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