3.3.2 Foreground, Middleground, Background

For this exercise, I promised myself to remember this  picture by Gerhard Richter, Cow 13, from 1965 from my visit to the Stuttgart Staatsgalerie. I just think it is funny how the cow dominates the foreground.img_9742

This week I am working in a small apartment in the old town of Lisbon, and between writing emails, while I was pondering where I would find a cow, a sheep, or at least a dog for my foreground, this pigeon came and sat just outside my window, peeking in at me.

So there it was- my foreground- middleground- background idea just outside the window !

I started with two small drawings in my sketchbook to determine my viewpoint- more balcony and pigeon or more city?

I decided on a higher viewpoint so the balcony wouldn’t obstruct as much of the view.

Here is the A3 drawing with various graphite pencils and Conte sticks:


The pigeon became a little too illustrative again, but I think the clear detailed pigeon in the foreground, the tree and first houses in the middle ground and the fading city view in the background with less and less detail create a good sense of depth to the drawing as a whole.

Here I draw the same image in a quick pen sketch on a Lisbon city map that I covered with a thin layer of white acrylic:


I am not as happy with the drawing here, but I really liked drawing on a map and will look out for some more maps.




3.3.1 Composition

For Part 3.3.1 Composition we are asked to see what elements from the previous exercises we would like to include in a larger drawing.

I have three possible compositions or ideas in mind resulting from the three countries I was drawing in during this month.

  1. Corktrees in the soft rural landscape – PORTUGAL

The focal point here would be one shape- the corktree, throning alone in the soft rolling  hills. The tree dark, the hills in morning light. Natural landscape.

Contrast between the vertical “heavy” corktree and the horizontal flowing hills.

I have already explored the corktree in various sketches, but never including as much of the surrounding landscape.


2. High pines in a row – ITALY

The strict lines of planted high pines in neat rows- geometry, organization, contrast between the linear, geometrical sharp and the rolling landscape. Human hand in natural landscape.

So far drawing this subject I have always focused on the linear aspect, usually drawing with  pen only. It would be interesting to explore it including color and surface.



3. Red lights on park trees in a townfestival – GERMANY

Here the main focus would be COLOR! During my recent visit to Germany, during the town festival, the city trees were artificially lit by bright red lamps. It looked very impressive and weird.

They reminded me of Gisela Kohns sometimes surprising colors of trees, although hers are autumn leaves and natural shadows.

This would be an opportunity of exploring the contrast of bright trees and dark night- between the tree and the human artificial intervention, between nature and city.


I just returned to Portugal and am listening to Fado- Portuguese music while writing this, so although I would be curious to explore all three compositions at some point, it is the Portuguese corktree that I will have a chance to draw first. I learned my lesson last chapter that doing too much for the exercises simply leaves too little time to work on the assignment….How I wish for a couple of more hours to the days…

So I will focus on that one lonely vertical shape in the soft horizontal landscape.

Some first thumbnails in colored pencil just shifting the standpoint:

I choose to continue with the last composition.

Couloured pencils A3:img_9985

Well, this got a perfectly boring drawing, could maybe illustrate some children’s book about cork trees.

I decide to try out a drawing on a Portuguese newspaper to loosen up :


I like this a little better- it is looser and has more character.

I tear up some newspapers and try out a collage with watercolurs and ink  in A3:


This is getting a little more fun, but still too stiff. I decide to “scribble” instead with Uniball pens on watercolour and ink, again A3:


I really like the scribbled sky here, but the whole is still not convincing. I think the colors are making the whole too “cute” and illustrative and decide to continue the scribble but use only grey graphite and black or sanguine charcoal, keeping a color palette and scribble style inspired by Giacometti’s drawings:img_0023

I found out that hardly any whites or blacks “bite” on graphite, it just becomes a general grey. But I find some parts really resemble Giacometti’s style, the contrasts and visible marks make it more interesting. This is my favorite version and I will continue exploring this limited color palette and more dynamic mark-making for other drawings as well.

Just a LAST little exploration of this theme in watercolour, because I wanted to try out a small series:


Before moving on I want to have a go at the red trees from the German street fest. I choose to draw with pastels on black paper to achieve vibrant colors, the red trees in the foreground and the city in the background.



I was drawing this from several photographs that I combined and definitely made a mistake with the proportions between the church in the “middleground” and the small streetview and size of the trees in front of that, but in this rather weird atmosphere of red trees I quite like that it added another level of weird.


Here I fixed the differences in proportions though, to make the fading city view in the background more realistic. This drawing ties in to the next exercise- foreground, middleground and background, luckily because it is definitely time to move on!





3.2.3 360 ‘ studies

My artist friend Ellen and I climbed a beautiful hill outside of Castelnuovo di Porto, Italy, today for our 360 degree studies. It was absolutely wonderful to share this outdoors sketching experience with a friend. Mostly sketching is a very solitary path for me, and to reconnect with a dear friend while getting along with the course was simply perfect. Ellen usually paints big abstract oil canvases , or works in collage, and she had not sketched anything like this for the last 20 years, but decided to come along and try out the exercise.

The view on top of the hill was incredible in all directions. We both did four sketches in four directions in various soft pencils. We tried to draw quickly , but needed more than 15 minutes for every sketch. I used an A4 sketchbook and filled the whole page. Ellen used a much larger square sketchbook and drew a small rectangle on the page where she did a small drawing. In the end I was quite jealous because her small framed sketches looked so much better than my filled pages. I will try this technique of using different frames on the page instead of just using the whole page in future.


I captured the shapes in the landscape quite well, but all the drawings are lacking in contrast and depth.

It was a good exercise to see how many different views I could draw by just changing my viewpoint, and also how incredibly different we could sketch the same landscape with just a slight difference in position. I can understand the fascination of going back to the same place and sketching it over and over again.