Exercise: A sketchbook walk

Walk one: Combs village

A very cold winter’s day with bright, white light. It was around 11am and the shadows were strong.


Picture 1: Tannery Road, Combs, HB pencil and coloured pencil

I took a walk around our village with my camera and then did my sketches later from home as it’s been more than a bit difficult this January to find daylight time when it is not raining or a gale blowing!

Picture 1: While quite an ordinary picture of an ordinary house in an ordinary road I liked the line of the hedge and path and the orderliness of it. There was a strong shadow cast on the road and a glowing green, very neatly clipped hedge.
Thee was also a bit of nice foreground that could be developed in the road markings which continued the line of the path.


Picture 2: Lane leading from Tannery to meadow


Picture 2: This scene felt way too chaotic.  I found it hard to know what to focus on because the of all the scrubby bushes and twiggy trees. The willow tree’s fine hanging twigs looked like ginger hair glowing in the light, and at the end of the lane the meadow was glowing with yellow light.



Picture 3: This is Tannery Barn and it is a very big, imposing structure with lovely clean lines, untouched by trees or anything surrounding.  Interesting angles and negative space. The sky was much more bluer than in my sketch, the light very white and bright, casting strong shadows. Lovely textures in the weathered wood. If it had been built as wonkily as I’ve drawn it, it certainly would not be standing today!


Picture 3: Sunnyside Cottage, HB pencil

Picture 4: Sunnyside Cottage. The strong overhang of the eves of this tiny one room thatched cottage caught my eye and the shadows of the tree on the wall. I did a much better job of sketching the tree and the hedge here and simplifying them so they did not overwhelm and confuse. I feel this is quite a nice composition and has a reasonable foreground, middleground etc.


Holly Cottage with armchair and cat
HB pencil

Picture 5 In our village (which is a bit neat and proper) most of the armchairs are inside the houses so this made an unusual picture, particularly with the cat. Strong white light was coming from the left and lighting up the armchair, so much so that you couldn’t see the pattern on the right-hand arm of the chair. The cat was not amused. Not a great composition but a  moment in time captured.

I enjoyed these exercises and felt they were a really good warm up after all the distractions of Christmas and the New Year. So I decided to do another second sketchbook walk…

Cold Comfort Farm Walk, Little London
It’s not really called Cold Comfort, that’s my name for this higgledy piggeldy, tumbledown, old-fashioned farm. There aren’t many like it nowadays as shiny steel structures have replaced  nicely ‘ frayed’ wooden barns and sheds. This place is a gem, especially in the summer when there are chickens and cats everywhere. On this wet winter’s day the predominant features were mud and puddles. There was a low, glowing early evening sun, about 4pm.


Picture 1: Lane running past Cold Comfort Farm, HD pencil

Picture 1: The light was shining like a golden beacon on the land at the end of the lane and on the loose straw bales in the foreground. A cold white light was shining from the wet mud on the lane. Got to work on how to draw mud!


Picture 2: Barn and cow shed, Cold Comfort Farm, HD pencil




Picture 2: The wooden barn was suffused with reflected golden light from a sun that was just beginning to set. This contrasted sharply with the dark interior of the cow shed. All kinds of textures on the barn where it has been patched and mended repeatedly.


Picture 3: Van and muddy track at Cold Comfort, HD pencil



Picture 3: Looking down the track towards the setting sun, there was a truck parked and the evening light was shining on the side window and making the muddy puddles glow. Slightly better job of drawing the muddy track…  Mud really is quite fascinating when the light is bouncing off it…


Picture 4: Straw bales at Cold Comfort


Picture 4: Big round straw bales, the golden evening sun was bouncing off the ends. Amazing light. Surrounded by scruffy sheds and outhouses. Foreground barbed wire fence. Twiggy winter trees difficult to capture.



Looking back at these sketches I realise that I need to think  about foreground / middleground / background. A sharply focused foreground is missing from most of my pictures (except perhaps  Sunnyside). I am glad I had another go as my sketching improved and got faster as I progressed.

The exercise made me realise that the camera sees in a completely different way to the human eye and that we are much more flexible, we can look into the sun, for example, and get up see what’s behind something !

Waldringfield river bank


Riverbank at Waldringfield – rough sketch, pencil, coloured pencils

I had a go at drawing outside at Waldringfield, it was freezing and windy and people kept coming over to offer me sympathy but the late afternoon light was lovely and made the landscape look decidedly un-British. I did a rough sketch and then did another picture later at home using both a photo and my sketch.


Waldringfield, coloured pencils, water wash


Nothing great but enjoyable practice. The golden light made the winter skeleton trees look like they still had their autumn canopy. The sun suffused the whole image with golden light and also tinged the tops of the clouds.


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