III. Project drawing trees – Sketching an individual tree

Exercise: Sketching an individual tree


III. Project townscapes – check and log

Henry Moore’s Double Oval in Hong Kong

View from roof of Jay’s studio, blue house, Hong Kong

Jay’s studio courtyard. Watercolours with biro

Jay’s studio courtyard. Version B, final

Jay’s studio courtyard. Pastel and gouache

Study of a townscape using line (an a bit of wash). ink

How did you use a limited palette to create a sense of depth?

I think the lines towards the vanishing point and the size of the windows in the different buildings help to create a sense if depth. Other than that the blue building is cardboardy which annoys me looking at it. I should go over it once more. I don’t quite understand the question… I guess I have lots of colour in the foreground and the background buildings are rendered in black and white… but that that’s what they looked like, I didn’t invent this.

Did your preliminary sketches give you enough info for your final pieces of work?

I think I am at a stage where I experiment a lot with the format and composition. So I should – in hindsight – include more of the surrounding into the initial sketch so I can choose later which part I want to be in. My imagination tends to be less good when I am back in the studio – say if I need to add more on one side.

Would you approach this task differently next time?

Sure, I would try something different next time. Even my courtyard intestine pictures – despite being similar – explore different things (formats, mediums, diagonals, saturations) I am not done with this, I will go there with my easel and oil colours in December.

Have you got the scale of the buildings right? Make notes on what worked and what didn’t.

I think because I worked from life as well as from photographs it was easier to get the proportions right. I can often see much better what’s big and what’s small if I quickly look at a phone picture of the scene I am drawing. Then I compare that with the reality. To me it helps establishing the big patterns on the paper.

I know photographs seem to be partially frowned upon (or is that a dated information?) but many great artists have used them successfully. The key seems to learn to do it freely. That’s my problem. To leave the photograph and add myself.

Have you captured the colour and atmosphere in your studies? How did you do this?

Colour and atmosphere are quite hard for me. I struggle with colour at the moment and when I get it right it seems like a happy accident – I have very little control of it.
I feel I captured an evening mood well in the drawing of Henry Moore’s sculpture being cleaned at night. The mood of Jay’s studio courtyard is not bad either (though the pastel/mixed media version lacks).

The black ink line drawing has some unfulfilled potential. Since I probably say that about all my drawings, that’s a valueless generic comment. So more specifically the composition needs some pruning on the bottom and left, potentially even taking out the sky. Also the lights have to be planned more carefully in an ink wash drawing like this. The whole thing of an ink wash drawing of the night appeals to me. This could be very evocative if I got rid of detail. Actually this picture as a tonal drawing rather than line. My lines are without energy – too laboured and careful.

The blue house picture is somehow too dirty (my medium usage) to convey the happiness of this Hong Kong ballet of tower blocks that I thought it was in reality. The scene appeared fresh but that got lost along the way.

III. Project townscapes – Drawing statues

Drawing statues: Henry Moore’s Double Oval in Hong Kong Being Cleaned

The only public sculpture in Hong Kong that is worth mentioning is Henry Moore’s Double Oval. The other “only one” is Henry Moore’s Pointed Oval I guess, but the surrounding architecture of fear – I am talking about the silly miniature fountains that HK seems so very fond of, that probably are there to keep people from climbing onto the sculpture —- somewhat diminishes the enjoyment. The Double Oval is currently being cleaned which gives a good sense of size. What a beautiful thing that sculpture is. Henry Moore’s sculpture always catches me off-guard.

I used my new-found lovely super thin sticks of willow charcoal on yellow pastel paper and then added pastel.

I cannot tell if it’s a good drawing since I have had too much wine. But I enjoyed the drawing of the drawing, so who cares. Today.

III. A bit of fun

Townscape made with old letterpress letters/Chinese characters

I participated in a random little get-together at an old letterpress workshop in Sheung Wan, which will close down this year. (Rents are high and the printer Mr Lee is in his mid 80s and looks quite fit. He still has one of those 70year old Heidelberg letterpresses, which works but is not really used anymore as the whole process is a bit too expensive for Hongkies who will – usually – go for either dead cheap or expensive if labelled appropriately. Letterpress is not Gucci I guess.)

Up there is my little Friday evening doodle made with the old lead characters and letters and a stamp pad (apparently with words like “cool” “investigation” “wood” as one of the organisers told me). A bit messy and dirty but so is Hong Kong’s beauty.

III. Project townscapes – a limited palette study from your sketches

View from roof of Jay’s studio, Prince Edward, Hong Kong. Black conte stick, watercolour (blue/brown-orange, green), partially overlaid with gouache for corrections and a black fine liner for details.

This was a beautiful view of a ballet of tower blocks, sadly I couldn’t convey that beauty in the drawing. I used a black conte stick for the initial drawing, which was the first time I worked with this medium. It’s similar to charcoal, just harder and therefore better for details. But it’s capable of rich blacks. It dissolves somewhat in water, so I gave it a partial wash. Maybe that just made it look a bit dirty?

  • I like the composition,and there is this lovely window in which someone hung his coat and other clothes on hangers. It looks very poetic in reality, it may have got lost in the drawing, though I tried to give it a bold dash of orangey colour
  • the perspective seems okay-ish, but then I haven’t tried to check against the eye level
  • there may be something wrong in the background right. Maybe I could eliminate this building, it’s too distracting
  • the blue house corner is rather unconvincing. The house doesn’t look solid. A bit like a wonky carton.

The course material asked for coloured pencils. I have those watercolour ones. I admit I prefer watercolour and brush though as it is quicker and has more pigment. My watercolour pencils always look so limpid, so I struggle to see their point a bit. Maybe I am doing something wrong and I should try again.

III. Project townscapes – a sketchbook of townscape drawings (V)

View from Jay’s studio. Watercolours with biro cropped from A3.

And again my courtyard intestine picture. This time with a bit more freedom, including the framing house attachments protruding from the house I am standing on. Those are quite typical for Honk Kong – people hang their laundry on poles and slot them into these holders. This time I chose a portrait format. I think the whole thing is better with a slightly landscapish format though. Anyway I think the additional framing  by the laundry racks and bamboo scaffolding pole works.

III. Project townscapes – a sketchbook of townscape drawings (IV)

View from Jay’s studio, version 1. Watercolour and ink, A4 (stage 1 and 2)

I really loved the city from above. In the streets outside Jay’s studio you can barely move through the crowd, everything being really narrow, but up there… on the roofs of the city you can breathe. It’s fantastic… all those tower blocks – peeling paint, creative constructions, dishevelled and yet really special.


  • I wetted the watercolour paper from both sides and stuck it onto some oil painting board still in its plastic wrapper. I waited until the sheen of the water was gone, then blotted with a towel.
  • I drew quickly with watercolour and then pulled some lines into the semiwet colour. The effect is greater with greys and darker colours. But overall it’s really subtle. (this stage is shown in both initial versions = the left ones)
  • Then I added more watercolour and some ink lines

View from Jay’s studio, version 2. Watercolour and ink, A4 (stage 1 and 2)

I had this Turner book from the library with some of his late watercolours. They are so extraordinary, I wanted to try a lighter touch to my usual tight detailed drawing. My version 1 is pretty heavy-handed. The first stage (left) looks better than the finished.

Version 2 had a lovely swish in it’s preliminary stage following the valley of tower blocks, which is kind of lost in the final version. But it is still an improvement on version 1. The little window roofs on the far left building leading into the picture turned out quite well. The rest is a start. There is a mood. So I will leave it at this for a while and return to it later. I am not quite through with this motif.

I just realised that both pictures are in reality not as saturated as they appear on screen. But I quite like the saturated version. Maybe another couple of touch ups later then… I should be bolder and not overwork things so much (says she, after just indicating she’s going to do “a couple of touch ups” later).

The next day: I tried to tread very lightly, trying to enhance saturation slightly without tightening up the drawing any more that I already had. It’s impossible to compare it with the version above which was in reality much more grey and delicate. The version below looks pretty close to the amended drawing though.

Version B, final

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