Project 3 Exercise 2 Foreground, middle-ground, background

The Aim

Choose one of your sketches and produce a larger drawing establishing foreground, middle ground and background

The Exercise

I decided I wanted to make a drawing of my valley sketch from the 360 exercise

Looking East
Looking East

The course notes instruct using a selection of drawing media and a ruler without then going on to say what exactly the ruler is for. I get that I am to establish the three sections of the drawing but am I supposed to draw in some straight lines to depict this? I certainly could do this as my drawing is a very linear, with 3 horizontal stripes but that doesn’t feel a very fluid way of working, so I didn’t use a ruler. Rather I used a technique that months ago I read on someones blog (sorry I don’t know who;s), a technique that helps establish where the foreground, mid-ground and background are positioned. I used the above sketch as guidance, my memory of the view plus photos taken when the sketch was done

Firstly I sketched lightly in pencil the background – the distant patchwork of fields and hedges.None of this is distinct rather just suggestions of what is there.

background sketch
background sketch

Then on a piece of overlaid tracing paper I drew in the middle ground. This consisted of the line of trees that are quite distinct. There is a small open gate along the fence bordering the trees and this could make a useful focal point to this layer.

Middleground on tracing paper overlaying the background
Middle ground on tracing paper overlaying the background

The tree line was mixed bare deciduous trees and conifer trees and on the whole created quite a dark band. The light was directed towards the trees from the viewer so the tips of the branches and the very front row of trees had some texture and sparkle about them. There is a steep valley between my view-point and these trees. In order to convey this downward slope I shaded the bottom in darker tones as the bank I was standing on created some shadow on the other side.

Thirdly I overlay a second piece of tracing paper onto which I sketched the foreground. In my original quick 360 sketch I left out the fence between me and the valley. I put this back in here as it does define the foreground. The vegetation around the posts was quite thick, with winter tones.

Foregorund overlaying mid-and back grounds
foreground overlaying mid-and back grounds

I found this tracing paper exercise very useful in establishing tones. When you look at the resulting 3-layered sketch it is clear to see that reducing tones and detail for the more distant areas creates a sense of depth. The trick is now to put this into practice in a final drawing.

Unfortunately I was a bit preoccupied in doing my final drawing that I forgot to photograph intermediate stages. However this was my final result.

The Valley, mixed media
The Valley, mixed media

This drawing sat on my easel for about a month. In this time (for reasons that I do not wish to go into on a public site) I changed my tutor – and the whole Christmas/New Year/School holiday past by. I carried on with my coursework in my sketchbook but it is only now taking the time to put this post online, that I realised over that time my brain had been working on the image for me. In the above sketch I had made the mid-ground trees dense and dark (as they indeed looked) but I had lost the sense of depth that my tracing paper exercise had given them. The conclusion being that I had not enough contrast between the foreground and the mid-ground. So today I tried to know back the darkness of the trees. I found that they didn’t lift out too well with a putty rubber so I added white to highlight the bits that were sparkling in the sun when I first sketched the scene. I then tried to define the posts a little more to bring them more into focus. I was only partially successful as the pastels and charcoal started to get a bit muddy. The result was this version:

The Valley, mixed media
The Valley Version 2, mixed media


Version 2 in not perfect by any means but I think an improvement on the first drawing. The mid-ground is still too dominant in terms of tone and the foreground a bit washed out in comparison. Once again I am conflicted as to ‘when to stop’. To improve this drawing further I believe I would need to start again – I do not have the skill to knock back that tree line anymore. If I had all the time in the world then I would be happy to start again – in fact I would probably still be drawing assignment 1! However I don’t have that time available to me so once again I am making the decision to move on. Hopefully I will be able to show I have learnt from these errors in the next exercises.

Project 3 Exercise 2 Foreground, middle-ground, background

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