5: Extending the view – Project 2 (Looking from one space into another)

Painting I – Task: Choose one of the two drawings depicting the view from one internal space into another. Make necessary adjustments and develop this into a painting. It should be painted from direct observation. “If you decide to include shadows in your painting, don’t paint them as indiscriminate muddy greys. Try to see every part of your painting as a colour, no matter how dark in tone or unsaturated the colour might appear to be.” (A2 – acrylics or oil – spend 4h)

I had made my two drawings almost from the same spot. I thought both drawings needed corrections. On the one hand I prefer the view towards the window in the living room as the eye could make a big circle around the composition. In the other hand the open bathroom door and half lit staircase has some clarity of light and dark, but the different paths suggested by the picture – one by the opened bathroom door and one by the staircase – may be confusing, kind of separate.

But then weather intervened with an almighty downpour rendering the flat pretty dark at 2pm. It provided more clarity for the lit bathroom composition as the rest was in the shadows.

5.2. Looking from one space into another. Acrylics on primed paper. Cropped from A2, about 41 x 46 cm

I think the composition turned out ok. (It’s the painting that sucks.) Not sure if I was just tired and uninspired but I struggled with my acrylics like never before. In summer I had been painting outdoors with oil and I loved the sensuality of it. Acrylics seem rather nasty by comparison and the dreadful plastic bits that float on the surface when you overworked things and the paint got too dry… I will try out the slow-drying medium I got the other day for the next picture. Maybe that alleviates the pain?

5: Extending the view – Project 1 (Some different views)

Painting I – Task: Visualise the many views you could draw within your home. Make 2 A3 charcoal drawings looking from one room into another and 2 more looking out of a window or open door to a wider vista. You will be developing paintings form at least 2 of these idea sketches. Concentrate on tonal information and creating a sense of space. (spend 2h each drawing)

Sketch #1: Living room staircase and view towards window. Charcoal, A3

In Sketch #1 the staircase was the trickiest in terms of perspective and I drew that several times.

I just realised that there might be something wrong above the window to our mini terrace. That line should be slanted the other way round following the top of the cupboard that is seen from the back next to the staircase. Since I had to turn my head several times to capture this scene, I kept getting confused about my perspective. Also the sofa’s back should be much darker, since right now even I struggled to read it as a solid object.

I like the umbrella on the back of the cupboard. It was a relief to insert a slightly less geometric shape among all those rectangles and straight lines. Maybe I could insert slightly more of the lamp shade on the upper right, as it is rolling out of the picture.

Sketch #2: Living room view onto terrace. Charcoal, A3

The table is not correct in perspective. I was just standing too close to it, so I couldn’t judge the lines very well. It’s all a bit too fussy. Maybe I should have zoomed in onto the terrace window a bit more.

Also my drawing paper is very thin and cheap. not exactly a joy to draw with, I must admit. But then in German there is a saying: “The swimmer always puts it down to the swimming trunks… (if he fails to swim fast enough)” so I shouldn’t blame my tools for uninspired drawings.

I think what actually makes me a bit itchy is that I am not a great planner. I prefer just to paint and to change it along the way as the colours and shapes come to life instead of doing 4 x 2 hour charcoal sketches that leave out the all important aspect of colour. But I am aware that these drawings teach me something about the surprising tonal values within a room, where white walls can appear black at times. So how dark exactly white appears in your picture needs to be experienced and learnt.

Sketch #3: Bathroom and stairs, Charcoal A3

Two days later: Sketch # 3 is drawn from almost he same position as sketch #1. In #3 I had to darken the white wall facing me several times as I was underestimating the tones. The brain just thinks it knows what a white wall should look like, but this knowledge hinders me to see what’s there. The 3 light sources are from the door at the left and some at the ceiling to the right (daylight) and the bathroom (lamp). The right edges of the stair are a bit unconvincing. Largely as I have simplified what was there (1 more pole and a glass protection with edges… very fussy). You can still see it’s an imagined border… I would have to work on that.

A note on paper… #3 was drawn on the backside of a watercolour pad’s first protection paper. It is a bliss to work with compared to the cheap thin drawing pad paper I used for #1 and 2. But I guess a Seurat would have been able to make a cheap ugly paper shine too.

Sketch #4: window view, Charcoal A3

In #4 the sky over the mountains between the tower blocks has to be the lightest parts even though there are some lit white parts of the room. The whole composition looks a bit dull right now, but I could imagine it with a colourful sky against a monochrome rest of the picture so that it reads more as a window to nature in the distance. In that case I should remove the storage boxes from the window sill, as the eye gets hung up on them. Even the plant would probably have to go. In that case the interior should be as simple as it can be. Also the right part of the room could be more cut off. There is a lot of dead space in the right.

Charcoal sketches #1-4: Overview

Overall Sketches #1 and #3 with the staircase are the most complex and to me also the most appealing and universal as a little world. There is a certain atmosphere with the variety of subtle light sources.

5: Extending the view – research (how did other artists do it?)

Painting I – Task: Drawings of rooms with an accurate perspective. How did other artists solve this problem?

Vilhelm Hammershøi. Interior, An Old Stove. 1888. 62 x 54,5 cm

I wanted to see how other artists had tackled the interior of rooms and saw Hammershøi’s paintings of empty rooms and opened doors suggesting something but revealing nothing.  Colour, tone and mood remind me a bit of Morandi. He can make greys shimmer.

Hammershøi’s Interior above is a bit different from his other pictures in its fuzziness (I hope this is not due to a bad reproduction). It seems like he has swallowed a Seurat drawing and infused it with colour. This is for me the most atmospheric of the Hammershøi paintings I found.

I made a perspective drawing of it below. What initially looks like a frontal view at the wall with the open door turns out to be a slightly angled pane, of which I cannot quite tell if it meets at the same eye level as the open door. Something looks quint in the wall behind the stove, but it does not harm the picture at all.

Hammershøi with perspective lines and eye level

Vilhelm Hammershøi. White, Open Doors. 1905. 52 x 60 cm

Hammershøi with perspective lines and eye level

The white doors seem generally accurate in terms of perspective. But the right open door seems to have the eye-level shifted up a bit. Also there is a wobble in the upper right of the left door frame as well as on the left door and on the left of the right open door that feels odd. It looks almost as if this picture was taken from a book where the paper wasn’t quite even. When I searched for this image however I found these slight distortion in all of them. Might it be in the original too?

Johannes Vermeer. A Maid Asleep. 1656–57. Oil on canvas. 87.6 x 76.5 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accession Number: 14.40.611

Compared to Hammershøi, Vermeer’s sleeping maid sits in a room full of domestic items, draped and arranged. It’s warm. We got a frontal view with an eye level probably at the upper part of the picture. The chair and the stripes of the table cloth are the only perspective line indicators I can see. The rest is either a frontal view or it is cut off like the door.

Paul Cezanne: Curtains. 1885. watercolour on paper. Musee d’Orsay, Paris, France

Cezanne’s frontal perspective of a wall with a door is a background to his fine drawing of the curtain folds. It was a nice way of simplifying what’s there and focusing on the soft aspects – the drapery, the patterns – of a room. He also doesn’t see the need to fill the entire paper. His colours seem carefully placed.

Wassily Kandinsky. Interior (My dining room). 1909. Oil on cardboard. 50 x 65 cm. Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, Germany

Kandinsky’s Interior has a great way of distorting the objects slightly. The cupboard is slightly rounded, so perspective lines are in some sense not an issue. The door on the right must be due to an odd shaped room that has a change of direction in the wall otherwise his upper line of the door frame makes no sense. It is possible the wall has a “fold” to the left of the door frame, however the light reflection on that wall seems uniform.

Adolph von Menzel, The Balcony Room (1845), Original: Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Menzel’s perspective

Menzel’s Balcony Room feels airy and sensual to me. The perspective seems the most accurate from all pictures displayed here, judged by extending the lines of the objects.

Apparently it was a sketch he made for his own enjoyment (see this source), as it was only published after his death. Being for his private pleasure Menzel didn’t need to pay heed to academic conventions of painting at the time so this sketch devoid of a narrative and looser in style. You can almost see where the impressionists picked up the loose ends.

In summary what this tells me is that perspective is one of the components that you could be accurate about but equally you don’t need to be a slave of it in order to create a successful visual world. It depends a bit what style of painting you have. Menzel’s Balcony room would have been odd with a wildly inaccurate perspective as it stays rather true to the moment and the feel of the actual room (I assume) but Kandinsky’s colourful room can take a fair bit of bending and shaping of objects to his will.

5: Extending the view – tonal drawings in sketchbook

Painting I – Task: Make some keenly observed tonal drawings from direct observation in your sketchbook which are accurate in perspective. Simplify the shapes (check Seurat), incorporate 2 kinds of space – like a view into a different room etc.

Seurat. Railway tracks. c1881-82. Conte crayon on paper. 24.1 x 31.6cm. Source MoMA

Georges Seurat’s (1859-1891) drawings are atmospheric tonal drawings typically done with conte crayon on handmade paper. Source 1 mentions that incorporating the paper texture as a grid for his composition is Seurat’s innovation. He often used the wire side of the handmade paper to make this effect more pronounced instead of the felt side. He also used paper stumps to work the conte into the paper, evening out some of the paper grid. The same source also says that after laying down the conte pigments, Seurat scraped away some pigments in short lines following the shapes of his figures and objects, revealing the paper colour. This results in highlights that are quite sharp and almost like an etching against the soft conte marks. The Moma site (still source 1) doesn’t mention what he used as a scraping tool. (Under Techniques you will find a close up of a girl’s head of Cafe Singer that illustrates this technique very well.) He could produce areas that appear bright white with more or less extensive scraping.

The Railway tracks drawing is impressive in its barren modernism. The composition follows the railway tracks and the line of trees and electric wires to both sides. The pokey and slightly squint masts look forlorn and are echoed by another fence or mast line behind the railway dam. Despite being somewhat dark and melancholic the sky feels almost luminous.

Seurat. L’Echo, study for Bathers at Asnières. 1883-4. Conté crayon on Michallet paper 31.2 x 24 cm. New Haven, Yale University Art Gallery  Source

Georges Seurat (1859–1891). Approach to the Bridge at Courbevoie, 1886
Conté crayon. 232 x 298 mm. Thaw Collection, The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York. Source

Source 1 also has a feature where you can flip through selected pages of Seurat’s sketchbook. What a treasure this applied technology is – very far from being gimmicky!

My sketchbook entry #1: Living room. Tonal drawing

Now to my sketchbook drawings. Drawing into this sketchbook felt strange. I had to fortify my Drawing I sketchbook as it was well-used and it was falling apart, but my Painting I sketchbook looks virginal. This is also because I don’t switch sketchbooks or take several along just because one would be a great fit for Painting I and the other for Drawing I.

The living room sketch #1 made humbled me – especially after seeing what Seurat did. The couch is seen from its back looking out through the big window on an enclosed terrace. Slightly fussy drawing with attempted but unconvincing perspective.

My sketchbook entry #2: View into bathroom

The view into the bathroom is a drawing made in charcoal, white chalk and some black/white poster colour on a tinted background. It works much better as a simplified drawing than the other two as there is some sense of light shining from one direction. The light dots above the sink are some chandelier-style bathroom light. Hong Kong really loves chandeliers it seems. The perspective is perhaps a bit odd around the staircase, which I wasn’t too sure how to draw, as I had to turn slightly to do it. It’s like an assemblage of views.

In this picture I realised that the white walls are very dark in the shade. I briefly tried Seurat’s scratching method to get highlights and sharp edges but it didn’t work on my thin sketchbook paper. I’ll try it with watercolour paper later.

My sketchbook entry #3: View into kitchen. Tonal drawing

#3 is the view into the kitchen with a window and some reflection of the window on the marble floor. Confusing perspective in the staircase area with stairs going both up and down, as well as the ceiling.

Sources

  1. Museum of Modern Art Exhibition 2007. http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2007/seurat/seurat.html
  2. New York Times article. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/26/arts/design/26seur.html?_r=1&ref=georgesseurat
  3. Seurat’s Secret. by Sanford Schwartz. http://www.brooklynrail.org/2007/12/artseen/seurats-secret

III: Landscape Exercise – Plotting space though composition and structure

Task: Choose one of your sketches or photographs – or return to a location to draw. A3 cartridge paper + ruler, pencils, water-soluble pencils.

Near Holdorf, Mecklenburg landscape at sunset. A3. pencils and water-soluble colour pencils on paper.

After looking at some of my drawings I have done recently I noticed I struggle to free myself from the burden of trying to be literal. Looking at Turner’s work I can see that the most free interpretations of landscapes impress and touch me most. So I tried to keep things a bit looser this time. I am not sure where loose turns into sloppy though.

  • nearer shapes are bigger, more defined
  • at horizon things turn more purplish-blue
  • colours in front are more saturated – aside from sunset glow of course, the green grass in front next to the road had a surprising intensity (middle green)

I have painted this field with the road at sunset in oil when I was in Germany in July and I was pretty fond of the scene, so I remember it quite well. However I used photographs too as a memory aide for this drawing (see below). The colours of the water-soluble pencils – especially the yellow are quite garish. It’s hard to keep things a bit toned down. I should have left them dry and used water only in some sections.

Watercolour sketch, postcard sized

I liked my quick postcard-sized watercolour sketch better as the watercolours are much nicer to handle and have better colours than my water-soluble pencils. Thinking of Turner’s sketches I tried to put a bit of detail into the picture only where the eye should go for a walk – so the road and back via the single tree in the field. I like the colour bleed and the pink and mint green of the fields that I couldn’t replicate with my pencils.

I realised in this drawing that the sky yellow going in a diagonal towards the left is quite important for the composition. (This is because I didn’t have it initially so the eye didn’t wander so well in the picture.)

Memory aide of my Mecklenburg landscape.

Note: At this point I will take a break from Drawing I and do a couple of painting projects as I really haven’t done much for the OCA Painting I course, and I am not even mentioning the Sculpture I course. Taking 3 courses was really a case of hubris, a common problem of mine when I am enthusiastic about something.

III: Project Landscape – research point William Turner

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), English painter during the period of Romanticism in Europe. Turner’s landscape painting style became ever more abstract with age (especially after the 1830s) leading the way to impressionism. Below I selected some pictures from the Tate website (links to originating website are given in caption) which delighted me.

Joseph Mallord William Turner. Rouen: The Quai du Havre ?1827-9. Gouache, pen and ink and pencil on paper. 142 x 192 mm. Source Tate

How did he plot the space? A road connects foreground and background, which is always a neat way of suggesting depth. THe foreground has large unfussy lines suggesting a pedestrian walk and the trees on the right. The middle ground is dominated by a large shadow – probably figures – under the line of trees. The background has strong verticals – masts of ships and the houses echoing the road and vanishing at the horizon line.  The pen and ink additions are very effective, roughly following the shapes, especially in the middle ground where the houses are clusterin.

Joseph Mallord William Turner: View up the Alzette Valley, Luxembourg, with the Fortifications of the Rham Plateau, circa 1839. Gouache, pen and ink and watercolour on paper. 138 x 192 mm. Source Tate

This picture feels so light-hearted it makes me smile. The foreground has some large rocks and green slopes leading towards a fortress wall and a town in the valley below,barely indicated with free pen and ink drawing. The background turns blue-whiteish, the green hills turn yellow in the light that appears to be a clear day’s morning sun.

Joseph Mallord William Turner. The Rham Plateau and the Bock, Luxembourg, from the North-East circa 1839. Gouache, pen and ink and watercolour on paper. 142 x 190 mm. Source Tate

This is an exaggerated variation on the “road into the distance” theme. The pen and ink lines convey some structure which turns smaller and scarcer in the middle ground and is only feather-light in the background where the eye should wander along the rim of the mountain. The foreground and middle-ground is also much more colourful, saturated.

Joseph Mallord William Turner. Luxembourg from the Alzette Valley to the North. Gouache and watercolour on paper. 140 x 187mm. ca 1839. Source Tate

This gouache and watercolour picture feels more mature than the two above from the same year and location. It blurrs the mountainscape into a friendly-coloured haze that still has a lot of depth. How is that possible? We have a deep shade in the river valley with the bridge which is clearly marked out. It is not so much a dark-light contrast – with half-closed eyes the blue valley is not that much darker – but more one of colour (blue versus yellow/pink). Very interesting.

Sources:

  1. The Art Museum. Phaidon
  2. Wikimedia
  3. Tate website

III: Landscape Exercise – Clouds

Drawing I, Part 3:

Exercise: Drawing cloud formations

Task: draw comprehensive tonal studies of clouds in charcoal, oil pastel and conte with the aid of a putty rubber, draw quickly, several sketchbook drawings

Cloud formations. Poster colour on ocker straw paper. you can do nice layering effects with washes of different dilution levels of poster colours.

Today is a glorious day. There are recognizable cumulus clouds in the blue sky. Mind you folks – I live on Hong Kong! There was not a single drawable cloud for months as either the smog was so bad that all you can identify is a thick glaring haze, then it rained for months on end or if there once or twice may have been a glimpse of a cloud it came at an inconvenient moment – when I forgot my drawing material for example.

Not so today friends of the clear skies, I spotted them right away when I opened my eyes this morning and peered outside: clouds. All you lucky people living in lands with fresh air – you will not be able to share my joy.

Cloud formations. Pastel pencils. Charcoal partially erased with putty rubber.

I write this post on 9 May 2012, the day that the Russians call “Victory day” as this is the day Germany finally capitulated after WWII – the East Germans strangely celebrated it on 8 May  and called it “Liberation Day” while the West Germans called it “Capitulation Day”. As a teenager I was always afraid of the power of words as they reveal so much about us and our thinking and other people can manipulate us with their cunningly chosen words. The naming of the day the war ended would be a case in point.

Cloud formations. Charcoal partially erased with putty rubber.

My clouds were rather fast-moving which caused the strange experience of starting to draw one cloud and as that particular one seemed to have changed so much, I just continued with other clouds – so they all melted into my amalgamated cloud. As if you start to draw your mother, then your dad replaces her and you continue drawing and when he leaves your neighbour sits in for him. What comes out is a drawing of a human, I suppose. And I thought I was getting pretty fast sketching compared to a couple of months ago.

Cloud formations. Poster colours. Watercolour pencils on cardboard (which sucks in a lot of water, but gives a nice effect)

I liked working with poster colours most. I can see how the eye gets trained doing tonal studies in charcoal/conte only. But for clouds in an A4 sketchbook? Poster colour and other wet media seem so much more suitable for the small scale drawings to me. Anyway, isn’t colour always connected to a certain tone too? Charcoal and me – we are still not super close friends although they have warmed to me a little while drawing people.

But I just cannot find the attraction in oil pastels. I shunned them for the clouds exercise once again. Oil pastels are also the reason why chronologically today, on May 9 2012, I am still procrastinating the exercise on drawing vegetables with oil pastels. I should just get over with it to get it out of my way.

Update:  14 August 2012 In the meantime I’ve actually done the oil pastel vegetables and it wasn’t as bad as I imagined it to be. I also did some watercolour sketches of clouds while at home in Germany. The first attempts were quite harsh looking, but wetting the paper produced much more blurry, soft shapes. I worked over sketch 1 and 2 in the method after realising this as a technique in sketch 3, but #1 and 2 never acquired the same “easy fluff” as #3 had from the beginning. #1 and 2 are quite heavy-handed and #2 hasn’t won anything by adding the trees.

sketch #1 and 2: watercolour

The last sketch #3 feels good to me. Lightweight yet with some body. An accident had happened as I splashed some yellowish in the lower right. However I feel this colour contrast to the blue and purplish grey may have lifted the drawing. That’s interesting to note that if I want to give the impression of a blue sky then maybe a hint of colour (contrasting – say yellow/orange) will work much better than just trying to create blue with different blues.

Just like in cooking when a pinch of sugar lifts a savoury dish and a pinch of salt perfects the cake.

sketch #3: watercolour

%d bloggers like this: