The brief for this assignment stated:
“Draw an outdoor scene of your choice. Try to find a vie that includes natural objects – trees, shrubs … Also, try to find a view that will allow you to demonstrate your understanding of linear and ariel perspective. Look for a view that offers an opportunity to draw straight lined objects as well as items from drawn from nature.”
For this assignment, I wanted to do a more substantial/thoughtful version of the Cornish coastal scene I used for exercises in previous exercises. I also wanted to bring in elements of dramatic cloud formation and atmospheric and linear perspective.
This image provides a good mix of elements to use the skills I’ve learned recently but also means a lot to me. It was a great family holiday with Di, the kids, and my mum.
I wanted to get a real sense of the place and environment. A feeling of quiet isolation at dawn or dusk (crepuscular). The idea that the occupants of the house are in some way in potential danger or jeopardy but not only quietly content with the situation that is the whole point of the place. The sort of feeling you get when walking in the hills or wild camping or something. Its the difference for me that means you are really experiencing the landscape rather than just looking at it. I wanted to achieve this through a strong composition and dramatic weather.
I also wanted to achieve a sense of isolation. I didn’t, therefore, want the viewer to feel part of the narrative (i.e. in the house) but viewing it from afar.
Looking back through the various sketches and exercises here are the elements that I wanted to include.
I am keen to include the major techniques; hue (warm->cool), value (high->low), contrast (high-> low) and clarity (detailed->loose).
An interesting/dynamic/emotive cloud background
Semi-abstract elements – inspired by Joan Miro (above) or Mondrian (below)
(Westmore 2017a and Westmore 2017c)
..and my preparatory sketches and photographs
(Westmore 2017d and e)
I’m going to draw on a lot of influences for this one from the semi-abstract nature of earlier Mondrian (e.g. The Grey Tree D1 A3 P1 E1, E2 and E3 Trees – Westmore 2017d) to the atmospheric lighting of Rubens Old Woman with boy and candle, (Mauritshuis, 2017)
The key was come up with something with a coherent overall style. My starting point was an impressionist or post-impressionist feel. I hoped that will allow me to produce a coherent piece incorporating the realistic/figurative elements with the semi-abstract ones.
So with that in mind the pieces I printed out and stuck on my wall to inspire me were:
- Seascape near Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer – Van Gogh (Vangoghmuseum.nl, 2017)
- View of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer – Van Gogh (Krollermuller.nl, 2017)
- The Starry Night Over The Thone, 1888 Van Gogh (https://www.vangogh.net, 2017)
- San Vigilio, John Singer Sargent (Dulwich Picture Gallery, 2017)
- Ils St Honorat, Cote D’azur – Terence Clarke (John-noott.com, 2017)
- The Grey Tree, Piet Mondrian
- Old Women with boy and candles, Rubens
- Amalfi – Colin Ruffell (Colin Ruffell artist, 2017)
Colour scheme wise I was particularly influenced by the watercolour work of Matt Forster (Mjforster.com, 2017). For example, Mountains 2 (left below) and Standing Stones 1 (right below)
A dramatic composition was key for this piece to work. One that created a sense of drama but also supported the narrative – the occupants of the house looking out to sea; safe, cozy but truly in the landscape – in the elements. Drawing on my influences above I decided on a very asymmetric, left -> right composition. I hoped this would lead the viewer from the house to the clear sea, as the occupants of the house would be doing, give a sense of drama by reinforcing the dramatic clouds. It would also frame the house, embedded deep in the scene and reinforce a bird’s eye or voyeuristic feeling.
To help maintain the composition I made a tracing paper cartoon that I could overlay if I felt I was losing my way.
I placed the house in the middle vertically and at the 1/3 line horizontally. The reason for using a slightly unconventional mid-line horizontally was down to my experimentation with orientation explained below.
I also used the golden triangle to place the foreground and middle ground foliage. This combined with the cloud framed the building – or rather shrouded it in darkness.
Finally, I wanted a dramatic arc to draw/throw the viewers attention out to sea (again supporting the narrative as the occupants of the house would have been looking). I used the sweep of the beach mirrored in the shape of the Turner-esque storm clouds to achieve this.
I spent a bit of time thinking about whether I should do this piece in landscape or portrait orientation or perhaps even something else. Landscape would have been the obvious choice but I wanted to consider the effect of a different choice. Landscape orientation with an aspect ratio of around 2.5:1 is a natural choice because it is how our eyes see the world – given we have two eyes side by side rather than on top of each other. It, therefore, gives the impression you are seeing the whole scene. A landscape painting in portrait orientation, therefore, could look like you have zoomed in on a part of the whole – this could reinforce the voyeuristic feel I was trying to achieve.
In my preparatory sketches, I tried both. The portrait sketches did have the desired effect of zooming in on the house. The landscape versions had an interesting effect as well though. With the expanse of sea to the right, it looked like the viewer was watching the occupants of the house watch the sea. In the end, I stayed conventional because I was loosing the sense of isolation with the portrait versions.
Techniques and media
The piece was mixed media – pastel over watercolour wash on watercolour paper.
I chose this partly to develop my skills in pastels but also because I thought the rapid, broad and expressive opportunities they gave me fitted the wild scene. I used a watercolour wash ground to tie the image together with an overall crepuscular feel.
Because I was using a watercolour wash background I stretched the paper first. Previously I had always used gum paper but that hasn’t always worked for me. I tried a new technique this time using a staple gun – it felt a bit brutal but worked a treat!
The watercolour background also allowed me to play with the semi-abstract elements of Mandrian or Miro. In the end, these were largely lost due to the overlying pastel but it was worth experimenting.
Having got this far I actually had to start again. I felt the underlying wash was not right and would have detracted from the final piece. Of particular concern was the white crests of waves – they didn’t follow the linear perspective as they should have. It may have been OK but I felt it better to start again; I was much happier with this!
One final reflection in this section is that I wasn’t completely happy with the rendering on the house. Whilst it would have not worked from an aerial perspective point of view had it been a crisp image I think it became too heavy and rounded. I tried to rework this but it was just making it worse so I stopped.
I also think it is too big given the perspective effect.
To reinforce the crepuscular sense of time I used a relatively limited pallet and an analogous colour scheme of blue, through violet to red. I wanted the yellow light of the building to glow out from this.
I was happy with the overall colour scheme but I didn’t quite nail the glowing lights. I wanted these to look like they glowed warmth amongst the cold and was the entry point for the viewer – like the fleck of highlight on Vermeer’s lips of Girl With A Perl Earring (Vermeer, 1665). I changed this a number of times to try to get it right but just couldn’t. I think this was due to the tone of the sea and right-hand sky being too light. For it to have worked I would have needed to take this down so that the lightest tone was the light in the windows.
I adjusted the image digitally to see if this was right – I think it does show that this was the issue.
Westmore, M. (2017a). A3 Research: Atmospheric perspective. [Blog] westmoreart.com. Available at: https://westmoreart.com/2017/09/01/research-atmospheric-perspective/ [Accessed 23 Sep. 2017].
Westmore, M. (2017b). D1 A3 P2 Landscape: cloud formation and tone. [online] Matt Westmore (@westmore_art). Available at: https://westmoreart.com/2017/08/29/d1-a3-p2-landscape-cloud-formation-and-tone/ [Accessed 20 Sep. 2017].
Westmore, M. (2017c). [Blog] D1 A3 P1 E1, E2 and E3 Trees. Available at: https://westmoreart.com/2017/08/29/d1-a3-p1-e1-e2-and-e3-trees/ [Accessed 23 Sep. 2017].
Westmore, M. (2017d). D1 A3 P3 E2: Composition. Foreground, middle ground and background. [Blog] Available at: https://westmoreart.com/2017/09/21/d1-a3-p3-e2-composition-foreground-middle-ground-and-background/ [Accessed 27 Sep. 2017].
Westmore, M. (2017e). D1 A3 P3 E1 Composition: Developing my studies. [Blog] Westmoreart.com. Available at: https://westmoreart.com/2017/09/20/d1-a3-p3-e1-composition-developing-my-studies/ [Accessed 27 Sep. 2017].
Tate. (2017). ‘Heavy Clouds above a Landscape’, Joseph Mallord William Turner, c.1820-40 | Tate. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heavy-clouds-above-a-landscape-d25193 [Accessed 29 Aug. 2017].
Joanmiro.com. (2017). Joan Miro Art – Artwork of Joan Miró. [online] Available at: http://joanmiro.com/ [Accessed 29 Aug. 2017].
Mauritshuis. (2017). Peter Paul Rubens, Old Woman and Boy with Candles, c. 1616 – 1617. [online] Available at: https://www.mauritshuis.nl/en/explore/the-collection/artworks/old-woman-and-boy-with-candles-1150/ [Accessed 2 Sep. 2017].
Vangoghmuseum.nl. (2017). Seascape near Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer – Van Gogh Museum. [online] Available at: https://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en/collection/s0117V1962 [Accessed 2 Sep. 2017].
Dulwich Picture Gallery. (2017). San Vigilio, John Singer Sargent. [online] Available at: http://prints.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk/image/1166757/john-singer-sargent-san-vigilio [Accessed 2 Sep. 2017].
John-noott.com. (2017). Ils St Honorat, Cote D’azur | John Noott Galleries. [online] Available at: http://www.john-noott.com/artist/clarke~terence/artwork/Ils-St-Honorat,-Cote-d’Azur_36592.php [Accessed 2 Sep. 2017].
https://www.vangogh.net. (2017). The Starry Night Over The Thone, 1888 by Vincent Van Gogh. [online] Available at: https://www.vangogh.net/starry-night-over-the-rhone.jsp [Accessed 2 Sep. 2017].
Colin Ruffell artist. (2017). Colin Ruffell artist. [online] Available at: http://www.colinruffell.com/single-post/2016/08/16/LANDSCAPE-PORTRAIT-OR-SQUARE [Accessed 2 Sep. 2017].
Vermeer, J. (1665). Girl with a Pearl Earring. [Oil] The Hague: Mauritshuis.
Mjforster.com. (2017). M J Forster – 21st Century Watercolour. [online] Available at: http://mjforster.com/ [Accessed 27 Sep. 2017].