Part 3: Project 5: Exercise 1 – Sketchbook of townscape drawings


Streets in townscapes, from industrial buildings to a collection of domestic houses, offer diverse opportunities for using a variety of colour media.

For this exercise, carefully select a viewpoint that gives you somewhere to sit comfortably while you’re sketching and making notes. Focus on one particular building, for example a corner site or a building façade, and notice how the other buildings support your main focus.

Make written notes about your sense of the place (does it evoke an emotional response?) as well as the appearance of the scene. Take note of your eye level which will become the horizon line – this helps place the buildings and organise linear perspective. Notice details of the buildings and scene around you, such as the proportion or placement of windows and doors on the building’s façade, the building materials, the pattern and texture of bricks, as well as the colours.

Make a detailed study with a 3B pencil, in a 10cm square, showing a section of the building. This will help you get the essence of the structures in front of you. Draw a second 10cm square tonal study showing how the light falls across the building.

Make notes about the direction and strength of light, time of day, shadows. Make notes about colour. Describe the use of the buildings or movement of people and anything else that will help your decision-making for a larger piece of work.

Make several quick drawings in your sketchbook before you decide on the most interesting view. Just looking often doesn’t reveal all the possibilities. Sometimes it’s only when you begin to draw that you spot an exciting view. Once you’ve decided what to draw, quickly plan in your sketchbook where everything you intend to include in your drawing will be. Draw the main shapes in pencil or charcoal before you commit yourself to colour.

Be selective. Draw what you see as interesting and unusual. Find your own unique view of your chosen place. Your drawing should have a sense of the actual location but you don’t have to include everything you can see. What you leave out is arguably more important than what you include and this skill is only learned with practice. Keep looking and translating what you see until gradually you discover what is important and what is incidental.


Part 3 Project 5 Exercise 1 - Townscape drawing 1
Part 3 Project 5 Exercise 1 – Townscape drawing 1

This is a view walking up the hill towards Inverness Castle from the stone dyke looking over Castle Street out over the town (City) towards the Longman Industrial Estate and the Kessok Bridge over the Moray Firth to the Black Isle and Ross-shire.

The horizon line/eye level is the water line and bridge in the distance. Castle Street has an incline up right to the top of the bray with a range of older buildings and established businesses, such as the Castle Restaurant, the Castle Gallery and Chisholms Highland Dress.

This was drawn mid-morning on a sunny day with the light coming from the south east shining on the side walls of the Town House (left) and the building on the hill which is the main focus of the sketch. The angle of the roff lines and architectural features such as roof windows give an almost ‘seaside town’ feel to what is now a City.

I sketched from above the wall a wee bit further up the path to the Castle itself. At the lower end of Castle Street there a more modern box-like buildings that sit in contrast to the older, squatter buildings further up the hill. The focal building in this sketch sits on the hillside above the street looking down over the scene. Behind this building sits the walls and buildings of Porterfield Prison. Interestingly, Inverness Castle itself is not really a Castle, although it sits on the site of a centuries old defensive structure and today acts as the District and Sheriff Court.

Part 3 Project 5 Exercise 1 - Townscape drawing 2
Part 3 Project 5 Exercise 1 – Townscape drawing 2

Here are L/H and R/H corner sketches of the same building, again in 3B pencil. L/H mainly a line drawing with some shading of the top floor and roof detail.

The L/H sketch shows a basic tonal depiction of how the light source cast shadow across the roof top.

Part 3 Project 5 Exercise 1 - Townscape drawing 3 - colour study
Part 3 Project 5 Exercise 1 – Townscape drawing 3 – colour study

Focusing in on the imposing old building on the hill opposite my location on the Castle steps I sketched it in using a 3B pencil and washed over the colours using Inktense block ink and a waterbrush pen. These are really handy for carrying and working – little baggage to carry. As with all these sketches I used a Frisk 300gsm layflat sketch pad.

I did try to simplify the building stonework and not get too hung about lots of detail and I think the main shapes are just about right. For me the interesting element of the building is in the roof line. The light was shining in from left against the gable wall and the dark shadows on the roof were outstanding. I think with more time and work I could have applied even more shading on the building and the greenery in front, but I decided to keep it all suggestive of what I was actually looking at – get it down on paper, leave it and walk away to the next task.

Stuart Brownlee – 512319
22 October 2015