Saturday, 5 December 2015

Trying out composition on my sketch walk

The instructions for exercise 1 do not actually tell me what I am expected to do! They imply, though that I should go back to the place I did the Project 2 drawings, and rework them adventurously.

Anyway, for this exercise I returned the park where I had done my original drawings of clouds and landscape scenes. My idea was to go back to the one with the path crossroads, but when I got there I could see that I could pick a vista which was more amenable to the composition ideas explored in my last entry. Reasons for this were that the detail in the foreground would have to be of the path (not very exciting), and the distant vagueness and blueness would end up being in the tunnel between trees (a bit of a cliche). So I looked for a view with trees in the foreground (which have interesting textured bark), something in the middleground, and an interesting distant object or two. 
I did my sketches with B charcoal pencil for the foreground, HB for middle-ground, and H for the most distant objects.

Landscape format
This was my first attempt - the trees were interesting in themselves and I could imagine having fun with their texture and the details round their bases. In the middle ground were some other trees, and a bar of houses with some white painted windows and other detail (which I have sketched in here as boxes within the bar). In the distance is a fairyland group of skyscrapers in the City of London. I didn't manage with this pencil to show the shapes or the grey-blue colour of this distant object. It was definitely separate from the rest in real life, with finer lines and bluer colour. Re the composition, I thought that the focal point of this arrangement is actually a relatively empty space in the middle point of the rectangle! Not what I was aiming for at all. Even if I could get the city buildings to obviously be in the distance, they would be in the wrong place in this composition to be the focal point. 

Portrait format
My next try was portrait, just to see what happened to the image.
This of course led to there being only part of the trees visible in the foreground,
and the detail being in the form of twigs and leaves rather than bark texture.
The middle ground detail is more rudimentary, and I felt the need to give it
a bit more depth with the charcoal. The distant towers look almost alien
floating on the horizon, as the blueness is too much.
Again the focus of the picture is the clump of trees below the city
rather than the city itself. This may be because the whole picture space
is divided in the wrong place, leaving the city dead centre rather than just off centre.
And because the portrait format flattens the depth.

This is the same sketched, cropped to put the city on the golden section line vertically.
This has the side effect of making the rectangle less narrow in relation to its height.
It seems to have the effect of making it more the focus, at the same time as making the
twig detail at the top more accessible to the eye movements, and the city looks more at
eye level than it did before. While it's better, I'm not sure its what I was after in fact,
because I want to feel I'm looking up at the magical city.

This is the same sketch, cropped the other way, so as to put the city at the
golden section the other way round. I think it works much better than the
previous ones, with a feeling of it being infinitely far away and unattainable,
like a fairy tale castle (which is what it felt like in real life). The
foreground looks more foreshortened too, emphasising the depth and distance.
Unfortunately the blue still isn't working as it's not grey enough.

Square Format
Using a square format, I felt the need to frame it in the foreground. I thought it would be interesting to use the drooping branches in the composition to 'point' towards the city, which would mean that it didn't have to emphasise itself in the same way to become the focal point. I dropped the blue altogether for this one, and the middle ground needs work too, but the idea, with the city as the target of the branch vectors has potential. There is lots there for the eyes to move around with, and the contrast can easily be adjusted in places to draw the eye around.
Last composition sketch on this walk. I put the middle ground and foreground tree at 5/8 positions, and the city just above the horizon. As I noticed in the duck sketch above, the close-up tree on a landscape format actually makes the eye look past it to experience the full space and depth of the image, ie the focus becomes the city rather than the tree. I added some directionality in the trees on the left and contrast in the middleground (especially on the right), to keep the eyes moving round the image. The tree, and the ground to the right of it, need more detail.

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