Drawing one – part 3 -project 5 – Townscapes – research point – the urban environment

The urban environment has become a theme that has inspired and captured many contemporary artists. For some artists it allows them the revisit the historical concept of ‘landscape but to also offer an insight into today’s fast and changing society. The aftermath of two world wars that saw a shift in the class system that  changed society. Also urbanisation and industrialisation changed how landscape is perceived and a new kind of landscape evolved in the towns. artists like L.S Lowry depicted everyday scenes of workers and factories. Artists  began to focus on the urban environment.

John Virtue was born in Lancashire in 1947 and as a landscape artist the focus of his work is to capture the landscape where he lives. Virtue seems  to very concerned with what he sees as his own landscape and what it means to him rather than recording just a picture of the   scene. In 2002 Virtue moved his studio to London and used for his inspiration the urban landscape from  walks around the Southbank area of London- taking the buildings uncounted on  the route as the source of his inspiration. Each work starts from rapid mainly linear sketches done on location. Some of the locations of these sketches have been on rooftops including the roof of the National gallery. These sketches are used as a visual diary to produce large scale monochromatic works. Virtue uses black ink mixed with shells and white acrylic paint onto an unprimed canvas. The effect is very emotionally charged , bleak and  visceral.  The work has energy and atmosphere.  The media is worked and edited as part of the process – the composition is shifted as the work evolves .Virtue is not concerned with capturing everything he makes decisions about what to include leaving out any cranes, buses and other means of transport. I particularly like the way Virtue is able to make decisions to be in control of his art and how he evaluates and re-works as the images are formed.

Frank Auerbach ( b. 1931) also finds inspiration from his urban surroundings. From the 1950’s Auerbach has produced urban street scenes from the locality close to his studio in North London. ‘ this part of London is my world I’ve been wandering around these streets for so long that I’ve become attached to them …’ ( source of quote Tate gallery online). So like Virtue Auerbach finds inspiration in the familiarity of his surroundings.

some contemporary artists explore use their surroundings  in their art to explore their culture , loss of their world and politics. William Kentridge ( b.1955) is a figurative artist that was born in South Africa during a very turbulent time in its post war history. Kentridge is known for his prints, monochromatic drawings and film making. Kentridge starts the process off by producing several charcoal drawings which changes, rubs out and over draws on before photographs each of the stages onto 16 or 35mm film. The principle theme is the depiction of human processes both in a physical and a political sense that is enacted on to the landscape.

Julie Mehretu ( b.1970 in Ethiopia) is an American abstract artist that uses her work to give a message. Mehretu uses her work to describe the almost fractured world though layers and fragments to engage with important issues such as migration and how the modern urban city is transforming. Mehretu has an interesting drawing technique she works on architect vellum laying images such as weather maps, plans and sport stadiums. On top Mehretu adds marks , lines and arrows.

To conclude when researching the urban environment it became clear to me that as a theme for today’s artists it is used in a  number ways – to explore culture and identity, to express emotions , to spread a topical message  and to record change. All of the artists that I looked at seemed to have their own unique take on urban environment and what it means to them as an individual. It clearly is an constantly evolving genre that can offer a personal insight to artistic identify.








Drawing now : eight proposition by Laura Hoptman

published by Museum of modern art NY

Isbn 978-0-87070-362-1





Drawing one – part 3 – project 4 perspective exercise 3

This exercise is to explore Aerial or atmospheric perspective. This type of perspective uses tonal gradation to suggest distance. Basically the further away the view is the tones values become lighter and not so defined or clear.

Again I worked on location at Greenwich park. I decided to sketch the view from the top of the hill looking down on to the maritime museum and queens house.  I quickly established by eye view which as I was looking down was below the horizon. Using coloured pencils i did a 10 minute tonal drawing plotting the basic shapes without adding any detail. I then did a larger drawing using pencil biro and markers and watercolour wash. I then did an hour long drawing in biro exploring whether it was possible to produce an aerial perspective drawing just using lines?  For the last drawing I only suggested the buildings beyond the horizon which seemed too work well.

Drawing one part 3 project 4 -perspectiv- exercise 2 – two point or angular Perspective

This exercise is about two-point or angular perspective. Basically an object or building that does not have a straight edge facing on to a viewer has an angular perspective – there can be two vanishing points.

To explore this concept I made a line drawing in pen of a building seen corner on. I established my eye level first and checked the horizontal and vertical lines. Once I had finished my drawing I used a ruler to draw onto my drawing the receding lines. I found the exercise a challenge but felt I still need to practice drawing in this way.

Drawing one part 3 – perspective- exercise 1 parallel perspective- an interior view

  • For this exercise the instructions given in the course notes  is to draw a view though a doorway inside a building. It could be a view from one room into another or a view from a room into a corridor or hall. If possible try to arrange it so that there is a rectangular rug infront of the  the doorway. For this exercise I Sketched  seated on a low chair  the view from the staff room  doorway at work , that leads out to a corridor.  As I drew  in pencil using lines only, I carefully checked the angles of the receding lines against the horizontal and vertical lines of the doorframe. I did this by eye – I established that my eye level was level with the door handle. I did not use a ruler or rub out any errors instead I added corrections onto my drawing.

Once completed I checked my drawing to establish whether my horizontal lines receded  into a single vanishing point then I used a ruler to draw on and extend  the receding lines to check whether they meet. Then again using the ruler I then checked  the vertical lines  against the single vanishing point. I was surprised that my lines and angles seemed to recede to the vanishing point. I tried the exercise again on a different doorway also at work this time from my office ( but  this time I did my drawing standing)  again I  checked the perspective using a ruler and again my drawing seemed to be a perspective drawing ?  I was surprised that the angles seem correct but also worried that I was doing the exercise wrong or using the wrong technique to measure the lines?-  I definitely feel I may have done something wrong?

i found using a ruler interesting as I have never used one in this way before and really never use a ruler at all when sketching – but I found it a useful tool. I just hope that I have interpreted the exercise correctly ?

Drawing one part 3 landscape – exercise 2 – foreground, middle ground , background

imagefor this exercise the instructions is to either work from a sketch or photograph or work on location. I decided to go outdoors to draw. It was a chilly March morning so I worked fairly quickly.

I began by doing two small monochromatic 5 minute sketches in my sketchbook exploring using tonal graduation to suggest space and distance before moving onto a larger  drawing

The object of the exercise is to establish a composition and to establish a foreground , middle grown and background to the drawing. I used A3 cartridge paper and used pencils , pro marker and graphite pens as well as inktense coloured pencils which I used with water.

I found a spot looking up to a hill with a few trees and on top of the hill a group of buildings ( the Royal observatory). I decided to stand to do my drawing. It was a bright day with shadows in the middle ground. The grass in the foreground was much lighter in hue as the sun was shining low in the sky. So for this part of my drawing I used brighter colours. I tried to be bold with my drawing attempting to show the gradual changes in tone in the distant. I kept the background fairly muted using greys and earthy tones to suggest a sense of being further away – I kept the drawing fairly loose with very little detail – the darkest areas were the windows of the buildings. I obverved how the bare winter branches appeared to rise above the buildings. I tried to suggest atmosphere rather than a plain pictorial drawing.

When I returned home I was not happy with the background and felt that the buildings were probably a little too large?

I added more paper to the bottom of the drawing and returned to the location 3 days later also around 11am. I worked some more on the foreground. I think extending the drawing in this way worked better and although I still had reservations about the buildings I feel the  composition now had some much needed structure and substance  I found the exercise a challenge but also very useful as it made me more analytical about my drawing. I still need to work on this type of perspective.

looking at my drawing and reflecting on it and the other drawings that I did on location I was able to make a number of conclusions;

  • I had to select the most important elements of of each of the views as I wanted to capture the essence of the natural environment , as I didn’t want to produce a fussy drawing,
  • I decided to simplify the trees as this seems to look better in my sketches
  • I made sure that I observed and used the intense dark  shadows in some of my drawings  as this helped to create a sense of how the light fell into patterns and shapes.
  • I used brighter colours for the foreground
  • I used muted colours for the background as I wanted to empathise that this area of the picture plane is further away
  • I used water colour pencils and used water and a brush to record colour and I found these a useful media to use on location as they are quick to use.
  • I feel that I would have liked to spend more time developing my sketches on location but time and the cold weather was against me
  • I probably should have experimented with photography. I really enjoyed this exercise and found it useful as it helped me evaluate my work.
  • I also feel that I maybe should have experimented with other media such as crayons and pastels.

Drawing one – research point landscape viewpoints

For this research I looked at how contemporary artists work with different viewpoints and I also compared their approaches with those of earlier artists.

landscape artists  use a variety of different viewpoints to produce their work. This research point is concerned with comparing the approaches used by contemporary artists with methods used by earlier artists.

I began by comparing Tacita Dean ( b. 1965) chalkboard series of drawings with ‘Landscape with houses’ by George-Pierre Seurat  ( 1859-1891) conte crayon  drawing called ‘landscape with houses’ Seurat’s  drawing  is on paper . The drawing is entirely monochromatic black with small amounts of white chalk and he may have also used an eraser to lift out some of the lighter tones?. I really like the drawing the intensity of how the tones are build up  give the subject a very evocative and atmospheric quality. The composition seems fairly simple but is very effective – the scene seemed to be a night view? And looks like it may be from a window? It seems very much like a typical nineteenth century drawing. Seurat has made the middle ground the focus of attention. The background is the lightest area and the foreground is the darkest toned area of the picture, with very little detail . The drawing appears to have no outlines just pure areas of tone that seems to have been build up gradually .

Tacita  Dean in her chalkboard series of drawings has a more photo realism approach to her work. Each of the drawings comprise of 8 feet square boards that the artist had prepared with blackboard Paint. The subject matter is taken from a zone in the Atlantic about 40 and 50 degrees latitude  where gale force winds occur. Dean used source materials such as photographs and film to reference her work. Unlike Seurat Dean has worked light ( white chalk) onto dark ( blackboard paint) the effect is a very visual, visceral and powerful series of images. The sheer scale of the drawings creates a real visual impact almost bringing the turbulent landscape to life.

contemporary art seems to have envolved not only with the use of new materials but also advances in new technology that has changed the very concept of visual arts.

Aerial landscape is a fairly recent tool for the artist as it did not really exist until the  twentieth century after the arrival  of modern transport including aircraft which  allowed for the first time access to actual overhead views of large land forms including mountains. Many modern artists have produced works using a Birdseye view of the landscape including Malevich, Susan Crile and Georgia Okeefe.

Susan Crile( b.1942) an American artist has produced life sized paintings that resemble map-like aerial views.

Georgia Okeefe ( 1887-1986) produced a number of vibrant paintings of landscapes. I particularly like the sultry colours used in her series of Mexican paintings that seem to give the impression of the hot expansive sun bearing down onto the landscape. During the latter part of her career Okeefe became fascinated by clouds. During the 1960’s/1970’s Okeefe produced a series of work focusing on the cloud formations that she observed from an aeroplane window. Researching Okeefe’s work I was reminded of the cloud sketches done by Herbert Bernard John Everett ( 1876-1949) that he produced from a ship during a series of world voyages during the 1920’s and 1930’s.

Mark Bradford ( b.1961) uses mixed media and collage including incorporating found objects from the Los Angeles streets to evoke aerial maps of urban areas. This technique adds a personal    Dimension to his work. Many contemporary artists  use found objects in their work and some like Richard Long use the natural environment  to create their art.

After looking at this research project I have concluded that landscape is still a very important genre and that that  has developed in many ways so that  today many  different methods are explored by artists.

The use of modern materials including photography, film , as well as  scientific advancements have provided more accessible  and portable artist mediums such as graphic pens , marker pens and watercolours in new forms such as pencils and pigment markers as well as IT such as computers and tablets as a design tool.  Urbanisation, and industrialisation and the aftermath of modern war has changed the landscape and provided a new focus   for the artist.

It became clear to me that landscape has a great sense of meaning to artists from all artistic movements and generations.

contemporary artists working today seem  not just to explore  a pictorial representation of their surrounding’s and natural environment but to imbue their work with a sense of their  own personal history- a concept that i found really interesting and inspiring.











Drawing one – landscape – exercise 1 – developing your studies

looking at my preparatory drawing I began looking at any elements to include in a larger drawing. I felt drawn to the tree studies that I had done at my local park – as i really like their interesting textures and how light adds interest to the landscape though the negative shapes forms between the branches and form of the trees . I decided to return to the park and work on location. It was 11am on a very warm and sunny early spring day. I particularly liked the way that the branches of the trees in the bright sunlight  cast deep and very intense  shadows and interesting shapes  onto the grass. The wavy shapes looked to me like elongated  spider legs!

I began by looking for interesting shapes around the focal tree. I then did another drawing using inktense pencils and a brush and water. I used my  pencil marks  to capture texture.

I enjoyed the project and will develop it further using larger paper. During my time in the park drawing i  encountered a pair of robin birds , and did a rapid sketch of them.

I am not entirely sure whether I am yet fully  confident with using inktense pencils but I did enjoy using them – and look forward to experimenting some more with them. I found them very useful when working on location as they are very portable and take a wash very well.

Drawing one – project 3 composition research on golden mean and the rule of thirds

For this project I researched the golden mean and rule of thirds s

As someone who is number dyslexic I found researching thr golden mean probably the hardest thing to understand and grasp in the whole of drawing one. The basis behind the theory I found very challenging.

However this is what I discovered during the course of my research.  Basically the golden mean sometimes referred to as the golden ratio is a mathematical ratio used in art, photography and architecture. It is an ancient principle that goes way back into the distant past. The Design of the Parthenon in Greece follows the principle. Many early artists including Botticelli and Da Vinci used the idea to plan their compositions. Da Vinci used the golden rectangle to compose his painting of the last supper.

The idea behind the ratio is that the composition is pleasing to the eye. The ratio is also found in nature. Golden rectangles are seen as the most visually pleasing rectangles.

The rules of thirds

One of the earliest references to the rule of thirds is by John Thomas Thomas  Smith ( 1766-1833)

the rule of thirds is used today in photography and some model cameras include the grid on the viewfinder.

Basically it relates to a number of powerful visual areas within a rectangle that can be used to enhance compositions. Divide a rectangle into four horizontally and vertical lines – this creates nine equal rectangles within the rectangle. The rule states that the centre of interest is somewhere along these lines.





Drawing one part 3 – project 2 research project

Artists  both historic and contemporary have used landscape  in their work.

for this research I looked at a variety of artists that work in series with landscape.

Early French and Flemish artists romanticised landscape or used landscape to depict biblical scenes.

During the early half of the nineteenth century the visionary artist Samuel Palmer (1805-1881) produced a series of pastoral works of Shoreham Kent. Palmer used a variety of different media including gouache, ink and pencil to produce his very atmospheric and almost dreamy works. Many of Palmer’s drawings are of monochromatic moonlit scenes. Palmer was a major influence on the neo-romantic artistic movement that emerged in England during the 1930’s and 1940’s this group of artists used landscape as a reaction to the effects and aftermath of the Second World War.

the Victorian influential art critic John Ruskin ( 1819-1900) travelled Europe including visiting Germany , the Alps and Venice. During his travels Ruskin filled up several sketchbooks with drawings of the landscapes and buildings. Ruskin produced several  very interesting sketches of cloud formations and he recommended spending 15 minutes looking at the clouds at dawn  and drawing any interesting ones.

The artists of the impressionist art movement such as Monet and Cezanne introduced a new style of landscape drawing they painted outdoors producing open air spontaneous painting with a looser and bolder style.Claude  Monet ( 1840-1926)  even declared that the river Seine was his studio. Monet during his later career painted very large and personal interpretations of his garden.

Herbert Barnard John Everett ( 1876-1949) was a marine artist who left his entire collection of work to the national maritime museum in Greenwich. John Everett as he preferred to be known produced several annotated  sketchbooks recording sea voyages  –  he used a variety of drawing media such as graphite , watercolour and pastel to produce his very vibrant seascapes that seem to me to be influenced by Turner.

David Hockney ( b.1937) a very prolific artist who throughout his long career has experimented with a variety of material including photography and drawing with a fax machine and iPad. During the 1980’s Yorkshire born Hockney produced a series of large colourful Modern American scenes capturing the bright and stark light of the hot Californian sun many with a viewpoint seen almost from above. This group of work seems to really give off a real sense of extreme heat almost radiating of the picture plane. From the 1990’s Hockney spend more time back in Yorkshire where he completed a series of works of the Yorkshire landscape. Many of the paintings are of a very large scale including the immerse 15 by 40 feet ‘Bigger trees near water’ I particularly like the way Hockney has captured the bareness of the winter trees with skeletal branches and the bright blue hues of his palette suggesting the low wintry sun.

looking at contemporary artists working today I was particularly interested in Nicholas Herbert (b.1955) series of drawings of the Chiltern hills. Herbert uses mixed media including graphite, coloured pencils, soluble crayons and acrylic on heavy paper to produce very atmospheric and evocative drawings of the landscape. The drawings seem to express a real sense of the place and they almost seem to capture the very essence and soul of the landscape. They have a timelessness feeling as there are no people or buildings in them. Using a variety of marks Including a stumbling effect Herbert suggests the weather conditions . Using almost monochromatic hues such as greys or earth colours Herbert skilfully captures tonal values. The drawings have an almost abstract quality to them that remind me of Turner’s seascapes and the blurred effect photographs of Gerhard Richter.

John Virtue ( b.1947) is another contemporary artists concerned with landscape. Virtue also produces thematic landscapes. An admirer of Constable Virtue is also interested in capturing the environment  around him. His landscapes are always of the area in which he lives from his Devon seascapes to his London skylines. Virtue always works in monochrome on a large almost panoramic scale  using black ink mixed with shellac and white acrylic paint. The effect like Nicholas Herbert’s work is very atmospheric and timeless, but unlike Herbert Virtue also focuses on the buildings such as his series of  London buildings which include the ‘Oxo building’. As well as his large drawings Virtue has produced  a large body of sketchbook drawings. Virtue’s  work has a visceral and bleak feel to it. It also seems to have a real sense of movement and atmosphere.

Scottish born figurative artist Peter Diog ( b.1959) also produces work based on his local environment –  a common trait of his work is a water theme. From around the 1990’s a recurring theme is a series of paintings of a canoe often white or red. The canoe series   are  mainly painted in a figurative way complete with details such as the reflections on the water. Other versions include a solitary rather enigmatic figure. There are also some versions that are more abstract with intense bright primary colours running down the painting  in broken up stripes which add an extra mysterious dimension to the scene.

I really enjoyed this research project particularly as landscape  is a genre that interests me . I learnt during my research just how big the influence of landscape and the environment has and continues to have  on artists from many different artistic traditions and cultures It seems to me that artists though out the ages have strived to build up a creative relationship with their national surroundings.  This does not surprise me as In many ways landscape seems to have the ability to enchant and inspire – and can even build a connection that is intrerpated    in many personal and unique ways. Landscape is essential to human life it nurtures and provides, it is powerful –  as light and water are essential ingredients to natural , animal and human life. Landscape seems to define the artist.










Drawing one landscape exercise 360 studies

The object of this exercise is to find an expansive landscape view with an open view in all directions and to complete four 15 minute drawings starting from looking North then turn on the same spot to face west then south then finally east. Using my viewfinder I  began by finding for a focal point to frame my view. Using a Pitt graphic pen I drew  I worked outside in a wooded area of the local park. I quickly established a point of interest and framed the view with my viewfinder before starting each drawing. As time was fairly short I used various marks to suggest tone using another Pitt pen but with a wider brush like  nip. I used scribble marks , hatching and lines to suggest the density of the foliage.

It was a cold day but peaceful and the area I was sketching was deserted apart from a pair of robins !  Every so often the sun emerged casting deep dark shadows at the feet of the trees giving a surreal like quality to the landscape.It was an interesting exercise and it was interesting to look at the differences in my compositions from  just moving my viewpoints. I feel I would like to draw

in this way again I like drawing directly from nature and enjoy the discipline of working quickly – as it forces me to make quick decisions when drawing. I was not completely happy with my drawings although I feel that I do achieve something.