Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Exercise:Townscape Using Line

This was my first attempt at drawing outdoors in a very public place. It was a bit of a disaster. I had bought a lightweight easel to allow me to look straight at the subject I was drawing and not sit hunched over my sketchbook. So armed with equipment and husband and son for moral support I set off into the centre of Naples.

Of course, the centre of Naples was heaving with tourists from cruise ships following along in crocodiles like so many ducklings behind their tour guides. It was also a Sunday afternoon and sunny so a great time for the Italian 'passegiata' (stroll) after Sunday lunch. I was therefore completely surrounded and felt very exposed. I sat down in Piazza Plebiscito to draw and almost immediately had several people hovering and looking over my shoulder or coming up to ask me questions. (Neapolitans are generally 'vivaci' - which is my polite way of saying they are quite nosey). On top of that my lightweight easel kept being blown over by gusts of sea breeze. I was having a nightmare! Instead of relaxing and becoming absorbed in my drawing I was tense and lost all concentration. I forgot to do any warm up thumbnails or blind contour drawings. I just started to draw across two pages of my sketchbook. The result was not only stiff and tight but also wildly inaccurate. Every time someone stopped to talk to me I felt the need to apologise for how rubbish it was and tell them that I was not an artist just a learner. Really I just wanted to run away and hide and for the whole experience to be over. I did persevere and draw some statues but I'm sorry to say that my final drawing of a townscape using line is based very heavily on reference photos which I took rather than my original sketch.

I felt additional pressure not to spend too much time because I had dragged my family along with me.

Sketch Drawn in Situ at Piazza Plebiscito

Sketch based on a photo of the same site

Trying out different compositions based on photos

Squaring up to enlarge

I completed the townscape in line on A2 paper. I liked the composition with the lion statue in the foreground and the sweep of the palisade of pillars leading up to the entrance and enclosing the piazza. I used black India ink with a dip pen with various nibs and  also applied ink  with a cotton but and a chop stick. For the very faint background structures I lightly drew with a very fine drawing pen. I think that the people in the piazza are relatively too small and I struggled with the largest statue on the roof of the basilica. It looks more like  a jelly baby than a refined work of sculpture. I considered whether to crop the drawing to exclude the problematic statue but I think overall the composition is better without cropping partly because the circular marks in the piazza tend to draw you eye back into the picture before it exits at the right side of the page.

At the end of this exercise I was disappointed in myself that I had allowed embarrassment and anxiety to get the better of me and I had relied heavily on photographic source material. I enjoyed applying the ink with various implements and liked the variety of line that I could get by varying the tool.

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