Buildings in passing

In the last few weeks, I have drawn a number of buildings that were either of obvious interest before I began or because I found myself waiting for a bus or train and needed to fill in the time, so got out my sketchbook…

This was my first attempt… this drawing is of the Marientor in Naumburg and was drawn from across the square on A4  paper.  I used Ecoline liquid watercolour to add life to it and indicate direction of light.  The aim was to catch the warmth of the yellow ochre walls.  I managed this somewhat in the drawing but they emerge from the scanned version as lemon yellow!  I find it difficult at the moment to correctly portray tables and chairs outside a cafe.  It seems that I either incorrectly judge the angle of view or I have them pile up on top of each other.  However, I have had a little more practice since drawing this and am getting somewhere.  I need to learn to use watercolour “outside the lines” for a livelier appearance.

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This drawing of Nebra station was done in two sessions several hours apart, in the middle of a journey.  It was drawn in an A4 sketchbook with a blue water-soluble gel pen and a wash was then applied with a water brush. I began it mid-morning while waiting for a bus, and added tone to reflect this.  However, I had another chance to add a bit more detail later in the afternoon waiting for the train back to Naumburg.  The building seemed odd because I couldn’t see the roof while sketching and wondered why not.  Later from the bus on a road on the opposite hillside, I looked down and saw that the building had a flat roof – it must have had a tiled roof once but no longer.

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This drawing was made in Schloss Neuenburg in Freyburg (an der Unstrut) in Thüringen.  The castle was a ruin for many years and extensively restored (ongoing) during the 1990s.  It is a wonderful building with an interesting double chapel, which can be entered at two levels linked by a hole in ceiling of the lower one  / the floor of the upper one.  This sketch was made in an A5 watercolour sketchbook in which a blue wash had previously been applied, unfortunately giving a rather grey appearance to the photograph.  It was drawn in black fineliner with liquid watercolour detail applied.  The wall at the front was tricky because it “curves” (somewhat abruptly) around towards the viewer on the right and then extends downhill on the left.  The roof detail (which probably has a special name which I have not discovered…) is slightly out of proportion and a little too high over the roof.  However, overall, I have captured a sense of the place in around 20 minutes.  It was a hot day and I had left someone else’s bike parked down the hill in some bushes so didn’t want to spend too long away and had come, after all, to see the castle…  I tried to scan this image but after several attempts gave up – the grey photo represents it more accurately.

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This drawing of the old Jugendstil Kraftwerk (power station) near Heimbach was made in the early afternoon with a bright blue Inktense pencil, to which a wash was then applied.  This building is rather special and once housed turbines generating hydroelectric power and now serves primarily as a museum.   I drew it from across a bridge in order to get enough of a perspective of the entire building, as well as to be able to sit in the shade on a hot day.  I omitted the gates and fence as they would have interfered with the immediacy and sense of power of the building, coming between the building and the viewer.  The hills immediately behind the Kraftwerk conceal a pump house 110 m  above which created the force necessary to drive the turbines.  The turbine hall is marvellous and would have been a great place to draw some more…  While I was drawing someone asked me if I intended to add more colour or leave it “just blue” – I decided that I like the just blue!  The perspective is not quite right with regard to the tower on the right.  I have made some adjustments but it still seems a bit too large in relation to the one on the left, which is closer to the viewer.

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A white building against a white background doesn’t really stand out.  So I experimented with adding tone to the foliage – using iron blue and indigo as well as the original bright blue –  to make the building “jump out” at the viewer from the surrounding landscape.  I also added touches of indigo to shaded areas on the building.   The doorway on the left is the entrance to the turbine hall which is a large shady space and should probably appear darker than drawn. The sun is coming from behind the Kraftwerk, above the hills and very slightly to the right.  There is a cast shadow at the end of the building closest to the viewer and the sides of the towers facing the viewer are more heavily shaded in the original drawing that is apparent in the scanned image. There should be a shadow to the left of the building from the tower but I didn’t perceive this from where I was sitting.  I have darkened the entrance way on the left.   Overall, these changes were not as successful as I had hoped, perhaps because the building is set quite high on the page.  The building still appears imposing but the balance in the composition has changed; the foreground seems like a vast empty space now – the building has “retreated”.

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I then printed out a copy of the original outline and added foliage to this.  Because there was space on the paper, I extended the foliage beyond the original format, which served to bring the building down the page, positioning it more centrally.  Although placing a subject centrally on the page does not often work, it works fairly well here because of the dark foliage on the left and the general “shift” of the building to the right by increasing the space on the left, which provides more context.  This print buckled when the wash was applied and hasn’t scanned too well but I prefer it to the one above. Overall, there seems to be a better light / dark balance.  There is still a sense of the dimensions of the Kraftwerk and the foliage provides a contrast; the two complement each other rather better.  I darkened the grassy foreground areas, which are in the sun, a little in order to create some simple shapes to balance the darker background.  They also provide a clearer path into the central image.  The archway into the turbine hall is a bit too prominent and probably did not present quite such a contrast.  However, the small dark shape echoes the darkness of the foliage, and does seem to make a connection between building and background foliage.  Overall, this produces the best composition of the three versions, in my view.

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I had intended to make a sequence of drawings around the greenhouses in the botanical gardens in Bonn.  However, it is not possible to view the building(s) from many different perspectives and so I changed my mind and did a series of studies on the Burghof on the Drachenfels instead (in a post to come).  Here is the initial drawing that I made of one of the entrances to the greenhouse.  It took me some time to align the pillars correctly – to ensure that their relative spacing and size fitted the angle from which I perceived them.

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