The Task: This, in outline, is to draw a view through a window or doorway incorporating atmospheric and/or linear perspective in order to create a sense of depth.
The Subject: I chose to draw the view from my sofa through the door to the balcony and the trees beyond. It was the only view that presents itself as being of interest in my apartment but also a view that I find restful and enjoy. The weather forecast was for hot, sunny weather so I spread the task over two consecutive days in order to have a second chance of catching fleeting morning light conditions. I sketched the view at about 8.30 in the morning before the strongest light enters the room. The room faces east and has direct sunlight for a short time only mid-morning. Apart from one or two stronger patterns of light and shade, there is quite a lot of reflected light due to the room having three sets of windows, two of which face the morning sun.
Preliminary sketches: I drew the preliminary sketches on the first morning. First of all, I omitted a chair in order to focus on the windows and the view. However, this left a gaping foreground which needed something. In the second sketch, I included the chair but was not happy with its position. In the third sketch, I altered its position and added a large wooden pot. I also changed the placing of a chair on the balcony so that the shape (and the colour later) would echo those of the chair in the room. I drew the curtain slightly across the right hand window in order to break up the repetition of the rectangles of the window frames.
I also considered a portrait format (see thumbnail sketch on page 2) but this limited the composition given that there was no particular focus of interest through the door other than the olive tree on the balcony. In order to be able to get an idea of the palette and to observe patterns of light and shade, I drew a quick colour sketch using Inktense pencils with wash.
To practise drawing the chair required lining up certain points vertically, in order to be balanced. When I was happy with the overall shape, I checked the perspective. It fits together in the second sketch (on page 2).
I decided that I probably did not want to use Inktense pencils in the final drawing but, instead, wanted the possibility of introducing more physical texture. I decided to use Neocolor II crayons because they offered the opportunity of using an underlying wash overlaid with a contrasting colour, perhaps oil pastels or the Neocolor II applied as a pastel / crayon. This would work best on a rougher, textured surface. I didn’t have any A3 pastel paper and so decided to use watercolour paper (220 gsm).
A fairly limited range of Neocolor II crayons, mostly bright Mediterranean colours, suited my mood and the very bright direct light in the room. Most of the colours that I chose to use were warm hues, with the exception of a cool pale blue . The blues and violets, although at the cooler end of the spectrum were mostly warmer variants.
The next stage was to do a larger sketch (A4) in my sketchbook using the planned colours. I did this fairly rapidly as the light would shortly be lost from the room.
I scanned it into the computer quickly and reduced the size. Sticking it into the sketchbook, I went back into the room to observe the patterns of light, particularly the more subtle incidences of reflected light (denoted RL in the image below).
I was pleased with the colours and decided to go ahead with the composition and drew a more careful drawing in the sketchbook in pencil. I made adjustments to perspective and colours in the coloured scanned image (above) but this was done later on in the process. These adjustments can be seen in the altered position of the pot, bottom right, and the shelves made on the scanned version, and also in the more intense pink on the ceiling above the window.
Checking the perspective on an A4 scale was tricky and so I did something that I had done earlier in the unit when drawing interior views: the image was scanned, enhanced to produce a clearly visible outline and reduced it greatly in size. I then glued it in the sketchbook and extended the page (not seen here) in order to more accurately check the perspective.
At this point, I realised that I had misjudged the size of the shelves and had to rescale these, which also had an impact on the position of the wooden pot, bottom right. It also brought all of the bookshelf into the frame, whereupon I had to decide either to limit the composition to what it had been originally, which would have required a resizing of the format; alternatively, I could include a glimpse of the far window, which is contiguous with the balcony rail in terms of distance from the viewer (the room is a stumpy L-shape). I decided on the latter course because it also reduced the claustrophobic narrow view of everything leading to the balcony and created an airier composition. The alterations to the shelves created more depth in the image and draws the attention more towards the windows and the view beyond.
I made adjustments to the pencil drawing before adding a grid, which was done by placing a ready-made A4 grid over the format and scanning again. The grid is not made of equal squares but each one was measured and scaled up correctly.
The drawing was then scaled up to fit on A3 paper. I had to work with a scale that would allow reasonably accurate measurements in order to avoid distortion. In the end, I chose to scale up by one third and worked out the size of each square on the grid, which were not all equal.
At this point, I waited until the next day, in order to observe the morning light again and be able to make final adjustments to colour balance. I used the A4 colour drawing from the first day and refined the colour, such as by intensifying the pink tints (reflected light) seen on the ceiling above the window and in some of the curtains.
These colour notes were used with the A4 grid reference sketch to make the final drawing. I began by applying colour using Neocolor II and then carefully adding a wash. When dry, I overlaid the washed background with contrasting layers of crayons and oil pastels and gradually built up colour in the shadows. The photograph below is a very poor reproduction. I tried manipulating the image to bring out the intensity rather more in the photograph – and more closely reproduce the original – but this actually created a duller image and a bluer background, so I have left it alone in order to convey a sense of a summer morning beyond the window.
Below is the scanned image. It is A3 scanned on an A4 scanner so the join is visible without further editing of the image. As my tutor commented later, there need to be more neutral colours to balance the saturated warmth.
Reflection on the Process
The process was thorough: over the two days, I spent well over 12 hours on preparing this drawing. I am satisfied with the outcome because it is the product of a sequence of problems which were satisfactorily solved along the way and my skills have developed as a result of this. I like the colour balance in both the A4 sketch and the final drawing and it is certainly warmer and sunnier than most of the work that I have produced so far. However, even when using brighter, warmer colours, I have noticed that I tend to retreat towards the bluer end of the spectrum.
The quality of reflected light has been captured more successfully in some places than in others, through the use of warmer, paler tones with higher values. Because I worked on this drawing over a period of two days and at a time when the lighting conditions were changing quite rapidly, I am aware that I have probably integrated differences in lighting into the one drawing.
The linear perspective is not bad but in a couple of places could be improved. The doorway seemed rather too wide when I was looking at the “finished” drawing. Therefore, I adjusted the line above the door, which appeared to be at a slightly different angle from that in the initial drawings and this has improved the perspective. However, I am still not sure that the door is quite big enough for the doorway as I have drawn it. Also, when I adjusted the line, this had an impact on the top left corner of the room. I also noticed that the angle there looked incorrect and I changed this, too. However, this had the effect of making slightly more of the lefthand wall visible than is visible in reality. Because the curtain is white, I could not find a satisfactory way of making an imperceptible adjustment, other than using gesso or gouache. I decided not to risk making a bigger mess and have left it alone, bar defining the corner a little more using a coloured pencil.
I have tried to include atmospheric perspective by making the foreground colours more intense, with a gradual change in values through the balcony towards the trees. I used masking fluid applied in tiny dots to the glass in the balcony to try to capture the specks of bright light as the sun reflected off its surface but these seem to have been too small and are not really visible.
Extra texture was added to the woollen rug in the foreground, which suggests the weave quite well. In one of the preparatory drawings, in which I drew and redrew the pot several times in pencil before applying oil pastel and crayons, a (to me) pleasing sgraffito effect was achieved. Had I used a smoother surface, I would have introduced this into the final drawing as well, as it represented the pot’s surface quite accurately, even though achieved unintentionally! I still need to work on extending my range of mark-making, which might have been easier on this surface had I applied the pastels more thickly. Had I done so, however, I would have lost some of the underlying light.