Perspective in Landscape Drawing – Paul Signac and Tempe Shop

July 31, 2013

Here’s my first attempt at determining the horizon line in Paul Signac’s Gasometers at Clichy, based on the linear perspective of the two-storey building at far right.

signac gasometers

My perspective teacher pointed out my error; the horizon should in fact be an extension of the green grass at far right. My next step is to attempt some sort of detailed drawing based on the painting.

Another approach to understanding Signac’s use of perspective and depiction of pictorial space is to attempt a pianta or plan view, literally on the back of an envelope:

signac gasometers pianta

My next step was to go out into the world and find a similar subject – an unleased shop (formerly a fish-and-chip shop) with a water tower in the distance:

tempe shop

Milini 150gsm A4 sketchbook; sketch is 5×7.5″, graphite pencil H, 40mins.

My conclusion is that to emulate Signac, especially his approach to foreground space, I need to be even further away from my subject than I first imagined.

My perspective teacher talks about a landscape drawing as involving three separate, discrete steps: a “Light Sketch” done on location, a “Sustained Sketch” where the original is re-drawn, improving perspective, simplifying composition and minimising line or contour where in fact it doesn’t appear in ‘reality’, and thirdly a “Drawing” on toned paper, concentrating on light mass, mid-tone mass and dark mass and where any straight lines associated with the built environment are in fact drawn with a ruler.

What interests me at the moment is where contemporary Urban Sketching (‘art’) “crosses over” into formal Drawing (‘Art’), where contemporary “sketching” of the urban environment can revert to the tradition of sketches preceding paintings or presentation drawings.  What I’m noticing more and more is that contemporary Urban Sketching is very often concomitant with depiction of foreground and mid-ground, with very little call for background or the depiction of distant space. Buildings and streetscapes so often give no indication of distant space; the only subgroup interested in distant space within Urban Sketching would be those interested in panoramas. Contemporary urban sketching is, thus, locked in to illustration and commercial art with its depiction of “flat” space; the outcomes are often closer to posters than to paintings. Contemporary urban sketching is thus closer to Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Crumb than to Jeffrey Smart or Rick Amor. Smart and Amor depict the urban environment but stick to the traditions of Western art – continuing where Corot and the Barbizon School artists left off (via Streeton, Conder, Roberts and McCubbin in the Australian context); Lichtenstein and Crumb are, by contrast, children of the French post-Impressionists.

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One Response to “Perspective in Landscape Drawing – Paul Signac and Tempe Shop”

  1. quirkyartist Says:

    You are so right re Robert Crumb vs Jeffrey Smart. A lot of urban sketching is all about line at the expense of tone.


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