I decided to develop the East Quantoxhead views of the fossil beach because the texture and abstract patterns of the limestone platform appeal to me more than the more conventional landscape views from Robin Hood’s Hut. But I am pleased to have explored both. It was good practice with lots of enjoyable discoveries.
During the course of the exercises so far I considered whether to include a fence, fossil hunters on the beach or birds in the sky but because I am aiming for the rock of the limestone platform to be the object of the drawing, I have decided against all these.
Thinking about how to gain the most benefit from this exercise, I decided to:
1. Look further at ways of depicting the limestone platform, including choice of media and colour.
2. Consider how to make better use of light.
3. Consider how my composition might be improved. Am I including too much – would a more simplified / abstract approach work better?
Rather than approaching these issues point by point, I kept them all mind as I did further studies.
Working with the aerial perspective viewpoint
I did this A2 drawing earlier for the aerial perspective exercise and felt it had some merit but was a bit washed out. I reworked it a couple of times as below:
I added more colour and included the distant land on the other side of the Bristol channel to add interest to the composition. I added a bolder fossil type detail to the bottom left corner.
The outcome felt over worked and dark, as if I’d gone from one extreme to the other. The stronger use of colour felt dreary, possibly because I’d used black wax crayon to pick out the gesso texture. I’d successfully added more light (after studying some of Turner’s paintings) but I wasn’t satisfied.
Feeling that there was nothing to lose I sandpapered this drawing vigorously ( surprisingly, the coarse sandpaper was able to cope with the wax crayon). This resulted in a much changed, watery, aqueous sort of drawing. It emphasised the gesso highlights and gave texture to the distant cliffs. All in all an interesting and effective experiment. I considered this as a contender for my assignment drawing but rejected it because I wasn’t totally satisfied with the composition and, overall, I thought the drawing was too busy.
Like a woman possessed I continued to work with this same composition but this time I cropped the final piece to square. I used less gesso. I was pleased with the foreground texture of the rock platform and preferred the square composition but overall this drawing didn’t get me wildly excited, mostly because of the dull colour scheme.
Detail of the platform/water’s edge
For this study I worked with a fairly thickly applied coat of acrylic gesso and used it to draw the lines of the rock. I used Conté pencils to add subtle colour. The pencils were more effective than the crayons I used previously as I could work into the texture of the gesso. Then I gave parts of the drawing a light wash of coloured ink. I did not use wax crayon as I had previously and this I feel was an improvement. I rubbed the gesso down with very coarse sandpaper and a bit of elbow grease and I was pleased with the result. The white highlights this created lifted the drawing and gave it a frothy, foamy texture with a sense of movement.
The result is more wave than rock platform. I’m pleased with the outcome and like it as a drawing inspired by the limestone platform and water’s edge rather than being a literal representation. I considered using this as my assignment piece but decided it did not demonstrate a wide enough range of learning. I continue to waver on this point…
Decision on composition
I reviewed the composition of all my East Quantoxhead drawings and concluded that the linear perspective drawing was the most effective. It includes a good mix of component parts – sky, sea, rock platform, foreground grasses, distant hills – all with a harmonious relationship to each other. I made a decision to work with this composition for my assignment piece.
After viewing the Constance Stubbs paintings in Ipswich I came away with vibrant colours dancing around in my head and found myself questioning why I was using such a limited colour palette to depict East Quantoxhead. The days I visited the location had been grey and dreary with very flat light and perhaps this had stuck. I decided that I would try to lighten up and that I did not need to be totally literal in my interpretation of colour. I did some colour experiments in my sketchbook and also discovered that a more subtle, less heavy effect is created by using ink first and then Conté pencils over.
Considering whether I might drop the gesso, I experimented with using ink to depict the foliage in the foreground of my chosen square composition.
In the end I decided to stick with gesso as the texture felt suitable for a fossil beach. One of my earlier gesso drawings had included foreground grasses and I decided to try a variation of this approach in my final drawing, with Conté pencil instead of wax crayon and sandpapering to bring back highlights.
Light on land and water
I looked at several artists work to study light including Turner’s Norham Castle Sunrise and Inverary Pier as well as modern paintings such as Jean Pierre Douchez’s Les Petits Vacances. I observed that reflected light can float across water (or land) in a channel from a setting or rising sun or it can be depicted as patches of scattered light, with an awareness of the direction of the light of course.
I found Judy’s Hempstead’s technique of placing oblongs of light or shadow over her paintings interesting. While this technique doesn’t suit the diagonal lines of my chosen composition, it’s an effective approach, adding an abstract element, and worth remembering for the future. See St Adhelm’s Head on the Red Rag Gallery website.
OK, there’s no avoiding it… I’ve done my prep and it’s now time to get on with my assignment drawing!