Choose an expansive landscape where you have an open view in all directions. Start one drawing looking north. Use your viewfinder to find a focal point, frame your view and complete a 15-minute drawing.
Then turn your stool on the same spot to face west, south and east. Each time repeat the process of finding a focal point and complete another 15-minute drawing.
This exercise should teach you how the landscape view changes by just shifting your viewpoint slightly. Many artists return to a favourite spot and, simply by shifting their viewpoint, see something entirely different in the landscape.
My chosen spot for this exercise was on a favourite beach just outside Arisaig on the Road to the Isles on the west coast of Lochaber. I have been at this spot many times and when the tide is out – it is really out, giving much room to wander and wonder at the seascape, skyscape and hard rock landscape of both the shoreline and the inland mountains.
I decided to use my newly purchased Frisk layflat sketch pad and a single pencil (2H) for speed of sketching – not having to worry about using different grades, but rather using the 2H to my best ability to capture the different shapes, forms, structures, lights and shades.
So, firstly looking north towards the Sound of Sleat and the Isle of Skye my composition took in a near distance outcrop of beach rock that framed a stretch of sea out towards a middle distance rock formation, behind which loomed the distant hills. The sky was fairly settled that day with either no or little floating clouds.
Turning to the west looking over the sea to the Isle of Eigg my composition was focused on the small fishing boat drawn up onto the sandy beach at low tide.
Next, looking south along the shoreline towards Arisaig hidden round the outcrop of rock in its own bay. I all of the sketches the presence of hard rock was the most prevalent feature and capturing it’s multitude of crags, directions and darkened seaweed tide lines was an interesting challenge. I don’t think I over-worked the rock features and am reasonably happy with the sense of perspective achieved.
Finally, looking inland to the rocky Lochaber mountains to the east above the Road to the Isles route to the fishing and ferry port of Mallaig I was faced with a quite dramatic view of craggy rock faces in the middle distance rising sheer from behind a foreground of gorse and heather covered hillside. Beyond the rockface rose another distant range of mountains beneath what was then a fairly dull and uniform sky.
Looking at these four sketches now several days later it is interesting how N and W and S and E seem to present almost stretched out landscapes. This was not intentional, but when I half-close my eyes and squint at the top and bottom compositions they do almost appear to gel together. They don’t, of course, as they are four distinct orientated views.
As a plein air sketching exercise this stretched my imagination and skill level and I am quite pleased with the outcome. I feel that even although each drawing took between 15 and 20 minutes the process didn’t feel rushed, with time to look, see, think, reflect and draw using a variety of mark making techniques to capture the scenes before me – line, shade, hatching, point and side of pencil and mostly in fairly quickly laid down strokes.
A very enjoyable experience and I even managed to beat the tide and not get my feet wet!
Stuart Brownlee – 512319
14 September 2015