I can hardly believe how much preliminary work I did for this project but it was an enjoyable journey and paid off. I could look at it another way and say that the prep was fun and relaxing and I kept going in order to delay the day on which I had to draw the final picture which I always find quite stressful!
I started out with some questions in my mind. Did I need to include the window itself? If so how would I handle this so that it becomes an integral part of the drawing? How much of the drawing should the window take up? What kind of angle would work?
I did some internet research to look at how various artists have handled views through windows including Andrew Wyeth, Matisse, Charles Camoin, Pierre Bonnard and others. This helped to clarify my thinking and also made me ask myself more questions. Should a part of the interior be included? Should I include an object such as a vase on the window ledge? Should the curtains be a feature?
I decided that because the brief required a lot of visual elements in the view, I should keep the rest reasonably simple and not include the interior, objects on the window ledge or curtains. I decided to include a window frame as a simple but integral part of the image. I was particularly influenced by Andrew Wyeth’s Love in the Afternoon.
View / composition
I did rough sketches of various views to help me evaluate what would work best. These included:
Views from upstairs towards our garage and a tall pine tree. Initially I was keen on this as I thought it would build on the drawing trees exercises but in the end I decided that the landscape approach looked like a garage with a tree sticking out of it and that the portrait version was really a picture of a tree and didn’t fit the brief.
We had recently visited friends in North Yorkshire and they have stunning views from their house. I did a sketch later from a photograph and although I didn’t dislike the result as a composition, the photo was taken on a dull grey day and I felt the lack of light would seriously disadvantage this.
Realising that working from home would give me opportunities to look at light and shadow at different times of the day (not an option with a photo of a distant subject) I looked for more possibilities and decided on the view from the front of the house. I tried both the downstairs and upstairs views and bizarrely ended up with something inbetween in my first trial picture!
I also explored whether to have the open window on the right or left. It became immediately clear that left was not going to work because of the clash of windows within windows.
My first attempt was A4 using coloured pencils. The result was a bit neat and, frankly, boring. But it alerted me to the fact that the perspective was not correct and that I had drawn a view that was ever so slightly impossible due to trying to rearrange parts of the upstairs and downstairs views together…
I then thought that perhaps there was too much house and the picture would work better cropped to square to put more focus on the gable, window and gate. (I later changed my mind).
Experimenting with other media
I had a go with pastels having enjoyed using these for drawing trees but I didn’t feel they suited the building… I tried putting a water wash over to see if this would make it a bit more impressionistic. It didn’t!
Needing and finding inspiration
I was concerned my picture would end up without any atmosphere or expression. So I had a think about artists that draw buildings in a characterful way and having recently seen some of his work at the Sainsbury Centre, John Piper came to mind. I pasted print outs of some of his paintings, screenprints and etchings into my sketchbook and studied them.
Of course I can’t begin to emulate Piper’s work and my chosen view has nothing of the drama or grandeur of the buildings that feature in his pictures but the exercise helped me to think about how I could loosen up my picture and introduce some atmosphere… light, shadow, good foreground, interesting skies, loose expressive lines, bold not timid lines.
I had a go in my sketchbook with oil pastels, and still using the square format . The result was a bit better but lacking light and shadow. It felt too heavy and I did not know how to handle the building.
My next attempt, still using the square format, was with Quink ink and bamboo pen for the outlines and Brusho inks for the rest. This was better but still more of a cute illustration rather than an atmospheric work of art.
It was late at night and as I wasn’t enamoured by the picture I decided to experiment with it and put a light bleach solution over the top. I have done this before in a very sparing way to give a bit of a lift to a background but I had never washed a whole picture in bleach. This was interesting. The black ink became a softer brown with, the orange hues turned white, green turned turquoise and yellow bleached out leaving only a hint of the colour.
The turquoise was a bit overbearing so I painted blue and green over it. It was late at night and I didn’t do this with any subtlety and found I preferred the earlier image, which fortunately I had photographed.
But I did notice that the three key elements (building, gate and window) stood out and their relative relationships didn’t look right. This made me decide to revert to the landscape approach with more of the building which I still feel was the right thing to do.
Although I had some uncertainties about whether putting bleach all over my work was the done thing, I felt the result was edging in the right direction so experimented in my sketchbook with how different dilutions of bleach would work.
Then I did a quick A4 rough picture to explore how reverting to landscape would work and what would happen if I used bleach on my initial ink drawing and then added colour after. This was quite successful but I preferred the outcome of the first experiment and decided to go with that for my final drawing.
Steps to final drawing
Step one: drawn with black Quink and bamboo pen and coloured with Brusho inks
Step two: dilute solution of bleach applied – a little more heavy handed than I had intended.
Step three (final): a wash of coloured inks applied to balance the colours and reduce the amount of turquoise.
Also see: Assignment three: View from an open window