Assignment 5, Option 3 – Drawing outdoors



Final drawing for Assignment 5: View from East Quantoxhead, Somerset, Conte pencils, ink, gesso (36.5cm x 36.5 cm)












Adjusted following tutor feedback to add a little more light on the water, particularly near the horizon line.



Finally after lots of experimentation I feel I have found a way to work with the texture of gesso that feels appropriate, and adds atmosphere to my drawing. It was a rocky journey and many of my experiments didn’t work wonderfully well, but we learn as much from what doesn’t work as from what does. I am pleased I persevered.


To create this picture I first primed watercolour paper with  gesso and while wet drew into it with a brush to create texture that would be complementary to the objects, e.g. sweeping marks for the grasses, linear marks for the rock platform, wavy lines for the sky.  Once dry, I put a wash of coloured inks over. Because I used acrylic gesso there was a slight resist, which gave subtlety to the colours. Then I drew into the gesso with Conté pencils to create more depth of colour where needed, to bring out the lines of the grasses, the rock platform, etc.


Image before sandpapering

At this stage my drawing looked a little dark and dull, but by using sandpaper selectively over the gesso, I was able to bring out highlights to give texture to the limestone rock platform, add a frothiness to the sea edge.

What works?
The composition and the square format work well. My earlier landscape format studies felt dominated by the rock platform and this composition creates a more harmonious balance.

I am pleased with the slight sense of mistiness created by the sanded gesso, and the textures of the rock, sea edge and  grasses.

The colour palette is cohesive and while I might have liked to use some brighter colours, this would not have suited the slightly misty, ethereal nature of the drawing.

My finished drawing demonstrates the practical application of several aspects of the Drawing 1 course including use of light, texture, interesting lines and marks and linear and aerial perspective.

What doesn’t work so well?
The far horizon line is not very distinct, a little wavy even. This probably reflects the fact that I couldn’t quite decide whether or not to include the distant coastline on the other side of the Bristol Channel. But I don’t mind this too much. My drawing is not intended as a  photographic representation.

I’m reasonably happy with the sky, which features some slightly Van Gogh like wavy lines, but the sea looks flat. I had added some subtle lines with the gesso to indicate the direction of the waves but they got lost in the process.

While there are faults with my drawing, I am reasonably happy with it as my chosen assignment piece. I considered going back to draw it again and rectify the faults but I’ve found repeatedly that my immediate expression of a drawing is often the best. My attempts to improve can, unfortunately, lead to ever tighter, less expressive work. When drawing this picture I thought of it as another study, one building on a lot of preparatory work, and I judged it later as a possible candidate for the assignment piece. This approach seems to work best for me and saves me tying myself up in too many anxious knots!

Did I achieve what I set out to  at the start of Part 5?

Below are the objectives I set  myself for Part 5. Although my working method felt a bit erratic at times, I’m surprised and pleased to find that I did stay reasonably focused on my initial goals.

I want to explore capturing a view in an ethereal, abstract way. Possibly mist hugging the landscape or sky as an important element of my picture. I would like to be able to take a view and simplify it; capture the essence of what I see and how it makes me feel.

I’ve  begun to understand that I have a tendency to overwork my drawings and take the life out of them with detail that obliterates the starting point of good expressive lines. So I want to avoid doing this and get into better habits.

I’d like to experiment with some of the drawing techniques I saw at the Jerwood Prize exhibition. For example, priming the paper with gesso and drawing with printer ink and using unusual angles or viewpoints, interesting sweeping marks that add atmosphere and a dynamic quality. I would like to pay particular attention to light and shadow. Light glowing through clouds or mist and or a brooding, dark shadowy picture. I do not particularly want to create a pretty picture postcard image. I want to continue to experiment with different media and drawing techniques.

Crikey… I can hardly believe it but  apart from the final self-assessment, I’ve finished Drawing One. There were times when I thought I’d never make it but I have!


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