Project 3 Composition Exercise 1 Developing your studies

The Aim

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. 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.

The Exercise

I chose my sketch of a path along the edge of a field boarded by a swath of seed heads on one side and a mixed deciduous hedge on the other. There is a view to hedged fields on the hill in the background.

1. Along the Dairy Ground
1. Along the Dairy Ground

I was really drawn to the lines in this sketch, the vertical uprights of the hedge and dead wildflowers, the strong horizontals of the shadows. I felt that the curve of the path was strong enough to draw the viewer’s eye in, however the background was quite heavy in this sketch. The hills needed to be fainter giving a bit of aerial perspective, in a way that is seen in this sketch of the hills behind a valley from my 360 exercise

Looking East
Looking East

In order to try to simplify the mess of lines, I photocopied my sketch and then drew on it pen to show the main areas of interest and to decide what could be left out. The dead seed hlandscape study 1eads were to be the focal point with the lines of the vegetation and the path taking your eye into the picture. The middle ground was to be simplified and the hills made more distant and less distinct. At this stage I also started to consider what materials to use. I had a play with colour using watercolour pencils dipped in water applied onto watercolour paper.

Watercolour pencils and water on watercolour paper
Watercolour pencils and water on watercolour paper

I like the hedge to the right in the foreground but it gets a bit messy toward the left middle ground. The hills in the background are also not distant enough. The seed heads don’t stand out here either, they all merge into brown vegetation.

I felt that to get the distant hills right I needed to reduce the tone, so i tried sketching them in pencil, then adding the middle and parts of the foreground in with black biro.

Try to get some distance
Try to get some distance

I then filled in the rest of the foreground with coloured felt-tip pens.The hills now look in the distance but there is too much going on in the middle distance and too much blank space in the foreground. The middle distance on the left does not contrast enough from the strong foreground on the left. This does raise an interesting question – how do you make the transition from foreground to middle ground in a situation like this when it is the same subject (in this case the curved swathe of dead flowers)? I tried to just use the orange for the focal point. It certainly highlights the area, but the forms are quite boring!

Next I redid the sketch using black pen but being very careful to just faintly put in the background.

Study in pen and felt-tip
Study in pen and felt-tip

I made the hedge a bit more uniform and allowed the pen to draw slightly heavier in the mid ground and foreground. I then put in the dead plants in felt-tip, modifying the tones so that the fore and mid-ground were different. I also darkened the foreground shadows with black felt-pen. I added some grassy texture marks to fill in the large space of the beginning of the path.

Compositionally I like this version of the hills and the hedge and grassy verge.  However the seed heads still are not the desired focal point. I don’t think that felt-tip is the right medium for these. I also wondered if I chose a mid-tone ground that the tones would be better.

study in pen, pastel and water
study in pen, pastel and water

I chose a grey-green pastel paper for this next study. I put the hills in lightly with pen first, then used soft pastels dipped in water to draw on the hedge and mid ground. Immediately I could see my error, I had lost that distinction between fore and mid ground here. I carried on  anyway to see how the seed heads would turn out in soft pastel. I liked the effect of layering colours, including white for highlights even if compositionally it hasn’t quite worked. I also don’t think the coloured ground works. It makes the whole image too dull. One of the things that attracted me to the scene in the first place was the strong sunlight landing on the bare branches of the hedge and onto the dead seed heads. This made them glisten and I don’t feel that I have managed to capture this yet.

Landscape in mixed media
Landscape in mixed media

So for my final piece in this exercise I drew on a larger piece of wall paper lining.  I used willow charcoal to lightly put in the background hills, then darker compressed charcoal for the hedge in both the mid ground and foreground. I tried to make the foreground hedge stand out more by preserving the white of the paper as much as I could to give the illusion of strong light coming in from the left. I was able to really black in the shadows with strong horizontal and vertical lines. For the grassy vegetation I layered on yellow ochre soft pastel, a brown soft pastel and a gold oil pastel. Unfortunately this layering didn’t quite work as I expected and parts became very muddied (especially the mid ground). I used a white oil pastel to try to pick out highlights but this didn’t really work and had to stop before everything smudged. My seed heads thus alluded me again in this image.

Reflections

Although I hadn’t cracked this landscape I decided to move on. For a variety of reasons I have fallen behind with this course – and am adding to this blog several weeks after actually having drawn the images. This in itself is not a bad thing, I find you do look at things differently after some time has elapsed, sometimes more critically, sometimes less. However I don’t have forever. I have learnt a lot from this series of studies. I am happier with depicting a background and have managed to draw the hedge as I wanted it to be. I am not happy with the layering effect for the vegetation (too muddy) and as a result there is no real focal point to the image. Something to work on in the next exercise.

Project 3 Composition Exercise 1 Developing your studies

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