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Learn to Draw > Studies versus sketches

sketches versus studiesWe do not begin with a sketch but with a study. The aim is first to render the subject almost photographically. There are two reasons for this: working this way we make our best acquaintance with the given forms and learn to know them individually; also such a sketch will provide us with an exact note in the event, when we return home, we should wish to recreate something of our experience, reproducing it as it appeared to us without having to rely heavily on memory.

The comparison between the exact copy - the study - and the picture that we carry in our inner eye teaches us clearly what we can enhance or leave out. The alternative method would be to walk often by the subject and then to work only at home from memory. Nowadays, this is rarely possible.

As soon as we decide to draw a. subject, we must determine how much of the surrounding area we wish to include. We can do this by shielding off what distracts us with our hands or by using a viewing frame, which is often a help to beginners.

We quickly make our first decision, whether the shape will be a horizontal or vertical rectangle, or a square. It must include everything we think essential, not only the main object but all the accessories indicating place, position, space, and mood.

We are not bound like the camera to a mechanical reproduction. We can crowd our motif or expand it, put in what is not there and leave distracting elements out. All of these considerations will influence the choice of format.



We are stimulated to draw this particular view largely because of the group of buildings, whose main attraction is their position on a hill among mountains. The left-hand group of trees seems rather fortuitous, but to leave it out would take away much of the charm of the view; moreover, the trees express an important movement toward the main subject.

our subject for the next few exercises

The cast shadows show that it is a sunny day. If we wished to indicate that it were an autumnal landscape as well, we should have to use color or emphasize some accessories: for instance, half or completely bare trees beside leafy ones. But since color is not available and more trees would greatly alter the aspect of the view, we will ignore the season.

In the background, the left-hand mountain mass gives the character of the location. On the right, enough of the surroundings should be included to show that the chapel is not standing on an isolated hill top. Below, there must be enough space to show that the steps do not continue downwards indefinitely. A patch of sky above the top of the tower will indicate the breadth of the landscape. All of these considerations bring us to a slightly elongated square as our format.

first study

Now we take pencil and paper. The paper should be large enough not to limit our intended format, especially as there is no stongly outlined area to dictate it. To have plenty of paper space affects also our method of seeing and working. details from the study

It is best to begin with the group of buildings, leaving enough space all around to allow us to adjust the scope of the picture after we have rapidly sketched in the surroundings.

We begin with the vertical lines of the towers and chapel walls. The width of the left-hand tower can then serve as a point of comparison for the various heights.

We mark off this width by adjusting the distance of our thumb from the point of a pencil held toward the subject at arm's length. We can then determine how many width units make up the whole height of the building and how other elements, such as the bottom of the steps, the top edge of the breastwork of the wall, and the cornice lines of the towers, can be fixed against it.

Once the width and height relation is secure, we fix the most important horizontal and vertical outlines with firmer lines. Putting in the window openings and some dark stones in the walls provides a further check on over-all proportions.

Next: the castle study continued

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