section I’ve most keenly awaited.
Research: I’ve included much of the research done for this assignment in the post above (and in my sketchbook). However, research is woven into what I do now on a daily basis, forming a far more interactive relationship with my own work. Additionally, I have been to a number of exhibitions during the course of Part 3, many of which relate most to Part 4 (for which reason my reflections on them will appear in my log during the next section). Likewise, I have made a point of reading more widely around the subjects I’m studying. Again, my reflections on this reading will be written up as soon as possible.
Critical thinking (learning log): I’ve continued to document my progress throughout the course on my learning log here (this blog).