Monthly Archives: October 2021

Buildings Week 4: Quirky or Eccentric

October 27, 2021

15 Rue d’Escargot, St. Laurent de la Cabrerisse

This week’s challenge is to draw or paint a quirky building. The only definition I can give is that it should be a building you find strange, amusing or eccentric. One example that I could not resist is above. As the road name suggests this little lane does indeed coil round and ends so that you are forced to retrace your steps to exit. There is also a sheer drop on the other side of the house.

Below is a house that at first sight looks pretty conventional till you notice the bricked up windows and the fact that there is a strange attachment to the house next door and a very tall chimney.

Cottage near Juniper Hall: Front

When you see the rear it appears to be a very strange house indeed.

Photo of the same house from the back

I kept wondering what was beyond the mysterious white door beside the steps! Was this part of the original house before the extension and concrete steps were added?

I wonder what you will find for this challenge?

My demonstration will be from one of the images above.

Remember the basic observation of perspective is just as important this week. Also you may have to deal with shapes that are far from square and conventional, so imagining how the structure is in three dimensions may help with your drawing. If you can, choose a building you know, and have seen from several viewpoints.

Your paintings:

The Wall House: unfinished
Gouache and graphite by Maryon
Pastel by Mali
Peillon, Alpes Maritimes
Ink and pastel by Sandra
Dancing House Hotel, Prague
Pastel pencil by Malcolm

Buildings 3: Architecture with a Cultural or Community Interest

October 20, 2021

The Tower, Fountains Abbey
Because the abbey is a ruin parts of the outside and of the interior of this tower are visible at the same time.
The sketch was made on site with non-waterproof ink brushed with water which is a great way to record tone with the minimum of equipment; just a pen, in this case a Rotring Art Pen, a water brush and a sketchbook.

This week we’ll consider a single building, a theatre, church, castle, or a mosque, in use or ruined, that has a particular appeal to you. It is always best to choose a place you know, have walked around, hopefully sketched and photographed as you will have a memory of how it felt to be there not just the nuts and bolts of the structure.

A different view of Fountains Abbey showing its setting and the position of the tower again made with non-waterproof ink brushed with water.

Just a few of the many ways artists have tackled buildings can be seen at the Pinterst Board below

It includes Impressionist paintings, works by John Piper and also by the contemporary artist David Tress and a few others. These artists use both different materials and different approaches to painting architecture. Perhaps try making several sketches from your reference and while you are drawing think about what you want to communicate about the place.

Is it the architectural details that interest you and how much should you include? Are you excited by the textures and patterns or graffiti on the walls. Do you want to suggest the mood or time of day with the lighting and colour? What do you feel about this building; is it joyful and uplifting or sad and lonely. Are you overwhelmed by it’s size etc. How much of its surroundings will you include and/or do you wish to paint only part of the building?

By making these initial sketches, especially if you have references from different viewpoints of the same building, you will also familiarise yourself with all it shapes and angles and become much more aware of how it is constructed. Last week’s session should help with this.

The Evening before Market Day, Settle
Most of this very loose sketch is taken up by the huge and rather gothic building with turrets and bay windows beside the market place. I sketch . I took photos and left to make dinner. My camera will capture the detail but my sketch will supply the quirky grandeur of the building and its surroundings.

If you have time look at the many paintings Monet made of Rouen Cathedral at different times of day. Enjoy looking at more works by John Piper and David Tress and then set about your own building work! Have fun!

Your paintings:

Line and Wash
by Mali
Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Boveney
Mixed media by Sandra
Binham Priory, Norfolk
Ink and watercolour by Maryon
Reading Town Hall
Acrylic by Malcolm
Ink and watercolour by Ann
The Lyons at Bledlow
Ink and Watercolour by Heather
At the Tate
Ink and Watercolour by Ann
Brighton Pavilion
Drawing by Heather

Buildings 2: Viewpoint

October 13, 2021

August am Vertigo
Gouache and watercolour on grey paper

The Importance of Viewpoint

This week we explore looking at buildings with regard to the artists viewpoint.

First look at the Pinterest board at:

Think about the viewpoint from which these works were made. Was the artist looking up at or down on the street. Also look at whether the scene is on level ground or a slope. What happens to the horizontal structures e.g. window ledges and door lintels in relation to the ground when the buildings are on a slope?

Street in Veger de la Frontera
Ink and wash

In drawing a straight street it may be useful to understand how single point perspective works. Where a group of buildings or single buildings are being drawn it is also useful to come to grips with two point perspective. In many situations where buildings are at different angles to each other measurement or estimating the relative sizes of the forms becomes increasingly important. The following diagrams describe how the most basic forms of perspective work.

Compare this photo of a street in Southwold with the left wall of the gallery in the diagram below. The vanishing point is to the right of the image at about the eye height of the two men in the picture. That will also be approximately my eye height.

Single point perspective: If perfectly parallel rows of houses are situated facing a road that is also perfectly straight it would be perfectly feasible to draw construction lines as guides for the drawing which employ the use of single point perspective.

Single point perspective: this is a picture of a gallery. The walls of this gallery are parallel. If lines are extended from the tops and bottoms of the wall they meet at a point. This point is called the vanishing point which lies on the horizon. The eye height when viewing a scene is always the same as the horizon, here drawn in as a dotted line. In this case my eye height happened to coincide with the tops of paintings which have all been hung at the same height as each other on the wall. By establishing the vanishing point you also discover the height of the horizon and it is easy to see how construction lines can be established to help draw in the other details like the tops and bottoms of the upper row of paintings by measurement.

In a perfect street as that described in the text the straight road with a perfect row of houses on either side could be constructed in the same way.

However streets have a tendency to bend and buildings are not always built at Only straight sections lend themselves to this approach. New vanishing points have to be constructed for every bend in the road.

Because buildings are often on streets that bend, and built at different angles to each other, you will often have to resort to measuring the main heights and widths of the large shapes and then home in on how best to draw the smaller details.

Two point perspective: Sometimes where one building dominates the scene an idea of how two point perspective works will give a starting point from where you can estimate and or measure the rest. Below are diagrams that will help you analyze what is happening when a building is seen from below, from a slightly higher elevation and from a point above the building.

Building on a hill: if you are looking up at a house and extend lines from the eaves and bottom on either side these will converge on points either side possibly lower than the house itself. Two point perspective is so called because two vanishing points can be constructed and both lie on the horizon line which is the eye level of the viewer. This means that when you have found the vanishing points you have also discovered the horizon line. Note that in this extreme view none of the top of the roof is visible.
Building on relatively lower or flat ground: Here the vanishing points have been constructed in the same way and because the roof ridge is visible and sloping to the left a line from that also converges on the left vanishing point. Note how viewed from a higher point than in the first diagram the horizon line is also higher.
If similar lines are extended from this Southwold fish hut you can see that both vanishing points lie outside the image. This is where you either resort to more paper or carry on drawing but holding in your minds eye where the vanishing points are. It is something you should check out properly if your drawing looks wrong and make any adjustments early on.
Building seen from a much higher point: the vanishing points are constructed in the same way. Note how from this elevation the horizon line is above the house and more of the roof can be seen. Note that if only a glimpse of one side of the house can be seen i.e. you are almost directly in front of the house one vanishing point will lie a long way outside the picture and you will have to either construct where it is by adding more paper or marking it on your board, or make an informed estimate, mentally imagining where it lies every time you make a mark where you would usually reference the vanishing point.
Seen from even higher both sides of the roof would be visible. The two old buildings are so dilapidated and at different angles to each other that some careful observation is required.

Understanding how perspective works will help you sort out the drawing if something looks out of place, and will supply you with some tools to make necessary adjustments with individual buildings and with some street scenes. More often buildings are not at convenient angles to each other and it will be your skills in observing, making actual or mental measurements (estimations of relative sizes and angles) that will be most useful for drawing clusters of houses. The best way to learn is by sketching wherever possible on site (the best way), or from photographic reference. Continually ask yourself questions about relative heights and widths and angles.

Looking down a street scene in Veger de la Frontera: ask yourself how a knowledge of perspective would help in drawing this scene and what things would be best done by measurement. Try sorting out the main shapes and lines before committing to paint in thumbnail sketches. Also check out the relative heights of trees and cables in relation to the buildings, and especially check out the major areas of tone.
These images are views looking in the other direction, up the same street in Veger de la Frontera. The image on the left is the camera shot as taken. On the right I made an attempt to correct the perspective so that the walls were made vertical instead of leaning inwards as in the image on the left.
Note what is missing on all four sides of the image on the right. I have also lost some of the foreground and the hill has become flattened out. Look also at the foreground shadow. Sketching on site is hugely valuable as decisions about what to include are made and most distortions as in the left hand image are largely eliminated.
If I were drawing this scene from the photo reference I would think very hard how to either use the distortions making the picture slightly surreal or manage them in a way that accommodated all the items I wish to include, and most importantly maintaining the impression of a very steep ascent..

When things get very complicated as when looking across at a sea of dwellings just enjoy the pattern of shapes and colours and have fun with them.

This week: choose to paint a rather straight street of regular houses or a single building or group of buildings in which one building dominates. Think about how single and two point perspective can help in constructing the drawing and/or help you check your preliminary drawing before developing the work further. Alongside this think hard about how important a part measuring dimensions and angles will be.

Your Paintings:

Bauhaus Architecture
Rothschild Avenue Tel Aviv
Ink and Watercolour by Maryon
Clovelly Sunset: stage 1
Acrylic by Malcolm
Clovelly Sunset: stage 2
Acrylic by Malcolm
Offley, Porto
Drawing by Mali
Offley, Porto
Pastel by Mali
Houses in the Bokaap, Cape Town, SA
by Maryon
Ink Drawing
by Sandra
Ink Drawing with added Pastel
by Sandra

Buildings: Week 1 Shop and Bar Fronts

October 7, 2021

 Boucherie Charcuterie at Cadouin
Ink and Watercolour
  This drawing of a shop front includes the whole fa├žade of the building with a suggestion of the trees behind and the vaguest idea of what is on either side of the shop front.  There is a good sense of the light but very little detail of what is in the shop window.  These are all choices you will have to make when considering your composition.

This is the first of four drawing and painting challenges looking at different aspects of drawing and painting buildings in towns and villages. Have a look at the Pinterest Board;

You will find a varied selection of works of bar and shop fronts from painterly works by Maurice Utrillo, Edward Hopper, Stephen Magzig and Brett Amory to the illustrative and very graphic coloured drawings by the contemporary artist Eleanor Crow. Not included are the wonderful drawings of Lucinda Rogers; well worth Googling!

A study of a shop is a well defined subject and seen from front on there is little perspective to worry about so it may thought to be an easy place to start.  However there are still a lot of composition choices to make and of course some perspective issues as with with a corner shop, for instance.  The photo references below have been chosen to illustrate just some of these choices.

Butchers in Biougra, Morocco
Here only the shopfronts and pavement are included. There are many possibilities for composition here;treating the two establishments separately; including or not including the tree; editing the foreground shoulder bottom left and/or the back of the bus on the right etc.

Over all composition: It is very much the artist’s choice what to include of adjacent buildings and also how much of the building above the shop front and how much of the pavement or road outside the store. 

Baskets and Tagines, Tafraoute, Morocco
Blue sky, much sun, great cast shadows and contrasts!

Tone: look at the dark areas. If a shop has an awning, what is below may be very shadowed. Doorways are often in slight alcoves and relatively dark. Really look at the pattern of light and dark across your reference sketch or photo. There may also be significant cast shadows. Contrasts of tone will be much greater on sunny days while cloudy days result in rather flat lighting so communicating this will give your work the atmosphere of the day, as well as depicting the objects.

Selling Household Goods, Tiznit, Morocco
Look at the important part cast shadows play in the composition, especially that of the awning

Some of the most fun to paint are stores where the produce spills out over on to the pavement like a rather complicated still life and/or when the seller can be seen. I think of these shops as halfway to being a market.

Turkey’s Cafe, Harbour Springs
With trash can and street lamp, dull day.
Turkey’s Cafe, Harbour Springs
A different view with tree and news stands. Note the lower tone of the side of the building and the general pattern of light and dark, also the brilliance of the “welcoming lights” claiming our attention.

Whether and which street furniture to include; street lamps, waste bins, newspaper stands, traffic lights and other street signs etc.

People and traffic; decisions on whether to include pedestrians and window shoppers and parked bikes or vehicles.

P J Roche, New Ross
Seems a bit cluttered to me!
Less is more!
Same Place!
Would consider cropping to just below the window sills. Undecided about the car but it does lend credence to this being a busy street and love the pedestrian.

Store signage, lettering, closed and open signs and how much detail to include of the wares on show.

Harry Dooley’s Barbers Shop, New Ross
Plenty of lettering and pattern here! Might use my imagination to complete the shop front on the right to experiment with a rather symmetrical composition.

Deciding on the detail of lettering is another choice but it should be in keeping with the rest of the work. If you are a calligrapher this will come easily to you. If not and you wish to make very careful lettering or even rather free lettering don’t be afraid to get a ruler out just so that you keep your lettering or scribble to the right height. If you are working the rest of the painting quite loosely it is usually best to work such details in the same way. Remember that loose does not mean inaccurate so be aware of the relative sizes of windows, doors,etc. and always remember to check the verticals.

Next week we will look a little at perspective, measuring and estimating by eye. This week should give you a good feel for looking at relative proportions and thinking about composing from your reference.

Your Drawings and Paintings;

Vegetable Store Sri Lanka
by Mali
Jo Malone
by Maryon
Sally Lunn’s, Bath
by Malcolm
Windswept Gallery
Watercolour by Sandra
Cinque Terre, Italy
Ink Drawing by Heather
Cinque Terre, Italy
Ink drawing with watercolour wash by Heather
Pencil Cottage
Ink and watercolour by Ann
The Samovar Tea House
Ink and Watercolour by Maryon