Part 3: Project 3: Exercise 2 – Foreground, middle ground, background

Brief

Choose one of your sketches or photographs – or if you prefer, return to a location and draw on the spot. You’ll need A3 cartridge paper (on a hard-backed sketchpad or fixed to a drawing board if you’re drawing outdoors), a ruler, and a range of pencils, graphite pencils and water-soluble pencils. You’ll also need to use your viewfinder and a grid if you’re enlarging one of your sketches or working from a photograph.

The aim of this exercise is to establish a foreground, middle ground and background in your drawing. If you can compose and structure your drawing to include these divisions, you’ll begin to establish a sense of space in the structure of your drawing. This way of organising space is characteristic of the French classical painters Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain, who in turn influenced the British landscape artist, JMW Turner.

The crucial factor to bear in mind is that objects in the foreground such as trees or plants will appear to be clearer and have more detail, be bigger in proportion, and will have texture. Draw boldly to create detail and show light direction and shadow. The middle section of your drawing will include subtle changes. The detail will begin to be less important and you should employ more tonal shading through closer hatching. Use your putty rubber sparingly to increase the contrasts in tone.

Tip
It’s sometimes a good idea to incorporate a small feature to frame the middle distance; this could be a house at the edge of your drawing or a field division such as a wall or fence. If you do this, though, make sure it doesn’t look false or overly intended – there’s a fine line between artistic licence and cliché.

The background of your landscape will usually include the horizon and the sky. The sky is very important because it is the source of light. The horizon can be defined by hills, buildings (which may be loosely drawn and vague in shape) or the junction between sea and sky in the distance. It is important to convey this distance by very even or light shading. Nothing in the background should be defined. Try to convey the impression of great distance between the spectator and this section of the landscape. The aim is to emphasise atmosphere – this is the basis of aerial or atmospheric perspective (see Project 4).

When you’re happy with the work you’ve produced for the previous two exercises, take some time to reflect on what you’ve achieved.

• How did you simplify and select? Were you able to focus on simple shapes and patterns amid all the visual information available to you?
• How did you create a sense of distance and form?
• Were you able to use light and shade successfully?
• What additional preliminary work would have been helpful towards the larger study?

Part 3 Project 3 Exercise 2 - course notes image
JMW Turner, Windsor Castle and Park with Deer (watercolour over pencil)

Process

My chosen sketch was from 360º studies – shoreline looking west. On a sheet of 220gsm A3 cartridge paper using a 9H pencil I lightly sketched out the main elements of the composition, with markers showing where the eye level/horizon sits and also the general areas covered by the fore, middle and back grounds of the composition. The focal point of the arrangement sits on a rule of thirds power point on the beached boat.

Part 3 Project 3 Exercise 2 - Foreground, middle and background - first light sketch
Part 3 Project 3 Exercise 2 – Foreground, middle and background – first light sketch

For this first pass of drawing I used 6H, 4H and 3H pencils to outline/shade the background area/division. I’m not happy with the cloud though at this stage – looks like a passing airship! Much happier with the way the middle-ground is taking shape – using 2H, F, B, 3H again and 2H pencils.

Part 3 Project 3 Exercise 2 - Foreground, middle and background - first pass
Part 3 Project 3 Exercise 2 – Foreground, middle and background – first pass

At this point I’m leaving the boat and shore alone, but have picked out the lighter foreground rock formation that is sitting in the direction of the light source coming into the composition from the left of the picture.

Part 3 Project 3 Exercise 2 - Foreground, middle and background - second pass
Part 3 Project 3 Exercise 2 – Foreground, middle and background – second pass

Foreground pass using 2B, 6B and 3H pencil. Still leaving the boat alone at this stage.

Part 3 Project 3 Exercise 2 - Foreground, middle and background - third pass middle ground
Part 3 Project 3 Exercise 2 – Foreground, middle and background – third pass middle ground

Middle/fore ground shore, sand and boat – H and B pencils.

Finished drawing

Part 3 Project 3 Exercise 2 - Foreground, middle and background - final drawing
Part 3 Project 3 Exercise 2 – Foreground, middle and background – final drawing

To finish off the drawing I used a touch of 6B graphite pencil in the rock crevices and then used a range of water soluble coloured pencils to lightly wash over the individual elements of the picture.

Critique

I enjoyed the process of building this drawing from the original light outline sketch through the various stages of layering in pencils and graphite, to touching in the layers of coloured wash. I drew this on a well used drawing board and there are some interesting wee marks where the scratches on the board have copied through onto the paper – accidental, but they look a bit like inscribed marks.

The rocks formations and seaweed on the tide line and on the foreshore had to be simplified fairly radically otherwise the detail of every crevice, chink and form would have been overpowering on the eye I think.

The layering of dark through to light along the foreground, middle ground and background planes achieved a reasonable sense of distance and form I feel.

Light and shade were captured using line, hatching and colour wash.

I could have perhaps spent more time initially studying the detailed shapes of the foreground seaweed. However, I opted instead to suggest the weed through use of squiggled lines and colour washes.

Stuart Brownlee – 512319
14 October 2015

Part 3: Project 3: Exercise 1 – Research point – Viewpoints

My workbook notes for this research point [click on each page to enlarge]:

Part 3 Project 3 Research point - Viewpoints - page 1
Part 3 Project 3 Exercise 1 Research point – Viewpoints – page 1
Part 3 Project 3 Research point - Viewpoints - page 2
Part 3 Project 3 Exercise 1 Research point – Viewpoints – page 2
Part 3 Project 3 Research point - Viewpoints - page 3
Part 3 Project 3 Exercise 1 Research point – Viewpoints – page 3

Stuart Brownlee – 512319
11 October 2015

Part 3: Project 3: Exercise 1 – Developing your studies

Brief

Review your preparatory drawings from Project 2 and select those that have most of the elements that you would like to include in a larger drawing. It may be that you’ve already produced a composition that you now feel is strong enough to take further. You could decide to focus on a single form that dominates the composition, or you may have in mind a group of forms that can be positioned in an interesting manner, using repeated colours, lines, marks, textures and so on across the picture plane. Whatever you decide, try to be adventurous in your subject and in your composition. Test your growing skills and show that you can work beyond the expected.

Working outside involves some planning and preparation and a clear sense of intention. Always take a sketchbook and digital camera with you while searching for locations. In softer rural landscapes, look at the main compositional lines such as those along hills, valleys, roads, walls, trees and buildings. Consider the most interesting features and shapes and decide on a focal point. This could be an object or area of dramatic contrast, say between pasture and woodland, or it could be a rocky outcrop, a barn or a group of trees in the distance. Think about how to exploit other elements in the foreground or middle distance to lead the eye around the picture as well as towards the focal point.

Part 3 Project 3 Exercise 1 - course notes image
OCA student, Sally Hunt

If you’re studying a ‘hard’ landscape with strong geological elements, you can simplify massive structures such as mountains, hills, cliffs or rock faces by following the dynamic forces that shaped them. Look for fault lines and facets, deep crevices and areas of shadow and light. Don’t be intimidated by scale and keep thinking about the viewpoint and ways to use perspective to convey distance and close-up viewpoints. Exciting abstract handling can result from drawing the ‘bones’ of the landscape.

Process

360º study - looking south down the shoreline towards Arisaig
360º study – looking south down the shoreline towards Arisaig

I chose this view from Project 2: Exercise 3 – 360º studies. I had also used it in my research notes on composition to experiment with overlaying a Phi Grid 1 outward by 1.618 using PhiMatrix golden ratio design and analysis software [http://www.phimatrix.com] – I think that the composition is neatly broken down into recognisable constituent parts according to the golden ratio.

360º study - looking south - rule of thirds and diagonals
360º study – looking south – rule of thirds and diagonals

Here we see the Rule of Thirds superimposed in the red vertical and horizontal lines with blue circles on the intersections representing the power or focal points. The red circles halfway along the the intersecting diagonals on the picture plane represent the ‘eyes of the rectangle’ in golden ratio theory and between them – focal points and ‘eyes’ – we have a relatively east method of placing the areas of interest in the composition around or within these points of visual attraction.

Part 3 Project 3 Exercise 1 - Developing your studies - ground
Part 3 Project 3 Exercise 1 – Developing your studies – ground

I chose a Gerstaeker 24x30cm canvas board that I had been using as a palette to clean off oil paint from my brushes over a period of months. It had been set aside and was now dried out. I liked the roughness and the various colourings and wanted to try using this as my ground for the exercise as an experiment.

Some of my Tutor’s comments from previous assessments came to mind when making this decision:

‘Make textured grounds to scour and draw into’
‘Push layering of multiple viewpoints’
‘Incorporate a stronger material aspect, allowing the drawings to literally thicken’

These were exciting and inspiring directional comments and I plan to embrace them in this development exercise. Let’s see what happens.

Part 3 Project 3 Exercise 1 - Developing your studies - overlays
Part 3 Project 3 Exercise 1 – Developing your studies – drawing-in line

I had a ‘kind-of’ idea in mind when I chose to use this ground and focus on the 360º study looking south down the shoreline towards Arisaig. You can’t actually see the village as it is round in the next bay, but the name sets the location just north looking down the coast. In my mind’s eye I could envision similarities of form, shape and compositional layout – if not colour. But I’m not too bothered about the colour element at this stage as I intend to build on this first rendition.

I went full bore here and drew the basic shapes of the composition by ‘scouring’ into the ground freehand using a Dremel MultiPro electric tool and a small abrasive sanding head to pick out the lines.

Part 3 Project 3 Exercise 1 - Developing your studies - drawing tool
Part 3 Project 3 Exercise 1 – Developing your studies – drawing tool
Part 3 Project 3 Exercise 1 - overlays
Part 3 Project 3 Exercise 1 – overlays

The Rule of Thirds superimposed in the red vertical and horizontal lines with blue circles on the intersections representing the power or focal points. The red circles halfway along the the intersecting diagonals on the picture plane represent the ‘eyes of the rectangle’ in golden ratio theory and the green ovals represent the area around the focal points and ‘eyes’ that indicate the areas of interest /visual attraction in the composition.

Finished drawing

Part 3 Project 3 Exercise 1 - Developing your studies - finished drawing
Part 3 Project 3 Exercise 1 – Developing your studies – finished drawing

I used Inktense block ink and waterbrush pens to add washes of colour over the ground to better suggest sand, sea and rocks of the cove, as well as the distant hills and sky. Once dry, I then used oil based pens to mark in the ‘dremeled’ outlines. I think that there is an abstract feel to the final drawing that developed organically from the original 360º sketch and I like how the original ground colours shine through the applied ink washes. I am reasonably happy with the end result.

Critique

Part 3 Project 3 Exercise 1 - Developing your studies - finished drawing with overlays
Part 3 Project 3 Exercise 1 – Developing your studies – finished drawing with overlays

I am pleased that the compositional focal points have been pretty much maintained and in my eyes I believe the brief has been met:

“… a group of forms that can be positioned in an interesting manner”
“… using repeated colours, lines, marks, textures and so on across the picture plane”
“… try to be adventurous in your subject and in your composition”
“… consider the most interesting features and shapes and decide on a focal point”
“… think about how to exploit other elements in the foreground or middle distance to lead the eye around the picture as well as towards the focal point”
“… look for fault lines and facets, deep crevices and areas of shadow and light”
“… keep thinking about the viewpoint and ways to use perspective to convey distance and close-up viewpoints”
“… exciting abstract handling can result from drawing the ‘bones’ of the landscape”.

So, in the end, where is my main focal point to lead the eye around the picture? Well, of the four power/focal points and areas of interest I believe that the bottom right “focal point/eye of the rectangle” area where the tide marks in the sand lead the eye into the cove and up around the rocks towards the outcrop on the top right “focal point/eye of the rectangle” area of the picture plane, behind which is the stretch of sea and backdrop of hill and sky.

Stuart Brownlee – 512319
7 October 2015

Part 3: Project 3: Research point – Composition

My workbook notes for this research point [click on each page to enlarge]:

Part 3 Project 3 Research point 1 - Composition page 1
Part 3 Project 3 Research point 1 – Composition page 1
Part 3 Project 3 Research point 1 - Composition page 2
Part 3 Project 3 Research point 1 – Composition page 2
Part 3 Project 3 Research point 1 - Composition page 3
Part 3 Project 3 Research point 1 – Composition page 3
Part 3 Project 3 Research point 1 - Composition page 4
Part 3 Project 3 Research point 1 – Composition page 4
Part 3 Project 3 Research point 1 - Composition page 5
Part 3 Project 3 Research point 1 – Composition page 5
Part 3 Project 3 Research point 1 - Composition page 6
Part 3 Project 3 Research point 1 – Composition page 6
Part 3 Project 3 Research point 1 - Composition page 7
Part 3 Project 3 Research point 1 – Composition page 7

Stuart Brownlee – 512319
1 October 2015