Drawing Skills 1, Pt III : Drawing Outdoors / landscape / research / sketchbook walk / 360 studies / clouds / plotting space / perspective

Landscape Drawing : Research point OCA p 77

I’ve looked at the work of several landscape artists throughout the ages and have chosen three to mention in my blog because of the vast differences in their style.

These two classical pictures by Claude Lorrain below show a little of his versatility.  The simple shapes of the pines drawn in pen and brown ink give a sense of peace and tranquillity.  The background has been barely sketched in to focus all one’s attention on the trees.  He has captured the way the branches are almost bear underneath and thicker toward the top.  The little house and small tree to the right take the attention around the scene and supply just the right amount of extra interest.  I wonder if this was a finished piece or whether it was a practice sketch for a more detailed piece or for inclusion in other pictures.  He was one of the first painters of pine trees, beginning to include them in his oil paintings in the mid 1630’s (1)

Claude Lorraine "Pines"

Claude Lorraine “Pines”

The second work by Claude Lorrain (real name Claude Gellee) includes more detail, hard landscape, animals and human form.  Is the rider on the bridge heading for the castle or passing it by?  The sky is full of cloud but the sun is poking through and Lorraine has used a clear circle for the sun itself and fine ink lines to depict the rays in an almost naive way.  The light under the bridge is highlighted by the darkness of the shadow of the bridge supports.  Light glances off the backs of the sheep going down the bank to drink.  The composition places the main focal points to the centre and right of the drawing but the secondary interest moves our attention round it.  Personally, I don’t think this is one of his more accomplished pieces but it is called an “idealised” view so perhaps that explains my feelings about it (2)

Landscape with Rider and Idealised View of Tivoli

Landscape with Rider and Idealised View of Tivoli

Above:  Claude Lorrain, Landscape with a Rider and an Idealized View of Tivoli, 1642, Pen and brown ink with dark brown wash on white paper, British Museum

Lowry:  The Fever Van

Lowry: The Fever Van

Lawrence Stephen Lowry was an English artist who frequently painted scenes from his locale, Pendlebury, Lancashire where he lived and worked for 40 years.

They appear childlike and simplistic and yet have great charm and movement.  They form a wonderful depiction of industrial and social history.  I’ve included 2 pictures below; one drawing and one painting.

“The Fever Van” shows the busy street with the Church and factory in the background; very important institutions in their day.  I’m not sure what the van is selling at all or why ‘fever’ unless that describes the rush to buy its wares.  It may be wartime rationing in operation.

Lowry: Agecroft Regatta 1948

Lowry: Agecroft Regatta 1948

However simplistically they are painted, Lowry’s works do give us a lovely insight into the habits, work and play of the local population and are fun to stydy.  As an example, my second choice is “Agecroft Regatta” (1948).  Again, the inevitable factory is still there in the background but the people are having some summer fun.  Lowry has an eloquence to his work that speaks volumes.

Although I’ve studied many other landscape artists works for this research I’ve chosen to feature Barbara Rae, a Scottish artist who still works at Edinburgh School of Art where she studied in the 1960s.

Barbara Rae : Mayo Coast 2008

Barbara Rae : Mayo Coast 2008

Barbara Rae : Dhun Padraig

Barbara Rae : Dhun Padraig

I love the vibrant colours and layers of pigment.  I enjoy working out for myself what the picture is all about.  There is movement but little or no detail of form.  I find these landscape paintings energising and uplifting and, although these are not drawings, I wanted to include them here as a foil for the other works covered in this research.

(1)  http://lelorrain.louvre.fr/en/html/ll06.html

(2)  http://www.berkshirefinearts.com

Exercise : A Sketchbook Walk : OCA p 78

My first ever foray out of doors with a sketchbook.  It was a bit daunting but fun.  I completed this task whilst on holiday in Spain in February so the weather was better than it would have been at home.  It was mild and cloudless for the most part.

The walk I took a few times was along a stretch of beach away from our apartment.

Fig 1: sketch #80

Fig 1: sketch #80

Fig 1 shows my first sketch of a look-out tower which has now been included in part of a private garden, hence it has stone walls and plaster balustrade above a bank of yucca-type plants.  The beach curves around the wall.  This sketch is on A4 watercolour paper and was drawn in pencil.

I have tried to give an impression of foreground grasses and the slope up to the walls and the way the soft light cast few shadows.  There were various opportunities for mark making with the lines of the gate; the soft concrete of the sloping wall against the stonework of the other walls; the spiky yucca, grasses and smooth columns.

Fig 2 shows a stretch of beach further along where a lone sunshade sits gazing out at an

Fig 2: #81

Fig 2: #81

old lighthouse; long since defunct.  Birds sunbathe on the rocks.  I found the sand particularly difficult to capture; also the edge of the sea where the gentle waves lapped.

I like the fact that a sense of distance is created with the foreground sunshade, middle-ground rocks and distant clouds.  There was also an opportunity for tonal values with the rocks and darker shades of ocean on the horizon.

Nearby we come to a clump of trees Fig 3 that grow right on the edge of the shore.  I

Fig 3: #82

Fig 3: #82

enjoyed drawing the knots and patterns on these trees.  They are executed in soft pencil and graphite.  It is interesting drawing in monotone as the colour often tells us more about what we are looking at so I had to work harder and think about how to depict my scene.

As the sea was a uniform mid-blue and the sand cream, I have simply shaded for the sea and marked the unevenness of the sand with little heel-marks.

I added some colour with oil pastels (not my favourite) to Fig 4 which depicts two fishermen untangling their nets at the end of their day with the village in the background.

Fig 4: #83

Fig 4: #83

When I drew this in ink, the rooftops were too dark and therefore didn’t look as if they were further away so I hatched over them in a white charcoal to soften them.

The passing ship in the background also gives some sense of depth and adds a little interest to the composition.

There were many opportunities for mark making with the fence, the curvy roof tiles, the interesting chimneys and the net.

Exercise:  360 degree studies : OCA p 79

Having read the instructions today, I notice that these drawings should have been completed in 15 minutes.  Because of their complexity, they took me longer and I sketched out some outlines and worked them up in our Spanish apartment via photographs.

We had driven into the mountains to find somewhere where there was some sort of view in 4 directions, eventually finding a cafe with balconies and a car-park that afforded the opportunities I needed.

Fig 5: #84

Fig 5: #84


My view North (fig 5) is from my high vantage point on the balcony of the cafe and shows the hills covered in crops.  The sky was grey at this point so there were no shadows.  I really enjoyed studying the shapes in this picture and the opportunities for mark making.

Fig 6: #85

Fig 6: #85

To the East of the car-park the ground rises somewhat (fig 6) .  There was a low white painted wall with a large stone and an urn blocking the entrance.  The palm tree on the left gave the work an extra lift and is balanced by the fields on the right.  The little house brings the eye to the centre of the drawing and the sloping shapes take one round in a loop.

I am struggling still to get good photos of my work for the web so the image isn’t quite as clear as it should be.

Facing South (fig 7) This farm is at the same height as the cafe and car park, just the other side of the road.  The sun came out more strongly and the shadows of the trees on a grassy bank help this picture to have some contrast, particularly the silhouettes of the trunks and branches.

Fig 7 : #86

Fig 7 : #86

Using a viewfinder (as with all the pictures here) I created my composition to flow from left to right.  The olive trees make lovely shapes in the sky, almost spelling out a hidden message.

I wonder if I should have put some clouds in my West facing picture (fig 8), though there were none.  The top looks a bit bland.  The road and the ground have dropped away from the farm and we are beginning to look down on the scene which adjoins Fig 5 above, making a full circle.

I wanted to capture the featheriness of the very long grasses in the foreground and used the dark cedar tree on the right as a contrast to the whole piece.  There are a few shadows from the sunshine – the trunks of the trees forming little dashes on the grass of the olive orchards but something darker was grown in the top field beneath the olives, though I have no idea what it might have been.

Fig 8 : #87

Fig 8 : #87 L A4


Fig 8(a) : sketch 87/L/A4


Having completed this exercise I chose Fig 8 to colour.  I photocopied the image onto watercolour paper and then used chalk pastels to shade it.  I chose this particular picture because there were more colour contrasts in the scene.  I loved the pinky lavender colour of the grasses.

I do feel the tree now ruins the composition though!  What a shame.

Research Point : OCA p 79

What challenges did Monet, Pissarro or Cezanne face when painting in series and how did they tackle them?

I have looked at all three artists because I found it interesting that all three painted some scenes many, many times; all three faced differing challenges and all three overcame them in their own ways.

Between 1867 and 1893 there were many severe winters in France and Monet painted dozens of landscapes illustrating the natural effect of snow.  This was certainly a novel way of overcoming poor weather as an artist.

Monet - Rouen Cathedral

Monet – Rouen Cathedral

He was used to painting a subject many times over because he noticed the changing light, atmosphere and weather conditions altered, even though the scene in all practical ways stayed the same.  The main composition was provided by the objects but the interest and emotion was provided by the different times of day, shadows, reflections and different weather conditions.

Monet worked on many series, not just his famous garden at Giverney but “Haystacks”, “The Houses of Parliament”, “Rouen Cathedral” and “Poplars”, amongst others.    When working on his cathedral paintings he rented a room opposite and kept many canvasses ‘on the go’ so that he could move from one to the other as the light changed.

In 1923 Monet had two cateract operations.  These may have affected the way he saw colour and he even repainted some of his water-lilies to become bluer after the operations.




Pissarro fell in love with the streets of Paris.  He wrote:

“I have always loved the immense streets of Paris, shimmering in the sun, the crowds of all colours, those beautiful linear and aerial perspectives, those eccentric fashions, etc. But how to do it? To install oneself in the middle of the street is impossible in Paris.”

His friend, Piette, solved the problem by suggesting “elevation” so, from his hotel window Pissarro painted 16 views looking along the Boulevard Montmartre and toward the Boulevard des Italiens often with so few changes to the pedestrians positioning that it seemed as if he had painted them in quick succession.

Pissarro "Boulevard Mortmartre at Night 1897"

Pissarro “Boulevard Mortmartre at Night 1897”

He painted these same scenes in sun, cloud, mist and rain and all times of day and night to capture the beauty and excitement of the city.


Cezanne faced a different challenge completely.  Maybe he suffered with an obsessional disorder.  In a letter to his son in 1906 he wrote:

Cezanne technique

Cezanne technique

The same subject seen from a different angle offers subject for study of the most powerful interest and so varied that I think I could occupy myself for months without changing place, by turning now more to the right, now more to the left.” 

In his landscape pictures of his native Aix he was challenged by the creation of depth in his pictures and devised a system of layers to construct a series of horizontal planes intended to draw the viewer into the landscape (example right)


Exercise:  Drawing Cloud Formations : OCA p80

The sketch below (fig 9)  is created with charcoal, a blending stick and a putty eraser to create the wispy clouds above the sea.  I’m quite pleased with this as it looked quite like the sky I was trying to create.  The almost imperceptible cloud wisps in the background and the nearer and more solid ones.

Fig 9 : sketch #88Fig 9 : sketch #88

In Fig 10 below I used another charcoal technique.  It does look somewhat contrived as I knew I didn’t have time to draw all the multitude of clouds on a stormy day and would never get the complexity as it was ever changing.  The rays of the sun popped through from time to time so I have marked these out with a pencil (shaped) rubber.

Fig 10 : #88

Fig 10 : #89







Fig 11 : 90

Fig 11 : 90

In Fig 11 (right) I have used pastels to create my blue sky with fluffy white clouds.  As the light is coming from above and right, there were shadows on the heavier clouds.

I think the paper could have been better as I found it hard to do white clouds once I had laid down my blue base.

Fig 12 : sketch #91

Fig 12 : sketch #91

Fig 12 shows the sky outside my living room window.  This was the first sky I attempted and it drawn with 4B pencil, blending stump and eraser.

I didn’t feel I had captured the featheriness of the clouds as well as I could have and I certainly preferred working with charcoal and pastel.


This exercise was good practice and I need to try and try again before I can achieve really lovely skies but it was very interesting and certainly a first for me.

Exercise : Plotting space through composition and structure : OCA p81

Fig 13 : initial sketch

Fig 13 : initial sketch

Fig 13 : sketch 113/2

Fig 14 : sketch 113/2

For this exercise I chose a photograph I

had taken locally with distant trees, a middle ground of a farm and a foreground tree, broken fence and hedge.

My initial rough sketch helped me decide what to keep in and leave out and where to focus on the darks and lights.

Fig 14:  I have used a charcoal pencil for the tree in the foreground with pencil at the edges where the fine haze of twigs and buds were.

The rest of the drawing is in different grades of pencil to achieve the distance.  I really enjoyed this exercise and looking back on the drawings I did for the 360 degree sketches, I realise this element of the feeling of distance is missing.

Research Point : OCA p83

Looking at the work of Claude Lorrain and Turner there’s a lot to learn about perspective in the landscape.

Claud Lorrain

Claud Lorrain

This example by Claude Lorrain shows the foreground trees in the darkest of shades framing the tower in the distance.  The space between is clear because of the lighter shades.  The white ribbon of river highlights the piece and breaks it up; preventing it from being too dull.  Hills or mountains also show distance, both from the foreground and from one another with the furthest peaks in the palest colour, fading into the background.



To the right is a Turner showing a canal scene and the lovely low sunlight which causes all sorts of shadows and highlights. The foreground shows dark shadows to the left and sun shining on the building on the right.  There is a dark tree to the right in the middle distance but the darkness doesn’t mean it looks too near to the foreground, just that the beautiful light is shining on the back.

Directly behind it another building is in a softer and lighter shade, depicting more distance and there are almost indistinguishable shapes on the horizon.

There is activity on the left-front which is much more sharply depicted than anything going on behind, again making the distance clear.

Check and log

I simplified my studies by leaving out some of the details that were there in real life but added nothing to the composition.

In my earlier sketches in this module I created a sense of distance by making objects in the background smaller than those in the foreground.  In my latest piece I also used lighter shades further back and more detail toward the front.

My light and shade isn’t yet as good as I’d like it.  I feel I’m getting better at noticing shadows and tones though, as I progress but I have a long way to go before I really get the hang of it.

For the larger study I had a photograph blown up to A4 size and studied it to decide that to keep and leave out.  I drew a rough sketch, making notes on where to keep detail and where to fade the line or form out.  Maybe I could have made another more detailed drawing first but I’m not sure this would have produced a better result.



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