A Fresh Perspective

Wednesday, 22nd December 2004
Wild West Yorkshire nature diary

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view from ShelleyIt's wild and windy on the ridge at Shelley where I sketch the drystone-walled hillside pastures across the valley around Upper Denby from the window of the conservatory café at Armitage's Garden Centre. It's so cold that even the polar bears are going into hibernation: we see the guardians of Santa's Grotto being trundled off on the back of trailer into storage until next year.

view near EmleyOn the way back I get a few minutes to sketch a similar view near Emley. These exposed uplands have a wonderful wild, wide open look to it today; exhilarating rather that crushingly bleak.

I feel that this is a true Pennine landscape; that we're on, or almost on, the millstone grit and that the open moors aren't far away. A few miles away, around home, the softer landscape of the coal measures have a more mundane, everyday quality.

Chinatown Chinatown in the Snow

Thanks to getting a good session in on Monday, I'm now over half way through Betty Edwards' Drawing with the Right Side of the Brain. Before starting the exercises in drawing in perspective from real life, Edwards suggests that her students should copy a street scene or interior from a photograph.

There happens to be an August 1998 National Geographic on the desk and this photograph of New York's Chinatown in the snow is the first example I come across. I draw the right side (well, that's appropriate) of a double page spread of an atmospheric photograph by Chien-Chi Chang.

Imagine how difficult it would be to set up the vanishing points for this scene: the buildings, as they curve into the distance, have at least three separate vanishing points. The way to draw this is just the same as the kitchen gadgets, the hand and the paper bag that I drew on Monday: carefully observe and draw the individual shapes, one by one, as if you were constructing a jigsaw made of unnamed, abstract pieces.

Edward's includes a quote from Nathan Goldstein's The Art of Responsive Drawing:

To paraphrase Eugène Delacroix's observation on the study of anatomy, perspective should be learned - and then forgotten. The residue - a sensitivity to perspective - helps perception, varying with each individual and determined by his responsive needs.

grid on patio window

grid on cling-film
The view on cling-film


My next exercise seems a fiddly one but it's one worth trying. Edward's gives instructions for putting a piece of cling-film on a window, drawing a grid on it in marker pen then, being careful to stand steadily in one position, to draw the perspective view of the house or street you see beyond.

So as not to attract the astonished attention of passing neighbours on the street, I draw from the patio doors at the back of our house.

I'm surprised how much my head wobbles about as I'm drawing but at least I get the basics of the scene. I carefully peel off the film and carry it on my outstretched fingers up to the studio where I spread it out on my perspex drawing board.

The final stage is to draw a grid, same size, on paper and copy the drawing.

grid on paper
The grid copied onto paper.



There are some lovely student drawings of corners of kitchens in Right Side of the Brain so I've been looking forward to this exercise. As my studio has a sloping roof I can't start with the ceiling corner, as Betty Edwards suggests.

There are so many books that you can hardly see the corner itself but that's fine for the point of the exercise, which is to build up the perspective by observing adjacent shapes.

Foreshortened Finger

Perspective isn't just about drawing buildings: you need to be aware of its effects when drawing figures (even if, for expressive reasons, you then choose to ignore' true' perspective). This hand - I didn't realise how similar the pose is to the one I drew on Monday - was drawn starting at the fingernail of the index finger which is pointing towards me and so foreshortened. Next Page

Three satsumas: an exercise in perceiving relative sizes of objects when seen in perspective.




Richard Bell, richard@willowisland.co.uk

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