Sketching Palladio: Tempietto Barbaro

July 1, 2012

B and HB pencil, A4, 220gm Multimedia card stock 

The Sketching Architecture weblog demonstrated some line techniques using Palladio’s Tempietto Barbaro which I thought I’d have a closer look at. Google Images provide a context for any building; setting is important for me because I like to have a clear understanding of where the building sits. In this case, the columned facade faces north and this view is more or less from the middle of a narrow street. Not unsurprisingly, photographers look for tall trees nearby (Nature paralleling the Building) or for contrast between the horizontal of fences and fields with the verticals of the building. I’m that pernicketty sort of person who includes trees and street furniture, power poles and signs – though over time I’m dropping them if I think them ‘unsuitable’. 

Why Palladio, why today? I am intrigued today by the backlash from Lega Nord against the route of a proposed LGBT march across the Ponte degli Alpini in Bassano della Grappa. Fascinated that this is perceived as a ‘sacred site’ by heterosexual Italians. Opposition to LGBT marches around the world is almost always about police consent and the potential for violence, rarely is it about the physical route itself. And symbolically heterosexual territoriality is probably linked to the famous popular song about the bridge: Sul ponte di Bassano, la’ ci darem la mano ed un bacin d’amor: The bridge dates from the 13th century and it’s been restored to the original design by Andrea Palladio. Not that northern Italians have a monopoly on madness: I notice also German soccer fans describing pejoratively an ‘Andrea’ playing in the Italian national team, indicating his is a feminine name.

Reviewing drawing processes

I’m in the mood for looking more closely at my drawing processes. Reading the Sketching Architecture weblog is helping, as is re-reading Ernest W. Watson’s The Art of Pencil Drawing. Yesterday’s Sydney Sketch Club meetup showed a propensity for black-and-white work, perhaps reflecting the sharpness of mid-Winter shadows. I’m similarly intrigued by Ernest W. Watson’s ideas about changing perspective in architectural drawing to suit the artist’s purposes, but more on that later. I’m following his advice lately about (1) setting down foundation lines, (2) honing in on the ‘darks’, then (3) sorting out the medium tones.

(1) Preparation. There hardly exists any Important Building which hasn’t been photographed previously and on display publicly via Flickr and other websites. Urban landscapes these days call on increased greening of streetscapes, so photos, either in Winter when leaves have dropped or historic photos before trees were planted, are useful in seeing buildings “naked”. These photos are useful for understanding geometry, volume and pespective.

(2) Measuring. I’m learning to do more measuring, using the width (and half-widths) of a pencil using an extended arm, to site the building on my page. Keeping to the Golden Mean, dividing the page into thirds and keeping away from a horizon dead in the centre, is important compositionally.

(3) Volumes. What I need to do more is work on volumes before putting in tone and detail. Wish me luck!

(4) Darkest tones. For me (as for Ernest W. Watson), tone is king. There’s hardly any point in drawing a building where shadows aren’t important. I know I have no problem at all in honing in on interesting shadows; I’m developing the appropriate stamina to sit through shadows which change. Light here in Sydney was described by early Colonial painters here as “Portuguese” and “Italian”; Conrad Martens believed that putting the darkest tones in the foreground helped create a sense of depth and distance in his landscapes. I am super-conscious of the Lower Right Hand Corner of anything I do: this is the artist’s natural “blind spot” and attending to the RH corner always creates dividends. All these things come into play.

(5) Mid-tones. I’m not taking enough time to pick up two or three additional graphite pencils to work mid-tones. I need to slow down and not panic about shadows disappearing or changing. Watson talks about limiting mid-tones to three or four. A superlative drawing will probably show five or six separate tonal values.

This 220gm card stock would take watercolour but is like Bristol board in taking up the subtle greys of hard graphite pencil.

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