Traditional Pen & Ink: Landscape with Trees. Exercise in composition.

October 14, 2011

This is what I did in class yesterday. After an initial contour sketch and more detail (mimicking the variety of marks to be made in pen), I drew over most of my pencil lines in Staedtler Fineliner pen. I’m about to erase the pencil lines.

Some comments:

* I’m a bit diffident about traditional pen-and-ink which fills the page with a mass of pen lines. In overcoming this prejudice, I am concentrating on filling the page more than I normally do.

* Personally I’m more interested in sticking closer to reality than this and less interested in radically alterating reality just to make a pretty picture. In overcoming this prejudice, I am concentrating here on maximising the number of interesting geometric shapes throughout the drawing.

* When all is said and done, leaves can be remarkable homogenous and compete with tree trunks. In overcoming this prejudice, I am concentrating on exploiting the variety of marks: lots of little branches, dark areas within the leave masses, lines reinforcing the curves of the trunks, shadows of limbs against trunks, stipping and scattered lines for transitions, reflections in water and of course the anchoring effect of an horizon.

* I went in a bit too hard with the dark darks because the example we were copying seemed not to have a focal point. Traditional Pen and Ink aims for an all-over, whereas Painting goes for a focal point.

* Traditional Pen & Ink stands alone without colour. I am tempted to re-do this a couple of times with different experiments with watercolour wash, watercolour with salt, watercolour with plastic film-wrap, etc. 

* Copying someone else’s drawn or penned lines is incredibly easy. The upside is that you come out with something that looks good; the downside is that they’ve done all your thinking for you. What’s more challenging, is applying all this to one’s own composition.

* Lastly, there’s nothing like practice. If drawing daily is too difficult, try drawing every other day. Skill starts to fade after leaving things for three days in my case.

This is all fortuitous since it was only yesterday I was out drawing Moreton Bay fig trees (though they may be Port Jackson fig trees – Ficus macrophylla versus Ficus rubiginosa*) so for the next class in a fortnight’s time I should re-do yesterday’s trees in the park as a Traditional Pen and Ink. Alternatively, look at a Hans Heysen or Albert Namatjira and translate it to pen-and-ink. 

Also there’s an ‘endangered’ tree in Laura Street Newtown, so I want to sketch that as soon as possible before anything happens to it. Also a new planting of ten trees by Marrickville Council (two have been vandalised already) in Richardson Crescent Tempe – it will be interesting to compare a sketch of them now with one done in ten years’ time since they will radically alter the rise of the railway bridge.

(*) Rubignosa is smaller – see the one outside the Herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens. Macrophylla has roots which drop, curtain-like, from limbs. Will check out the example on Observatory Hill next time I’m there.

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