Exercise: Hard or Soft Landscape

03-04/11/15

Exercise: Hard or Soft Landscape

For this painting exercise, choose a view of either a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ landscape; this could be interpreted as urban or pastoral… You may find it useful to work using the view from a window or doorway. A window could help you to isolate a single area for your painting…

As the weather is being less than kind at the moment, (thick pea soup fog or pouring rain), using views through windows is making sense. As I have in my mind to use a soft landscape for a future exercise, I decided to try a more urban view – well as urban as a small village can be. From an upstairs window I can see over neighbours’ rooftops and gardens with sheds and outhouses and the odd tree and shrub.

I had intended to make both a landscape and portrait orientation sketch. However, as I progressed with the landscape version, it actually worked as the window frame helped to form landmarks to position elements of the view.

Preliminary sketch Pen & watercolour A5 in sketchbook

Preliminary sketch
Pen & watercolour
A5 in sketchbook

 

 

As this method worked well for the previous exercise, I decided to use watercolour again. The result is a little messy yet does give me a lot of information. Outside was quite cloudy and overcast so I had to have the bedroom light on to see what I was doing.

 

 

 

Preliminary sketch Pen A5 in sketchbook

Preliminary sketch
Pen
A5 in sketchbook

 

As the colour sketch gives me a lot of detail, I decided to make a line sketch to simplify the shapes. This clarified a complex view in my mind and I then felt confident that I could recreate the view in my painting. I don’t allow myself to use oil paint in a bedroom – I know how easy I find it to make a mess, it would take just one brush to fly out of my hand and land on the cream carpet and I’d be in serious trouble!

 

 

Work in Progress for Final Painting

The light faded very quickly today, so mid afternoon I employed a daylight bulb so I could see my board properly. ┬áThis made me realise that I had started to introduce brighter colour in the buildings and gardens, whereas I had intended to keep the outside tones muted as the weather was dull. I used the “tonking” trick again with newspaper and this worked a treat. It brought some texture into the outside and played down the colours and intensity. Pleased so far, I needed to pull everything together with the interior of the window and the foreground neighbour’s garden. I had used the negative shapes between buildings and the dark and light shapes to bring out the structures, trying hard to ignore too high a level of detail.

Final Painting

Final painting Oil on A3 board

Final painting
Oil on A3 board

This photograph (and the others to be honest), is a little grainy due to the low light levels, however, it still gives a good representation of the finished painting. I am pleased with the muted, simplified outside view, although I think the window may be a little inaccurate. Having said that, I like the mood and atmosphere I see in it, the interior is brighter due to artificial light, which makes it cosy and the outside looks a little dismal. Definitely a day to be indoors and looking out!

Exercise: View from a Window or Doorway

29 & 30/10 & 2/11/15

Exercise: View from a Window or Doorway

For this exercise, choose a view onto the world. Decide how much of the interior you wish to include and where the main focus of the picture will be… It may help you to look at some of the ways in which other artists have tackled this type of composition… Make some preliminary drawings in your sketchbook, trying out a variety of arrangements and viewpoints…

Before starting I had a look at some work of the artists suggested. I had always been drawn to the paintings of Edward Hopper, particularly those with windows and the transition between interiors and exteriors, even those with no figures just the shapes of shadows on walls. Gwen John is another artist noted, her paintings are so subtle yet dripping with atmosphere. She used muted colours and relied more on tone to tell her story and her paintings are very engaging. The third artist we are asked to look at is Raoul Dufy. I confess that I had not come across this artist before but particularly enjoyed the loosely drawn and painted watercolours. I have created a board in Pinterest to record my findings, a few examples are below:

 : Office in a Small City by Edward Hopper

Office in a Small City by Edward Hopper

 

This example gives more focus to the outside view.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interior by Gwen John:

Interior by Gwen John

This beautiful painting gives the interior more importance but the window plays its part with its cast light.

Bassin de Deauville, 1935 by Raoul Dufy:

Bassin de Deauville, 1935 by Raoul Dufy

 

Here Dufy has given, if not quite equal, but a level of focus to both interior and exterior, using both colour for the interior and an extensive view to the exterior.

All of these artists’ work helped me focus on what I wanted to paint. After gazing out of several window views at home, I decided on a couple of views that had colour, perspective and simple compositional elements.

 

 

 

 

Preliminary Work

View from a Window or Doorway - Prelim sketch 1 Pen and Watercolour in A4 Sketchbook

View from a Window or Doorway – Prelim sketch 1
Pen and Watercolour in A4 Sketchbook

View from a Window or Doorway - Prelim sketch 2 Pen and Watercolour in A4 Sketchbook

View from a Window or Doorway – Prelim sketch 2
Pen and Watercolour in A4 Sketchbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

The above sketches use the interior to frame the exterior and the tones emphasise the shadows for a 3D effect. The window is also at an angle that exaggerated the perspective. Making notes about the weather conditions and pros and cons helped me decide that the portrait orientation was the more successful. However, I chose to make a couple more sketches before deciding finally which to take forward to the painting stage.

View from a Window or Doorway - Prelim sketch 3 Pen and Watercolour in A4 Sketchbook

View from a Window or Doorway – Prelim sketch 3
Pen and Watercolour in A4 Sketchbook

View from a Window or Doorway - Prelim sketch 4 Pen and Watercolour in A4 Sketchbook

View from a Window or Doorway – Prelim sketch 4
Pen and Watercolour in A4 Sketchbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These sketches, although still framed by the doorway, concentrate more on the outside. There is less perspective as the doors are front on, although externally the decking planks do indicate linear perspective. Deciding which view (narrowed down to both portrait sketches), was difficult for me to choose. The first view seemed the most interesting and I liked the shadows on the interior, however, I was, as noted in my sketchbook, seduced by the colours of the door view. Colours aside, I finally convinced myself that the first view would make for a more successful painting.

Final Painting

The day dawned when I intended to make the final painting. Typically, it was covered with a thick layer of fog. By 9.20am it still hadn’t cleared much at all so I ploughed on as visibility wasn’t too bad for my purposes luckily.

View from a Window or Doorway - Work in progress Oil on canvas

View from a Window or Doorway – Work in progress
Oil on canvas

My initial thoughts were to make a watercolour painting as I liked the colour sketches in my sketchbook. However, as I prepared the paper in its enlarged size, I began drawing it out in pencil and just couldn’t get it right. It then struck me that I was beginning to make the kind of painting I didn’t like ie a line drawing coloured in. Overnight, I changed my mind and prepared to make an oil painting. I struggled to find the right sized board to use, until I found an old oil portrait painting that wasn’t up to scratch and just painted a neutral, mid toned ground over it in oil. I had always worried about doing this in case the previous painting showed through, this doesn’t appear to have happened. Now I have lots of supports I can re-use!

A tonal under-painting was laid down in a raw umber/ultramarine mix, putting in muted colours to map out the composition. This is the stage pictured at lunchtime.

 

View from a Window or Doorway - Work in progress Oil on canvas

View from a Window or Doorway – Work in progress
Oil on canvas

I decided to continue in the afternoon, as to be honest, the light hadn’t changed overly as still no sun had appeared. I also used my sketch to help with tonal selections. I continued until I felt the painting was finished and took a photograph for my learning log. This photograph highlighted that the right hand wall had gone a little askew and that the shadow at the top of the window was not strong enough. I then tweaked the painting to hopefully rectify these points.

 

 

 

 

 

View from a Window or Doorway Oil on canvas Approx A3

View from a Window or Doorway
Oil on canvas
Approx A3

My thoughts on the outcome:

  • Am pleased with the exterior tones and the lack of detail as a result of a looser application of paint.
  • The composition is successful and I think was the right choice.
  • There is no jarring in the colours as a fairly limited palette was used.
  • The mood has been lifted just a little to avoid the blanket fog yet is not too sunny.
  • I struggled with the wet in wet sometimes as paint was lifted off as well as laid down.
  • Pleased with the scraping off of paint to give some texture and the blotting of excess paint with newspaper to knock back the strength of colour and tone in the distant trees. (Reliable informed as a technique called tonking invented by Henry Tonks!)
  • I will review again after a few days so that the paint can settle and dry out a little to see if any adjustments are needed.
  • Noticed that the prior research had a significant effect on how I worked through this exercise ie have used the interior shadows to give perspective and mood (Edward Hopper), tones and colours are fairly muted (Gwen John) and the preliminary pen sketches loosely toned and coloured with watercolour (Raoul Dufy).