Research Points: Interiors


Research the work of the Dutch Realist genre painters and choose two or three paintings that particularly appeal to you. Look at the devices employed to draw the viewer into the experience of the occupants of the room.

Johannes Vemeer (1632-1675)

A fairly obvious choice for looking at interiors, Vermeer was famous for his scenes of 17th Century domestic life.

The Music Lesson by Johaness Vemeer. The Royal Collection at St James' Palace

The Music Lesson by Johannes Vemeer.
The Royal Collection at St James’ Palace


Vemeer has used perspective to show depth and space in the room. His subjects appear to be unaware of his gaze and the interior itself is almost as important. The light from the window illuminates the figures and elevates them as the focal point, as does the tiled floor guiding the eye towards them. Adding in the table with its detailed cloth and jug, chair and cello gives a narrative to what could have been a static pose.





Pieter de Hooch (1629-1684)

A contemporary of Vemeer, de Hooch is not so familiar to me.  However, he also was known for painting interiors, with the specific device of looking through an open door.

Card Players in a Sunlit Room by Pieter de Hooch The Royal Collection, Windsor

Card Players in a Sunlit Room by Pieter de Hooch
The Royal Collection, Windsor


This painting is a realistic looking scene of a group of card players.  The light is expertly and convincingly painted from the outside to in, the sheen on the door and the cast sunlight coming in through the door on to the floor points to the room’s occupants. Again the chequered tiles draw the eye to them and also on out to the courtyard, introducing the advancing figure to the story. The offset placement of the key figures give it a realistic composition, with one figure standing adding to the scale of the room and its contents. The more I look at this the more I like it. Its colours are fairly neutral but for the few flashes of red to lift its impact.



Look at interiors that have been painted by various artists from different periods. Look especially at how illusions of space have been created, how doorways and windows form a part of the composition and how furniture and objects are depicted either as a central focus for the painting or as secondary to any human drama.

Mr & Mrs Clark and Percy (1970-71) by David Hockney (b 1937)

This painting is a portrait of the artist’s friends, however, it says so much more. It is well documented that the sitters were not getting along too well at the time and the placement of the figures in their setting does give the impression of division. The open door not only creates a barrier but seems to be offering a means of escape – if only for Percy the cat! Placing the figures against the light of the open door does not throw them into the spotlight but seems to make them become part of the interior being contre jour.



Robert Louis Stevenson and his Wife (1885) by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)

Sargent has given a sense of space through open doors in this painting and then taken it away again by adding the gloom of the hallway and the seemingly unobtainable exit by the front door. The direction of the floor boards lead away into the dark, foreboding, hallway.  I always forget that this image includes Stevenson’s wife as she blends into the interior so well I think she’s part of the furniture – she almost appears to be hiding! The rug on the floor is horizontal and Stevenson is pacing (I imagine) back and forth deep in thought and has been caught mid ponder.

Richard Diebenkorn – Royal Academy of Arts


Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993)

I just caught this exhibition before it was due to close on the following Sunday – I had wanted to attend the OCA study visit but was away at the time. I am so glad I made the effort to visit under my own steam as this is, probably, an unlikely to be repeated opportunity.

I have to confess that I had not been aware of this artist until his exhibition was publicised through the OCA and on Facebook groups to which I belong. I also admit that I know little or virtually nothing about abstract art other than I like a piece of work or I don’t, it speaks to me or it doesn’t and if it does, it usually has the colour red in it. There, a total philistine! I remember many an occasion at the tea-table (we had tea in those days, not dinner!), with my mum and dad watching the news when some art work was causing a storm at the Tate Modern – prime example was the “pile of bricks”, or even a Picasso or two. Its fascinating what you absorb when you’re young from those around you. My mum was as proud as anything with my school art works, I remember catching her trotting round to my neighbour’s one afternoon after school, with a painting I’d done for my O Level course work to show it off to her. Both parents were very supportive of my endeavours, with dad taking me off to town and buying me all the materials I would need for my art lessons – a small fortune in those days. However, back to the tea-table where everyone said “Look at that! A five year old could do that!” – including me! So, there I was in front of quite a lot of abstract work at this exhibition and all these memories came tumbling over me – quite emotional! Is that what abstract art is about – making you feel not just see, or is that all art???

Anyway, my first thought was, I thought that there would be more – I had decided to go round quickly first and then go back to those works I particularly liked.  However, after discovering it was only three rooms, I went round again slowly looking at everything carefully, and then again. My second main thought? I wish there was more!

Richard Diebenkorn at the Royal Academy

Richard Diebenkorn at the Royal Academy

I have to admit, I am true to my roots, in that I particularly loved the representative work, the life drawings, the figures, they all had so much energy, I enjoyed the workings over and over. I thought the still life in interiors were great (maybe because that is where I’m up to in my course – the negative shapes that built the structure and the patterns that weren’t ignored but celebrated as an excuse for more colour).  I was drawn to the “Ashtray and Doors” 1962, such a simple, almost throw away subject but it was beautiful and had narrative (no smoking ban in those days!).

In my humble opinion, I came away thinking that Richard Diebenkorn was a master in composition and colour, my example would be “Cityscape #1” 1963.  It has pattern, light and shapes that are recognisable yet don’t have to be – it makes sense to me, the flattened perspective works and still somehow manages to represent distance.  The seemingly cross over work, abstract-representative-abstract, is accepted by my brain, I’m getting a few steps closer! Looking at those of the Ocean Park series that were displayed, I did struggle, I warm to curves rather than angles and straight lines. However, I was drawn to the Ocean Park #27 painting for some time – there was more to it than geometric shapes, I liked the under painting and reworked lines and shapes – I felt absorbed but am not sure why.

Works I returned to for second or third viewings:

  • All the monochromatic life and figure drawings, I could see the struggle and observation in every mark.
  • Cityscape #1
  • Ashtray and Doors
  • Interior with View of Buildings – a large work that took a little “looking at”, so I did, for what felt like at least 10 minutes!
  • Girl on a Terrace – mesmerising and a little uncomfortable in composition (not as in disturbing but as in making you work to see it).
  • I even went back to the Disintegrating Pig!!

Part 3 Drawing Outdoors – Assignment 3 Reflection


Assignment 3

View from a Window or an Open Door

Try to find a view that includes some natural objects; trees, shrubs, pot plants, fields or garden plants. Also try to find a view that will allow you to demonstrate your understanding of aerial or linear perspective – in other words a view that has some demonstrable depth to it.  Look for a view that offers an opportunity to draw straight-lined objects as well as items drawn from nature: buildings, walls, fences, gates and so on.  This may seem like a lot to look for, but most views from windows and doors will offer you a bit of all of these things.

Below are two work in progress photographs plus the final piece of work. I did many preliminary sketches, working out orientation, composition, perspective, media, colours and process of execution. However, I am unable to evidence these as my sketchbook has been lost in transit to my tutor. A very frustrating and demoralising experience, I hope never to repeat. Valuable lessons learnt: Blog my learning log – a handmade, handwritten learning log is all well and good when you have it – so here I am blogging for the first time in my life; Photograph EVERYTHING front and back to include all notations made during working; sketchbook, tricky one because it does have to be physically seen at some point, but still as before photograph EVERYTHING, every page, every mark, every note. A couple of my exercises have been completely lost with no photographic evidence. Still hoping for a miracle that one day, someone will find my carefully taped and labelled A2 portfolio and send it on or back to me.


Part Three Drawing Outdoors Assignment Three: A View from a Window or an Open Door  Work in Progress 1

Part Three Drawing Outdoors
Assignment Three:
A View from a Window or an Open Door
Work in Progress 1


Part Three Drawing Outdoors Assignment Three: A View from a Window or an Open Door Work in Progress 2

Part Three Drawing Outdoors
Assignment Three:
A View from a Window or an Open Door
Work in Progress 2












Part Three Drawing Outdoors Assignment Three: A View from a Window or an Open Door  Final Piece View from the Summerhouse, Late Morning, Bright Sunshine

Part Three Drawing Outdoors
Assignment Three:
A View from a Window or an Open Door
Final Piece
View from the Summer-house, Late Morning, Bright Sunshine
Watercolour Pencils, Drawing & Marker Pens on A3 Heavyweight Watercolour Paper


Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

Have tried to expand the materials I use in this entire section, including conte pencils and sticks, marker pens and different types of pastel.  I have discovered a preference for drawing pen over pencil but will keep varying media to experiment. I have also tried to vary my mark making, particularly to describe textures and tones there-in.

I feel that my observational and compositional skills continue to grow and am pushing myself with challenging choices. I have continued to use smaller sketches as preparatory source material and am fully engaged with the need to produce different orientations and simple tonal sketches to move larger studies forward.

At the beginning of this section, I clearly struggled with many aspects of perspective, however, I am pleased to see quite dramatic improvement in practice and understanding of the subject.This was achieved through dogged determination and perseverence and studying reference material carefully.

Areas of development: Continue with perspective in practice to achieve a more natural and less mathematical, yet still accurate style; maintain variety of media and not to become too reliant on pen work. Note to self – Have realised that I often ignore the chance to use charcoal and this is a surprise to me as previously, it was the first medium I reached for when drawing – will make a concerted effort to use this in future.

Quality of Outcome

Continuing to plan for end pieces of work and have discovered the value of tonal sketches before committing to the end piece. Understand the importance of presenting work in a structured and aesthetically pleasing way, referencing source material and preparatory sketches to illustrate the process of work. Always making notes as I go through the process of creating work in order to organise my thoughts, and, allowing myself to change my mind through experimentation and analysis of results. Am gradually realising the concept of my ideas in my final pieces of work, whereas previously, what was in my mind would not appear on the paper.

Demonstration of Creativity

I am particularly pleased with the final assignment piece, due to intensive working through my preliminary sketches. I experimented with composition, perspective, tone and media, each moving me on to the next stage. I was particularly taken with the choice of violet for the shadow areas, as it is a warmer colour than blue and helps describe a hot, sunny day.  This I carried through to the final drawing, which I feel retained the atmosphere and feel of the day and scene. I am pleased with the play of light, using complimentary colours and the looser feel yet retaining accuracy. Maybe I am beginning to find a style with light and compositional aspects?

Development area: Will continue to try to loosen up my work and become more expressive.


This has been the toughest section in the course so far – however, having persevered and worked very hard at the perspective in particular – I am very encouraged. Initially there was much research and looking at other artists’ work, which always leaves me itching to get to work myself, however, this was extremely informative and forced me to look at familiar paintings in a more analytical way.  I particularly enjoyed looking at Turner’s paintings and am absolutely convinced of his genius by discovering it for myself rather than just being told.  Hopefully I have communicated this in my learning log. The points raised within my research notes, I hope, have sunk into my brain and influenced my progress in this section.


Project: Drawing Trees – Check and Log


Check & Log

  • How many different tree types have you drawn?
    I drew several types of trees: Mulberry (in full leaf but no fruit); an unknown named tree (in full leaf); Bramley apple tree (full leaf, some fruit); Coxes apple tree (full leaf, some fruit) and an old Lilac tree (full leaf, flowers gone over).
  • What techniques did you use to distinguish each type?
    The apple trees were in full leaf with some fruit forming, so they were quite dense and solid in shape. I tried to concentrate on the tone of the whole leafy area, picking out a few leaves and branches only where they were actually visible. The Mulberry tree had been pruned from the bottom so a lot of trunk and lower branches were showing. the trunk was quite textured so more sharp, scratchy marks were used to show that. the leaves were more individual and a nice broad shape theat curled interestingly. These shapes were drawn more realistically and in the expanded view tree drawing, I tried to show the direction they pointed in and how as a group they “fell” in a certain way, almost as if draped. The “tree with no name”, had a tangle of branches with numerous knobbly twigs which were fun to draw with pen, using stop/start strokes with different thicknesses.
Project: Drawing Trees Exercise: Sketching an Individual Tree

Project: Drawing Trees
Exercise: Sketching an Individual Tree
Studies of the whole Mulberry (top left) and “tree with no name” (top right) and then zoomed in detail of leaves and branches beneath each.

Project: Drawing Trees Exercise: Larger Study of an Individual Tree  Bramley Apple Tree  Markers and liner pens on A3 white cartridge paper

Project: Drawing Trees
Exercise: Larger Study of an Individual Tree
Bramley Apple Tree
Markers and liner pens on A3 white cartridge paper













  • What did you do to convey the mass of foliage?
    I avoided detail and concentrated on lights and darks which help give the illusion of an abundance of foliage. By working pen marks in different directions and hatching into where the darks were, leaving areas for the lights, the leaves seemed to appear without specifically drawing them.
  • How did you handle light on the trees? Was it successful?
    The way light fell or showed itself on the tree was a little unexpected as it was bounced around within the leaves.  It didn’t always follow the pattern of dark away from the sunlight – it was sometimes reflected by the leaves up and/or down and around the edges of the leaf canopy, the sun shone through individual leaves giving them a translucent quality.  Using drawing pens for uncoloured work, made it easier to distinguish light and dark. By laying in bold darks at first, I was able to convey some light as well as texture and shape.  Once changing to colour it was easier to see whilst working, although using oil pastel there was a limit to the amount of pastel the paper would take, even if scratched off first.  Probably the most successful was the lone apple tree – this done in monochrome with differing pen thicknesses and also placing it in a background so darks and lights could be added around it in the negative shapes.
Project: Drawing Trees Exercise: Study of Several Trees

Project: Drawing Trees
Exercise: Study of Several Trees
Coxes apple tree and old, leaning lilac tree against beech hedging. Late morning to mid afternoon, bright sun with dappled shadow.
Underpainted with watercolour pencil washes, marker pen and oil pastel on watercolour paper A2

  • Did you manage to select and simplify? Look at your drawings and make notes on how you did this, and what could you do better?
    • Homed in on interesting part of larger trees to fill the frame
    • Simplified foliage by concentrating on tone and adding small amounts of detail close to.
    • With the colour oil pastel drawing, I think I could have made the darks darker to help emphasis light.  I did try to concentrate on the trees but needed to place it in its setting – maybe the background is a little too distracting?


Project: Townscapes – Check and Log


Check & Log

  • How did you use a limited colour palette to create a sense of depth?
    Project: Townscapes Exercise: A Limited Palette Study from your Sketches

    Project: Townscapes
    Exercise: A Limited Palette Study from your Sketches
    Conte Pencils – black & sanguine
    Coloured Pencil – sky blue
    On white cartridge paper – A2

    I used primarily two colours plus the white of the paper ie sanguine and black conte pencils. In the distance I used both colours very lightly to show aerial perspective, yet still varied tones by hatching albeit faintly.  Middle ground was depicted a little stronger using the black over the sanguine to keep colour subtle but to indicated tone, shape, recesses and shadows.  In the foreground I have used stronger contrasts and increased the strength of both colours – the sanguine to give more strength of colour and the black to increase the depth of shadows, particularly in the through alleyway.  At the end I introduced a pale blue in the sky to indicate some light clouds and distance.

  • Did your preliminary sketches give you enough information for your final pieces of work?
    I was much happier with my initial sketches as source material this time – especially compared with my previous 360 degree studies in the Landscape project. The detail, slightly differing views and particularly the tonal sketch were extremely helpful.
Project: Townscapes Exercise: A Sketchbook of Townscape Drawings  Alms Houses, Fordingbridge, Hampshire

Project: Townscapes
Exercise: A Sketchbook of Townscape Drawings
Alms Houses, Fordingbridge, Hampshire
First on the spot sketch with notes in pencil

Project: Townscapes Exercise: A Sketchbook of Townscape Drawings Alms Houses, Fordingbridge, Hampshire

Project: Townscapes
Exercise: A Sketchbook of Townscape Drawings
Alms Houses, Fordingbridge, Hampshire
Tonal sketch which also simplified shapes












They made me adapt my composition by putting the focal point in its setting and making it more of a picture rather than just a sketch of building architecture.

  • Would you approach this task differently next time?
    I think I would consider my drawing position more carefully another time.  Unfortunately, I had to keep moving for cars leaving and entering the parking space next to me – typically no other space had comings and goings! Also in this kind of view, I think I would occasionally sketch the people/movement through the scene, it wasn’t as bustling as in the hight street but not deserted either. I had to imagine the figures in the final piece. I would definitely, do a tonal drawing again – maybe even simpler than this one.
  • Have you got the scale of the buildings right? Make notes on what worked and what didn’t.
    I am happy with the scale as I put a lot of effort into it. For my preliminary sketches, I drew a

    Project: Townscapes Exercise: A Sketchbook of Townscape Drawings Alms Houses, Fordingbridge, Hampshire

    Project: Townscapes
    Exercise: A Sketchbook of Townscape Drawings
    Alms Houses, Fordingbridge, Hampshire
    Adjusting the composition to give a sense of place.

    frame and marked it around the edges and squared it up.  As there were many diagonals and perspectives, I felt it important to mark where lines began and finished.  Marking in the eye level was also very helpful.  This was particularly difficult as the buildings did follow the bend in the road which skewed the perspective slightly with small differences in vanishing points.  I was careful to note the height of the distant trees, the size of the car in the distance and how the windows followed the same pattern around the building.  Adding in the figures also assisted with showing the scale.  I tried to relate each element to its neighbour.

  •  Have you captured the colour and atmosphere in your studies? How did you do this?
    I am pleased with the colour aspect.  By using the sanguine for the predominantly red brick and clay roofed buildings, this has given a sense of realism, even with a limited palette.  As
Project: Townscapes Exercise: A Sketchbook of Townscape Drawings  Alms Houses, Fordingbridge, Hampshire

Project: Townscapes
Exercise: A Sketchbook of Townscape Drawings
Alms Houses, Fordingbridge, Hampshire
Final sketch before the limited palette study, all the elements worked through are included here to include in the final piece.

for the atmosphere, I was trying to avoid an architectural style of drawing (albeit not as accurate), which is difficult when concentrating on the more mathematical aspects such as perspective and scale.  This is where the tonal sketch was particularly useful as detail was secondary to the tones and shadows.  I think this worked to a degree but in future, to obtain more atmosphere and a less clinical feel, I would introduce more tone and less detail, even in the foreground.  I also tried to make lines a little more uneven as the buildings are fairly old (early 20th Century) and have gained character and some crookedness. Adding trees and figures in the distance helped plus a shadowy figure exiting the foreground (a la Degas?) gives it more of a narrative.  However, on the whole I think that this is its biggest weakness.

A Note Regarding the Previous Project: Perspective

As noted in my previous post Check and Log – Perspective, one of my key stumbling points in successfully understanding this, was “How do I decide whether a line/angle runs up or down?”.  During the exercise: Study of a Townscape Using Line, I thoroughly worked through my difficulties. Sitting in the High Street of Fordingbridge, I attempted sketching the view down the street.

  1. I used the view finder
  2. Marked points around the edge of my drawn frame in my sketchbook
  3. Marked my eye line
  4. Noted the elements contained in fore, middle and backgrounds
  5. Employed aerial perspective
  6. Noted where lines began and ended
  7. Tried to reproduce what I could see
  8. Drew the row of shops and buildings using parallel perspective – hang on, is that line running up or down? Here we go again I thought!

I struggled on for an hour or so and took some photos so I had more reference when I got home.  I returned to the same spot the next day and around the same time. Worked on the original sketch again and made some zoomed in detail sketches and notes. I came home and prepared my A3 cartridge paper, squaring up in readiness to enlarge my sketches – with some trepidation as I still didn’t really understand why I wasn’t getting it. Next day, determined to crack this, I set about enlarging my drawing – tackling the row of shops, I drew in a faint line for my eye level and … by jove I think I’ve got it! Lines below the eye level run up to the vanishing point, lines above run down! Why on earth I couldn’t get this I don’t know – so simple and let’s be honest very logical! Anyway, that’s the happy ending – so now to practice, practice, practice!

Project: Townscapes Exercise: Study of a Townscape Using Line  Fordingbridge High Street

Project: Townscapes
Exercise: Study of a Townscape Using Line
Fordingbridge High Street
My initial sketchbook sketch – when I was still struggling.


Note: I would have loved to post the A3 study to illustrate the breakthrough, however, frustratingly it was lost in the “post” with my other work and even more annoyingly, I omitted to photograph that one piece before it was despatched.

However, once the drawing was sketched out, I re-enforced the lines of foreground objects with a thicker Sharpie marker and gradually used thinner nibbed drawing pens through the image to the background. This enhanced the aerial perspective as well.

Project: Perspective – Check and Log


Check & Log

  • What problems did you find in executing perspective drawings?
  1. Parallel Perspective: Unsure whether I’d judged the eye level correctly.
    Parallel Perspective - an Interior View

    Project: Perspective
    Exercise: Parallel Perspective – an Interior View

    What looks right doesn’t always seem to follow the perspective rules.

  2. Angular Perspective: This completely lost me to start with. I had external and internal corners to draw and have often, in the past, been unable to decide if a line is angled up or down and this results in the drawing not being “right” but unsure why.
    Open doors and windows throw in opposite angles to the frame they are within.
    It seems that sometimes the mathematically drawn version looks wrong too, especially with old buildings with warps and twists and leaning walls.
Project: Perspective Exercise: Angular Perspective

Project: Perspective
Exercise: Angular Perspective
An unsuccessful drawing with a myriad of confusing lines and angles – will I ever get this?










  • Make notes on the merits of using, or not using, rulers to guide you.
  1. For using: I found using a ruler to check parallel perspective useful as a guide and to correct anything obviously wrong on occasion.  However, regarding angular or oblique perspective, I found it invaluable. I had to study the perspective section in The Artist’s Handbook of Materials and Techniques* to begin to understand the principle. It helped me clarify the angles from an internal corner and ruler allowed me to see where the line hit on the eye level line.
    For not using: This is a matter of aesthetics, using rulers gives straight lines, old buildings in particular, may appear to be straight but have evolved due to weather, ground levels shifting and general aging. If a ruler is over-used in these instances, the building loses its character.
    NB:  I am typing this retrospectively, as my work was lost en route to my tutor with a handmade and handwritten learning log. Enough said on that – not happy! However, the above is a collation of notes I took at the time, and I had not completed Assignment 3. With the benefit of hind sight, the slight indication that I was beginning to understand angular perspective, proved to be false when attempting the next project of Townscapes – I am pleased to say that, eventually, there was a happy ending – but I won’t spoil the story now.

*The Artist’s Handbook of Materials and Techniques by Ralph Meyer Fifth revised and Expanded Edition 1991.



Project: Landscape Drawing – Check and Log


Check & Log

  • In what way did you simplify and select in your study? Were you able to focus on simple shapes and patterns amid all the visual information available to you?
360 degree studies

Project: Landscape Drawing
Exercise: 360 Degree Studies
Location: Hengistbury Head, Dorset

Drawings made in the Exercises: Sketchbook Walk and 360 Degree Studies, were made easier to simplify by using the view finder. It not only helped frame the scene in front of me, it also gave me markers for where elements needed to fit onto the paper around the edges, I then had points to refer and relate to for the entire content of the image.  For selecting which of the 360 degree studies to develop further in a larger study, I found that by putting all the sketches on one large piece of paper, I could judge my choice more easily. I could see the composition most suited to illustrate the three main sections of the image, back, middle and foreground. The bottom two sketches had more depth and interest, with the last one having simple shapes to develop leading from near to far.

  • How did you create a sense of distance and form in your sketches?

I tried to use the whole scene’s sense of perspective ie not only the more obvious subjects in the landscape but the sky as well.  This helped enormously as I was having difficulty with the media I’d chosen to use (conte sticks in black, grey and white) in knocking back the tone in the distance. In retrospect I think I was more successful in creating the atmosphere rather than specific forms, particularly as I got colder and worked quicker and with less detail.

  • How did you use light and shade? Was it successful?

As mentioned above, the conte sticks being fairly hard in texture, I struggled with tonal ranges, particularly with the distance – I was aware that the distant objects should be lighter in tone and tried over-hatching with light shades with a limited degree of success.  Consquently, in theory, I knew I should darken the foreground as a foil to the distance, again with limited success. Yes I should have used charcoal, but I will learn from my mistaken choices.

  • What additional preliminary work would have been helpful towards the larger study?
  1. Considering which sketch was to be developed whilst I was on site.
  2. Sketching the same scene again a few times with each drawing focussing on different aspects. ie it would have been helpful to have information specifically for:
    1. Perspective of the manmade features (beach huts)
    2. A more detailed study of the natural formation of the sand dunes
    3. Study of the textures within the foreground
    4. A basic simple tonal representation of shapes
Project: Landscape Drawing Exercise: Plotting Space Through Composition and Structure

Project: Landscape Drawing
Exercise: Plotting Space Through Composition and Structure
Graphite and water soluble graphite pencils on paper

Instead I had a great “impression” of the scene and could remember the feeling and atmosphere of being there with the sounds and smells of the sea. This in itself was a step forward, however, I need to be able to develop these impressions and stay true to them rather than dilute with over work, which is what I think I did in the end.

Claude Lorrain re division of landscapes


Research Point

Look at the work of Claude Lorrain and Turner.  Write notes on how those artists divide their landscapes into foreground, middle ground and background.

landscape with brigands - claude lorrain

Landscape with Brigands 1633 by Claude Lorrain

Referring back to the illustration already used for Claude Lorrain.
Lorrain used tone and colour to great effect to achieve aerial perspective. Landscape with Brigands 1633 – Even though this is a monochrome etching, the use of tone is striking in separating the three main areas of the image.  The distant hills progressively become stronger in line and tone as they come forwards. The middle ground is more defined but less so than the foreground where all the action is, not only with the figures but with tonal values and detail on the near trees.

Lorrain predates Turner by well over a hundred years, yet Turner and his contemporaries have obviously observed and learnt from him. Turner used similar techniques in composition even though his style evolved very differently becoming a major influence on the Impressionists to come.




Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 re division of landscapes


Research Point

Look at the work of Claude Lorrain and Turner. Write notes on how those artists divide their landscapes into foreground, middle ground and background.

Crossing the Brook exhibited 1815 Joseph Mallord William Turner

Crossing the Brook by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1815
Tate Gallery London

An epic landscape painting which clearly defines fore, middle and backgrounds. The great sense of space and depth is my first impression. The distance is achieved with proportional scale and a more ethereal painting technique that eliminates detail and relies on subtle tones and muted colours for its illusion.  Even the sky has depth due to the smaller clouds closer together with them increasing in size and space as they come nearer to the viewer.  The middle ground has more features but these are still handled delicately plus encompassing the sunlight falling on the buildings and rocky, tree covered hills.

The foreground has much more detail and more contrasting tones. Features and subjects appear nearer due to the increase in size and detail. The whole painting is brought together by the framing of the trees on the left, the diagonal of the tree-lined hill guiding the eye up and to the right tree group and then off into the distance. Turner has crafted this beautifully and leads the viewer, although, one can also just get lost in the sheer expanse of the composition as if seeing the view in real life.

Raby Castle by  Joseph Mallord William Turner 1818

Raby Castle by
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1818
Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore

Raby Castle commissioned by the 3rd Earl of Darlington.
Again, this has distinct separation of back, middle and foregrounds, although this time the subject, the castle itself, is positioned in the middle ground. All the usual techniques have been employed ie the distant hills are muted and give atmosphere and depth. Stronger contrasts and details of the flora and fauna give a sense of closeness to the viewer, with the hounds and riders of the hunt showing scale. Cleverly, Turner has used the sky to great effect, not only for a sense of drama and framing the left upper section with a strong cloud formation, but also by using shafts of sunlight to illuminate the painting’s subject, even though the castle itself is fairly minimal in detail. Bringing the whole image together again with the composition leading the eye backwards and forwards across the painting in a natural and rhythmic way. So very clever.

Research and photographs from
JMW Turner 1775-1
851 from the Discovering Art Series
Turner by KE Sullivan First published 1996 Brockhampton Press, reprinted 2004

Pictures courtesy of Visual Arts Library London, Bridgeman Art Library


David Hockney (again)


Research Point

Look at artists who worked in series with the landscape such as Monet, Pissarro or Cezanne. Make notes in your learning log about the challenges they faced and how they tackled them.

Three Trees near Thixendale, Spring 2008 by David Hockney

Three Trees near Thixendale, Spring 2008
by David Hockney
(8 Canvasses put together 2×4)

Three Trees near Thixendale, Summer 2007 by David Hockney

Three Trees near Thixendale, Summer 2007
by David Hockney
(8 Canvasses put together 2×4)








Three Trees near Thixendale, Autumn 2008 by David Hockney

Three Trees near Thixendale, Autumn
by David Hockney
(8 Canvasses put together 2×4)

Three Trees near Thixendale, Winter 2008 by David Hockney

Three Trees near Thixendale, Winter
(8 Canvasses put together 2×4)
by David Hockney









I feel I have to return to David Hockney’s The Bigger Picture exhibition.  Within this collection there are numerous series of works recording the same scenes at differing timings, over seasons and years. Interestingly with the Three Trees series, it looks like Hockney revisited this scene the following year to produce the Autumn, Spring and Winter paintings after producing the Summer work in 2007.

Painting outside

Painting outside, putting canvasses together to increase overall painting size.


The challenges are much the same as any outdoor art work making. Hockney, allegedly dressed in layers of coats and heated gloves is not unexpected, yet his insistence in creating mammoth sized paintings outdoors in the countryside, probably is.  As mentioned in my previous post re Mr Hockney, he got round this by using several, medium-sized canvasses placed together in collections of 6, 9, 15 or so. Alignment also being a challenge, he turned, as many times before in his work, to photography to help him out.  Using digital photographs and photoshop he would “stitch” together the individual images to make one cohesive picture.

An early start and set up ready to paint.

An early start and set up ready to paint.

Many times he arrived at his chosen painting spot with canvasses, easels, camping tables accommodating boxes of paints, pots of brushes etc but also made use of iPad technology and apps as a digital sketchbook, needing only the tablet to paint on and his finger to paint with (plus, I am sure, many hours of practice with the thing!).

Interestingly, Hockney refers back to Albrecht Durer, Monet, Turner, Ruskin, Constable among others and even made his own versions of Claude Lorrain’s Sermon on the Mount in his own style.



All images are photographs of pages from the official catalogue of work “David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture” published by the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Authors: Tim Barringer, Edith Devaney, Margaret Drabble, Martin Gayford, Marco Livingsone and Xavier F Salomon – Photographic Acknowledgements contained within. Research also from the above.