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My OCA log-blog

Research point: Landscape series

Despite being known better for his portraits and self-portraits, Egon Schiele did produce a series of urban landscapes. One of his favourite subjects was his family hometown Krumau (1). The sketches made by Schiele are impressive for their simplicity and perfection.

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Figure 1: Vienna Woods Landscape, Leopold Museum, Wien

The lines are drawn by Schiele without hesitation; the tract is not always straight, and in some cases appears irregular, Figure 1. But it is easy to see that it was drawn at once. No afterthoughts. A sort of perfect transposition of the contours of houses, roofs and mountains from reality to the sketchbook paper. The absence of the middle ground create the illusion of depth, also emphasised by the vertical expansion of the mountains in the background (1). The drawing is essential and powerful. In some cases the artist was able to give a sense of depth by only drawing simple lines developing the drawing vertically, Figure 2. Schiele used also to add to the sketches reference letters indicating the colours, Figure 2.

Once back in his studio, Schiele used his sketches to produce his pantings, as shown in Figures 2 and 3, and 5 and 6. Looking at Schiele urban landscapes, one has immediately the feeling that these places are only existing in the artist imagination and subconscious. The cities portrait by Schiele can´t exist in reality. They are abandoned, spectral, dead cities. That is why it is a revelation to look at pictures taken on the same or similar spot where Schiele took his sketches: not only the painted places existed in reality, but Schiele did reproduce them accurately, Figures 4, 5 and 6. In some cases however, buildings have been moved or removed from the picture (1).

The essentiality of Schiele tract can be seen in the drawings shown in Figures 7 and 8.

The landscape images produced by Schiele are based on a strange mixture of a perfect representation of existing places (that are clearly recognizable when comparing the painting or drawing with an actual photography of the place) and their ghostly and daunting shadow directly generated from a dark dream, perfectly drifting between consciousness and unconsciousness (2). A clear example is the painting Dead City III, Figure 9.

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Figure 9: Dead City III (City on the Blue River III), Egon Schiele. Leopold Museum, Wien 

A nice example of aerial perspective is the painting shown in Figure 10. In this example, Schiele added, removed and moved buildings to create the composition of a city, that taking its bases from reality, it exists only in the artist vision.

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Figure 10: Krumau on the Moldau (also known as “The Small City” III), Leopold Museum, Wien

The painting shown in Figure 11 (close up of some of the particulars are shown in Figures 12 and 13) represent a house as a monument. Compared to the house real location, the neighboring houses have been removed. The trees are the basement for the monumental house: an allegory of “loneliness and decay” (1).

The painting “House on a River”, shown in Figure 14, despite the gloomy appearance shows a spark of life in the laundry lines. Still, there are no positive feelings in this painting (1).

Another aerial perspective was chosen by Schiele for the painting shown in Figure 16. This painting is also an example of buildings that can not be found in reality, as they have been moved to suit the artists´idea (1). Figure 17 shows another example of buildings moved around to fulfill the artist imagination (1). The painting in Figure 18 is painted by a young Schiele, and it bears the colours typical of the Secessionists (1). The view shown in Figure 19 is different from the real scene. It was made by Schiele when he was only sixteen year old.

 

The landscapes of Schiele are less known than his self-portrait and paintings, but are nonetheless as powerful as them. The possibility to compare the real landscape with Schiele´s work is only a way to emphasise the fact that his works are the fruit of his imagination; Schiele takes reality and uses it as a base to feed his visions and memories.

References:

(1)  Rudolf Leopold, Egon Schiele Landscapes, Prestel Verlag (Munich – London – New York), 2014

(2) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Egon_Schiele_-_Dead_City_III_(City_on_the_Blue_River_III)_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg (Accessed 08.08.2016)

Research point: Composition theories

As a source to investigate composition theories I have used the book from Donna Krizek (1) and the internet (2). The drawing can be framed using a horizontal, vertical or squared format. The drawing can be made in a panoramic format or as close up. Also the point of view can be selected from an elevated point of view (aerial perspective), a lower point of view (for example sitting) and from a frontal point of view.

The rule of thirds allows to create a pleasing composition. It consist in dividing the image in a 3×3 grid by drawing lines horizontally and vertically. The main focus of the drawing should be placed along one of the four points created by the intersection of the lines.

The golden mean is also often used in arts. It can be found in Fibonacci series and it is known mathematically as phi (1.618). The golden mean was used since the Egyptian times and as Fibonacci series the golden mean is used in nature to build structures, and by many famous artists, such as for example Leonardo da Vinci. In the example below are shown the golden ratios used by Leonardo in the paining “The last supper” (image taken from Ref 2).

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  1. Donna Krizek, I segreti delle tecniche di disegno, Il Castello Ed. 2013
  2. http://www.goldennumber.net/art-composition-design/ Accessed 14.08.2016

Research point: Perspective

An example of one point perspective that I have found during my visit at the museums is the below painting made by Sebastian Vrancx titled as “Interior of the Jesuit Church in Antwerp” and shown at the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Wien.

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An example of angular perspective is shown below in the work of Hans Vredeman de Vires and titled “Palace Architecture with Musicians”, also shown at the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Wien.

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As example of aerial view, I have chosen the painting “The tower of Babel” from Pieter Brueghel the Elder and also shown at the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Wien.

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As a good example of foreground, middle ground and background, I have selected the work of Robert van den Hoecke “View of Ostende”, also shown at the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Wien. The painting is a perfect example as it shows the human figures in the side corners of the foreground, that leads us to the middle ground by the central small road. The background is depicted by the receding mountains and by the cloudy sky.

Assignment three

For this assignment I wanted to draw a corner of Verona which I had previously sketched, Figure 1, prepared for Exercise 1 of Part 5. So I went a second time on the location to make a second sketch, and this time I have used ethanol based markers to add the colours of the buildings, Figure 2.

But once at home, I was not sure how to transform these sketches on a final drawing worth  to become an assignment piece. Using markers it would look more like a vignette, which was not the effect I wanted to make for the final drawing. It was nice for the small sketch, but I was not sure it would work on a bigger scale.

While researching the work of John Virtue and of Egon Schiele, I was inspired to make a similar drawing. Immediately came to my mind a sketch I did while visiting the Belvedere museums in Wien, Figure 3, also prepared for prepared for Exercise 1 of Part 5. The simplicity of the sketch, and the contrast between the dark roofs and the white of the house facaded, made it a perfect subject to experiment with.

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Figure 3: Belvedere, Wien. View of the Gardekirche Church. Faber-Castell PITT pen on Fabriano Quadrato sketchbook

To experiment with Virtue´s style, I decided to make a quick sketch on a A3 paper using willow charcoal. After having enlarged the drawing on the paper using the grid technique, Figure 4, I started to draw the lines using the willow charcoal and to smooth it using my fingers, Figure 5. I have then added some lines using a charcoal pencil, Figure 6, to create a marked boundary between the objects.

In the final sketch, showed in Figure 7, some more tone was added to the clouds, to increase their dramatic effect. A putty rubber was used to add some highlights and to remove the excess of charcoal in some part of the drawing. A fixative was used to avoid spreading and removal of the charcoal particles. In the final sketch the shapes of the buildings are still defined and the boundaries clearly recognizable. The next step would be to remove such boundaries, more like the effect showed in Figure 5: only using a black colour with higher consistency then the charcoal.

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Figure 7: Final sketch

After having made this preliminary sketch, I decided to make another sketch using a A2 size paper sheet. But firstly I have tried to experiment with some black drawing tools, Figure 8. I have tried natural charcoal; soft, medium and hard charcoal sticks, and two types of soft pastels. I tried them as they are and after smoothing them with my fingers. Since I liked more the last soft pastel and the natural charcoal, I have also tried to see the effect of placing one on top of the other, as shown in Figure 9. Since my favorite was the effect made by a first layer of charcoal and then the black soft pastel, I have decided to use this combination to make a bigger sketch.

The initial drawing was made using a HB pencil and using the grid technique to enlarge the drawing to size. The drawing was then made using natural charcoal, Figure 10. The charcoal was smoothed and the soft pastel used on top. The overall result is shown in Figure 11. I did´t like the drawing made on such large scale, because the very few elements were lost on the large scale. The composition worked on a small scale but not in the larger scale. That´s why I made a step back and decided to draw the townscape I wanted to draw initially.

To make this drawing I decided to use water soluble coloured pencils (Albrecht-Dürer, Faber-Castell) on a watercolour paper (Artistico Fabriano, 45.5 x 61 cm, 300 g/m2). A grid was drawn on a photocopy of the sketch shown in Figure 1, leading to a 6 x 5 grid. Keeping the proportions, a grid was drawn on the watercolour paper, Figure 12. A light sketch of the houses was made using a 2H pencil, Figure 13.

As I was not sure of the effect of the coloured pencils on the watercolour paper, I started colouring the first house, before the pencil drawing was completed, as I did not want to have to waste time and energies, Figure 14. Also, I used a watercolour refillable brush to blend the colours, so that I could evaluate the overall effect and decide if continuing the drawing or not, Figure 15. As the result was not too bad and reminded me a bit of Schiele´s works, I kept drawing the remaining part of the scene.

The houses receding into the lateral street were added, as well as the houses on the front right, Figures 16 and 17. The pavement was also added, Figure 17, and the houses were further darkened, to create a sense of shade, Figure 18.

The sky was added, Figure 19, and by deliberate choice, the right side was also filled with the sky, in order to accentuate the unnatural feeling of the scene. In fact, compared to the initial sketches, I have decided to remove the cars and the people present in the scene.

The drawing was completed by drawing the contours of the houses and their elements using a black coloured pencil, Figure 20.

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Figure 20: The final drawing

Reflection on the assessment criteria

1. Demonstration of technical and visual skills – materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.

This time I have made several sketches prior to the drawing, and tried few techniques. The drawing I wanted to make initially did not work on a larger scale than A3. The step by step approach used for the final drawing allowed me to avoid to have to start the drawing once again. One problem I faced was the fact that the two sketches I have used as reference were not taken exactly at the same spot. That´s why the second half of the drawing on the right side was made as a compromise between the two sketches, as well as from fantasy and memory. To aid the drawing, I have also used photographies taken on the spot. The buildings shape was made slightly distorted on purpose, to accentuate the unnuatural atmosphere. The receding houses helped to create a sense of depth to the drawing.

2. Quality of outcome – content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.

Overall the drawing is nice in terms of choice of colours and composition. I think that I have reported carefully the step taken both mentally and practically.

3. Demonstration of creativity – imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice.

I think I have expressed imagination in this drawing, by overlapping a real townscape with an imaginary one. I have tried to experiment with materials, in order to achieve the desired result. The effect I have obtained in the final drawing is somehow similar to the initial coloured sketch made on the spot, Figure 2. The style of the work is similar to the townscape drawings previously made.

4. Context reflection – research, critical thinking, learning logs.

Compared to Part 2, I have used my sketchbooks more. The research part was performed by acquiring several books on urban sketching and drawings (1, 2, 3), and by selectively looking at paintings focusing on landscapes and townscapes during the visit at several museums, in Wien and in Graz, like for example: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Leopold Museum, Mumok, Lower Belvedere, Upper Belvedere, Winter Palace, 21er Haus, Joanneum Museum and Museum im Palais. The method I use for the learning logs are solely the posts in this blog.

References:

  1. Donna Krizek, I segreti delle tecniche di disegno, Il Castello Ed. 2013
  2. Gabriel Campanario, Urban Sketching, Logos Edizioni, 2015
  3. Klaus Meier-Pauken, Architekturskizzen, Christophorus Verlag, 2012

Assignment two – reworked

The drawing I have made for Assignment two was outside my comfort zone, and it was not so good overall. Despite my attempts in studying how to do it and doing some practice, the outcome was not great. This is why in agreement with my tutor, we have decided to redo another drawing for Assignment two. I have then decided to go back to my favorite subjects, the horse. I have made the drawing of the horse based on a beautiful photography I have found in the internet. Each preparatory drawing was made using a different medium, on one side to practice the subject and on the other side to practice with the medium and to evaluate the final effect. All sketches were made on A4 size paper or on watercolour paper. Figure 1 shows the horse drawn on a A4 sketchbook using a normal blue ball pencil and by doodling. Figure 2 shows the horse drawn using ethanol based markers, and was made on normal A4 paper. The horse in Figure 3 was made on a watercolour paper using water based markers and by applying water to soften the markers and create shadows. In Figure 4 the horse was drawn on watercolour paper using soft rectangular pastels (Toison d´or, Koh-I-Noor Hardmuth). In Figure 5 the horse was drawn on watercolour paper using soft rounded pastels (Toison d´or, Koh-I-Noor Hardmuth). The horse in Figure 6 was made by writing the phrase “My kingdom for a horse” in English and Italian (“Il mio regno per un cavallo”). This last figure was inspired by a drawing I saw some time ago (author unknown).

I decided to use the soft pastels as in the sketch of Figure 4. But this time I decided to use a black A3 paper sheet. I started from a photocopy of drawing shown in Figure 1, and by drawing lines to make a grid Figure 7. Using the grid I have redrawn the horse on the black paper, Figure 8. To protect the black area, I have covered it using delicate masking tape, and I started drawing with the pastels, Figure 9. When the drawing was nearly completed I decided to remove the masking tape, to discover that it was not so delicate as stated, and that it was pulling out the paper, ruing the drawing, Figure 10. So I decided to start again and trying to make the drawing using the style of Figure 1.

Once again I transposed the drawing on a A3 white paper using the grid technique. One the drawing was made, I started using a graphic line maker pen from Derwent (size 0.1), Figure 11. Half way along the drawing I noticed that the pen was not working anymore, and in fact I discovered that the tip had broken, Figure 12. Using another marker (PITT artist pen from Faber-Castell) or a black BIC ball pen was clearly visible, so I decided to end the drawing and start again.

This time I decided to use the soft rounded pastels used for Figure 5, because they had a creamer texture than those used for the sketch in Figure 4 and Figure 10, and because they had also black and white in the palette (colours that were missing in the other set). So, once again I transposed the drawing of the horse on a white A3 paper sheet using the grid technique, Figure 13. Once I was happy with the basic drawing I started to add the colours using the darkest one first, like black and dark brown, Figure 14. I started building the layers as shown in Figures 15 and 16, and then using my fingers, I started blending the colours, Figure 17. Each time before to add a layer of colour I sprayed the drawing with a fixative. Once the drawing was nearly completed I started to make the background black, Figure 18.

I added more details to the head of the horse, to create a more tridimensional appearance of it. To help the blending I used also a paper wipers, especially to render the fine details, Figure 19.

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Figure 19: the final drawing

 

Reflection on the assessment criteria

1. Demonstration of technical and visual skills – materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.

I have tried several materials, types of paper and techniques. So I think that these requirements were well fulfilled.

2. Quality of outcome – content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.

I was personally happy with the outcome of the final drawing, especially since the sketches were all really nice, while everything was a disaster when I have attempted to recreate them as final drawing for the final assignment. I should have tested the resistance of the black paper before to mask it with the tape, a lesson that I will remember. But I did use the experience of blending the soft pastel employed during the sketch on the final assignment.

3. Demonstration of creativity – imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice.

The style I have used for this drawing is very similar to the style I have used several years ago, when just in my twenties I made a painting of a group of horses, Figure 20. The paining was preceded by a A4 pencil drawing and a A4 oil painting on paper. Both preliminary drawings can be considered as preparatory sketches of the bigger oil painting, even if at the time I was unaware of it. Therefore, I think that the style of the drawing has something of my personal voice, although a long way is required to properly develop it.

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Figure 20: Group of horses, oil painting on canvas

4. Context reflection – research, critical thinking, learning logs.

The research on animal anatomy helped for this drawing, along with the technique of drawing horses which I have learned during my youth. This time I have decided to do a safer drawing compared to the previous one made for the assignment, as in that drawing I went far away from my confort zone and the outcome was perhaps a bit outside my own style. Nevertheless I think it was a good exercise. For this reworked drawing I have spent most of the research time in trying different media and to decide on the type of effect I wanted to create. Also the accident occurring along the way did help me to chose the final medium. What I have liked of the soft pastels used in this work is their softness and blending capabilities, which reminded me of oil painting colours. The effect on the A3 paper was nicer than the one I have seen when using them in the watercolour paper, perhaps because the blending was more uniform.

Research point: The urban environment

The landscapes of John Virtue are oscillating between abstraction and figuration (1). In Virtue´s own words colour is ‘an unnecessary distraction’ (2), and this is why his paintings and drawings are solely made in black and white. His works are inspired by 17th century Dutch artists and by Turner´s and Constable works (1, 2). In Virtue´s own words: ‘My day consists of getting up early, drawing from the South Bank of the Thames, drawing from the roof of Somerset House, and finally drawing from the roof of the National Gallery. Then I start the day and I work on the images here (in the studio) from drawings that I’m making every day.’ ‘I have no interest in recording a rhetorical history of London; really I’m interested in making exciting abstractions from what I perceive. So in a sense I’m not a Londoner painting London out of any roots or any kind of affection – I’m an accidental tourist here, but I intend to go on working particularly on sites around the river Thames.’ (3). Light and shadows are masterfully intertwined in the canvas to create the image of a city, like smoke developing from a fire, Figure 1.

Virtue, John, b.1947; Landscape No.664
Figure 1: Landscape No.664; Government Art Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/landscape-no-664-29490

Somehow, Virtue´s approach is no different from that of Egon Schiele, for whom painting and drawing from reality was meaningless, as he preferred to paint from memories (see Research point: Landscapes). Both authors take sketches and drawings of real landscapes, but then they transform what they saw, as reality merged with their memories of the place. Both authors represent cities that are empty, despite Schiele paintings being  colourful, and Virtue´s paintings being monochrome.

(1) https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/learning/associate-artist-scheme/john-virtue Accessed on 13.08.2016

(2) http://www.marlboroughlondon.com/artists/john-virtue-3/ Accessed on 13.08.2016

(3) https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/artist-john-virtue/https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/artist-john-virtue/ Accessed on 13.08.2016

Research point: Landscape artists comparison Tacita Dean versus George Seurat

This research focuses in the comparison of two landscapes drawn by two different artist: pointillism maximum exponent George Seurat and contemporary artist Tacita Dean.

The work of Geroge Seurat, Landscape with houses, is shown in Figure 1. Seurat made this drawing using a Conté crayon on paper (1). The secondary title of this work, Maisons (Effet du soleil – Paysage aux maisons) (1), may indicate the desire of the artist to impress on the paper the effect of the sun on the houses is representing. A way to capture the strong contrast between light and shadows he was seeing.

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Figure 1: George Seurat – Landscape with houses – Conté crayon on paper -The Met Museum (1)

The work of Tacita Dean, Fatigues (F), is shown in Figure 2. The drawing was made with chalk on blackboards (2). It is part of a series of drawings showing the peaks of the mountain range known as Hindu Kush, located between the central part of Afghanistan and the northern part of Pakistan. The drawing was the product of a failed attempt to make a movie in Afghanistan (2). The Fatigues of Tacita Dean are reminiscent of the cinematographic attempt made by the artist (2), which are reflected in the choice of black and white, the writing notes on the blackboard and the proportions of the drawings, suggestive of a film strip.

Tacita Dean  - Fatigues dOCUMENTA (13) / Photo © Nils Klinger / Kassel 2012
Figure 2: Tacita Dean – Fatigues (F) – Chalk on blackboard – Documenta (13) / Photo © Nils Klinger / Kassel 2012  (3)

Similarities

  • Both artists chose simple black and white to depict a landscape
  • Both artists chose a parallel perspective
  • Both artists have made use of shadows and light to define the subject and create a sense of perspective and depth

Differences

  • The two artists chose a different way to portrait the landscape: Seurat used black on white, while Dean used white on black
  • Seurat has drawn a townscape, while Dean has drawn a natural landscape
  • Seurat drawing has small dimensions (24.9 x 31.9 cm), while Dean´s work is monumental (227.96 x 613.41 cm)
  • The format of Seurat work is approximately 2:3 while that of Dean is approximately 1:3
  • Seurat eye level is located on the upper two-thirds of the drawing while that of Dean is located in the lower third of the drawing
  • Seurat drawing is likely to have been made quickly, as the result of a sketch on the location, while Dean´s work took months to be completed and was drawn from photographies taken by the artist
  • Perspective and depth is created by the two artists by placing the lighted parts differently: in the work of Seurat, the light comes from south-south east and appears to be behind the artist point of view (as it can be seen by the lightest part of the pole); in the work of Dean, the light source comes from north-north west and it is above the artist point of view (as shown by the highest peak lightest part)
  • Dean´s work has a vertical perspective, created by the vertical direction created by the peaks of the mountains which is emphasised by their horizontal expansion and by the fact that they are the only element drawn in the picture. On the contrary Seurat work has a horizontal perspective, created by the contrast between the large dark field (or wall?) that occupies half of the page and the vertical pole.
  • In Seurat´s work the foreground is created by the vertical pole, the middle ground is composed by a black uniform field (or wall?) and the background, composed by the houses, is the focal point of the drawing. The pole is not the focal point of the drawing, despite his position in the foreground, because Seurat has made it nearly indistinguishable from the black middle ground. In Dean´s work the foreground is the lower part of the mountains´chain, which is by a black expansion of the blackboard, while the middle ground with the mountain´s peaks is the focal point of the drawing. The background is the sky, represented by the black of the blackboard.

(1) http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/337676 Accessed 13.08.2016

(2) http://artobserved.com/2013/03/new-york-tacita-dean-fatigues-at-marian-goodman-gallery-through-march-9-2013/ Accessed 13.08.2016

(3) http://www.mariangoodman.com/artist/tacita-dean/work-fullscreen#2 Accessed 13.08.2016

Exercise 2: Foreground, middle ground, background

For this exercise I have selected a landscape view using as reference a picture of a trip I did in the Highlands in July 2015. The image was perfect to make this exercise.

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Figure 1: the Highlands, near Glen Coe

The medium I have chosen was coloured watercolour pencils on a A3 paper. I have firstly made the drawing by layering several shades of colours, with the final result showing in Figure 2. I did´t like too much the effect of the pencils on the paper, so I have decided to try the watercolour effect. To do so I have used a watercolour brush size 6, Figure 3. The overall effect was not what I have expected, and I think the drawing was better before for some parts. Surely a mistake was the type of paper used, and this mistake is something I should reflect on. But the approach taken for this drawing was more focused on trying to render convincingly the foreground, middle ground and background, which I think I did quite well. In fact I was quite pleased with the rendering of the hill peak on the right side of the drawing, and the effect of the other two hills further in the distance.

Research point: Natural elements

Vija Clemins describes in this video her approach when drawing natural elements. She does not make perfect copies of natural objects, on the contrary they are imperfect. What she wants to show is the attention paid to the natural subject. I did´t know this artist before, but I do like her works. Truly, she represent natural elements as they are, and sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between her work and the natural source, Figure 1. Nevertheless, what is striking is the attention to details she shows in her works. The key message is to observe the natural element, to take in all the small details, without pretending to make a perfect copy of it.

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Figure 1: To Fix the Image in Memory. Stones and painted bronze. The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1)
  1. http://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/14/dust-and-doubt-the-deserts-and-galaxies-of-vija-celmins, Accessed 09.08.2016

 

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