Exercise: Composition

Review the composition of your preparatory drawings to decide the features to include, whether to go for portrait or landscape format, placement of horizon line etc. Look at main compositional lines etc. Make notes on your developing ideas on the range of materials to use to convey the dynamics of the structure of your big drawing.

I approached this exercise by photographing the preparatory sketches of East Quantoxhead (this being the location I feel I’m most likely to work with) and then pasting a print out into my sketch book and exploring (on the page facing) how the composition might be improved. I brought this exercise forward as I felt I would like to review composition before doing any larger drawings.



East Quantoxhead 1
Reviewing this sketch I thought the horizon line could be dropped a little so that overall the drawing conforms to the rule of thirds. Then I reconsidered the fence and how the drawing would work without it. Overall I concluded that a square format without the fence would draw the eye to the limestone platform which is the main feature of picture. I feel the original composition with the fence works too – interestingly the inclusion of the fence and more prominent foreground foliage makes a quite different picture and demonstrates how relatively small tweaks to composition can lead to a very different image.

Drawing pen and ink, with a fairly subtle use of colour, worked quite well in the original sketch.



East Quantoxhead 2
This drawing looking across the limestone platform to the headland in the distance is the one I am most excited by. Reviewing this I felt the composition needed a better balance with more sky and more sea, more reflected light, the horizon line to be dropped and some but not too much of the textured of the rock to be pulled out. In my original sketch I used gesso, printer ink and Conté crayon. I would drop the black printer ink and consider using  Conté pencil and wax crayon.



East Quantoxhead 3
I concluded that this picture looking down at a path leading through the dune like scrub land to the beach and rock platform below was too busy in its original form. The main features feel as though they are the path itself and the foliage and including he intricate patters of the rock platform feels like a step too far. I feel the best approach would be to use roughly the bottom left composition (which is a crop of the original) but replace the lines of the platform with more simple reflected light on water. If I ever get time to rework this picture I would use the same wax crayon and ink resist but lift the colours (they look better in the photo than the original drawing).



East Quantoxhead 4
This drawing looks down at the rock through the foliage at the top of the cliff. I concluded that the foliage was too heavy and dominant and a distraction from the limestone platform, with it’s lovely rounded lines, which is the  main feature. The photo crop bottom left which zooms in on one feature, reduces the foliage and includes more sea seems to work best.  The original drawing (which was a bit dark and gloomy) was graphite pencil, ink and furniture polish over the top. I’d give this another go with a lighter touch using Conté and wax crayons. The polish over the top seems to seal and pull it all together. Smells good too!



East Quantoxhead 5
I felt this drawing had some merit but that it was too busy and that it would benefit from the application of the rule of thirds (in an approximate way) as well as slightly clearer definition between the layers of sea, rock and grasses. I also thought about abstracting this and creating three different layers with no overlap. I can’t tell if this would work from my initial sketch, I would have to try it out. I would stick with the gesso and charcoal and possibly add a little colour with Conté crayons… or perhaps better kept stark?



East Quantoxhead 6
My original sketch of the curving lines in the limestone platform had way too  much going on. I feel a simplified composition would work better focusing in on the crescent shapes, introducing more sea and sky so the picture can breath a bit and dropping both the beach areas and the grasses. Originally I used gesso and Conte crayon. I think gesso and black printer ink might work well.

What did I learn from this exercise?
This exercise made me realise that there is often potential for a much better composition by zooming in on detail, cutting out extraneous elements etc. Going back and looking at my initial sketches with a fresh eye enabled me to see them differently and I’m surprised and pleased about how much material and ideas I now have to work with. In every instance I concluded that less is more. However, I don’t mind the fact that my initial sketches were over complicated because this enabled me to capture a lot of elements to consider and work with later.




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