Once you start looking for statues you find lots, so I was pleasantly surprised to find more than I bargained for.

Firstly I found one of a bust of a historic figure, with stark rather angular features which appealed to me. As I studied it I saw it in terms of geometric shapes which I wanted to capture.

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pencil sketch of historic statue

The features seemed pronounced, almost exagerated so I am quite happy with my efforts to replicate them.

The second statue was outside the church and had a welcoming stance about it.

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religious statue

The challenge here was in the folds of the clothing and the physical features of the staute. It was especially hard to draw with graphite sticks so the hands didn’t work out so well, probably the paper was too small, A5.

The last one is an unusual structure, made out of willow, which I thought would be challenging to attempt.

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willow men in biro

For some reason I thought biro would be the most appropriate material to draw in. I like the structure of the willow, it brings to mind the muscles and sinews under the skin.


A Limited Palette Study

For this exercise I immediately thought of the interesting alleyway I captured earlier. As it was a rainy day, there wasn’t a lot of colour around, other than the grey clouds and pavements so this seemed like the obvious choice.

Although it is quite simply sketched, and far from perfect,  I think the vertical and horizontal lines make it an interesting composition. I like that it is quite minimal with little detail, and it is the shape of the buildings that make it interesting. I missed out a drain pipe because I thought too many verticals would make it seem unbalanced.

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alleyway in colour

I’ve tried to give it a sense of depth by adding more detail to the furthest wall at the back so that your eye is led to it via the curving pathway.

Study of a Townscape Using Line

This was an interesting exercise, figuring out what elements I liked best from my previous sketches and playing around with where to locate everything. I googled the town that I drew just to see what kind of images came up and I’m glad I did because I decided to use a little poetic licence and include the local holy mountain as a backdrop.

My sketches did not give me all of the information I needed but I did use them as a preliminary guide. I found I needed more information and so used the photographs I had taken and also some online.

The weather was wet and cloudy so quite grey overall. Drawing this a few days after I visited the town and took the photos, I was able to forget about the miserable weather conditions and focus on making an interesting composition from the elements of my sketches.

I was a bit apprehensive before this exercise as buildings are not my strong point but building an imaginary town based on elements of a real one was actually fun.

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townscape using line

Looking at it on screen, there are some problems with the bridge and river, the angles and perspective are wrong. I’m not a confident sketcher and clearly need to practice more.

Sketchbook of Townscape Drawings

Living in the countryside I had to drive to a local town to do this. I ended up sitting in my car drawing as it was raining on and off it was quite overcast and pretty dull. This was very challenging and I felt quite frustrated and a little despondent that I found it so difficult.

The first attempt was of a local hotel which had a lot of people coming in and out, cars pulling up and blocking my view, so it was very distracting.

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It seems I am having problems drawing straight lines, maybe because I am not sitting straight or on a bit of an angle without realising. I don’t like the result, it seems quite basic and not very well drawn.

The second drawing was of some houses next door so the perspective was slightly different. Again it was raining and overcast.


row of houses

This was not very successful either! As the rain came in heavier, I drove around looking for some inspiration. I wasn’t able to find a parking space in the centre of town and, as the rain was not helping matters, I decided to come back when my mood, and the weather, was a little brighter.

Once home I found a photo online to work from, it shows the river running under the bridge but it turned out to be very difficult to capture.

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On a different day I decided to go back even though the rain was heavier but I walked around looking for interesting shots to photograph so I could work on this exercise some more. The weather has really hindered my progress this summer and I knew I had to move things along! I got drenched but at least I had something to work from.

This is a tourist town so it has its well known spots but something that caught appealed to me was an insignificant part of town. It was down an alleyway, nobody else was around, it looks quite scruffy compared to the rest of the town but there were some interesting lines that caught my eye.

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Even though this is a basic sketch, I really liked the way the buildings came together with the path curving around and the alleyway going under the arch.

Another composition I liked was the view of a house and church just beyond the bridge and the river. Again, it’s not a great sketch but the composition is more interesting.

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bridge and church

Not a great rendering but I think it captures the compact, almost squished nature of this place, and the way that some places develop around a particular part of town, in this case the river.

I’m not a big fan of drawing buildings but I developed an appreciation for them, especially in terms of composition.


Urban Environment

John Virtue is an English artist specialising in monochrome landscapes, best described as a mix of abstraction and figuration, he succeeds in blurring the boundaries between the two. He follows Turner and Constable in many ways but also uses oriental brush techniques and has been likened to American Expressionists.

He was Associate Artist in Residence at the National Gallery in 2005, where he created works that connected to those in the gallery. He creates abstract works from real life, based on his perceptions and imagination. He worked in black and white paint before switching to pen and ink. This gives his work a more contemporary feel although it is based in art historic landscape of the likes of Constable and de Koninck. He manages to move away from mere pastiche of the Masters and to strip the landscape down to the bare essentials.

His working methods are rigorous, spending hours drawing in hundreds of sketchbooks before painting a remembered or imagined scene, to further move away from too much detail. Yet instead of working completely abstractly his work is also figurative. He studied these landscapes intensely, living in them, taking the same route everyday. His whole schedule revolves around his landscapes, recording the changes visible in the weather, season, time of day etc to an extraordinary degree of observation.

His London paintings used well known landmarks mixed with blurry backgrounds, so that although ambiguous, they are still recognisable. To Virtue the London skyline is another form of landscape, although he has also included weather for atmosphere. See Landscape No 709.

In the video from BBC Culture, he describes the process of building up sequentially the famous sights and then mixing them up, to use them for his own ends, in the way that he perceives the world. He omits ‘the noise’, so no people, planes, or buses, I suspect these would be a distraction. He admits to moving elements around, as if they were structural components, and creates his own new landscape from a familiar one.

For Virtue, colour is a distraction  yet his monochrome works are full of life and drama, even though no people are present, his presence is everywhere. He describes the monochromatic way of working as ‘a way of seeing that resonates, rather than a way of seeing that is comfortable or reverential.’

In his 2014 exhibition The Sea, the sea is painted in black ink, and captures the sea in all seasons and all weather. There is an immediacy to the works, the viewer is drawn right into the thick of things, it’s wild and alive. See The Sea, No 8, and Norfolk No 2 , 2009.

His body of work is a ‘non-verbal diary’ of his existence, how he makes sense of what he perceives. Perhaps this is why his work is so appealing.

This was a happy discovery for me, learning about Virtue as I really enjoyed looking at his work. I have always enjoyed seascapes but am only now realising their importance to me. I grew up on the coast, not far from the North Sea, and had forgotten what that was like until I saw his work. I would go to sleep with the sound of the sea at night and wake up to it, it was always there in the background and I had not realised quite how much I had missed it.

On a recent holiday to the Canary Islands I took a lot of photographs of the beach, the coast and the sea as it was so beautiful, the air feels different there. There is something special about the sea and its unknown depths.

In a previous exercise I mentioned that I want to go to the coast and draw some scenes, this research exercise, and discovering the work of John Virtue, has reinforced this desire. A long part of my life I have been lucky enough to live near the coast and I probably need to appreciate that more.

I’m just going to quickly mention another artist, David Bomberg, and in particular his work St Paul’s and River, 1945. I really enjoy charcoal as a medium and I like the structural aspect of this, it’s heavy lines and soft blurred skies are strong and contrast well. St Paul’s is just about identifiable, again we see details are not as important as atmosphere.

Bomberg was ahead of his time, his earlier works quite abstract but not always well received. He later became a teacher, with students like Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff.

Across the Valley, Ronda, 1954, is another work that is very expressive and quite minimal in detail. Again in charcoal with strong vertical lines and sweeping hillsides, conveying the rolling hills. Smudging and erasing with contrast to create a dramatic landscape.

He spent time in Spain, drawing the impressive Picos de Europa, in Asturias. The huge mass dominating the page in heavy, shading style. These drawings are easily overlooked but are very powerful in their simplicity.


Graham-Dixon, Andrew, John Virtue at the National Gallery, 2005

Schama, Simon, Why I Love the Painter John Virtue, 28 February 2005, The Guardian

Glover, Michael, Great Works: Landscape no 710, 2003-4 by John Virtue ,February 2003, Independent

Dorment, Richard, 23 March 2005, Spectacle in the Swirling Skies, Telegraph

Sheerin, Mark Interview with John Virtue, 27 January 2015 from

BBC, The Culture Show, from OCA website,

Raynor, Vivienne, Art: A Neglected British Genius, 25 September 1988, NY Times

Aerial or Atmospheric Perspective

This exercise seems very similar to the earlier one on foreground, middle ground and background. I have to admit to feeling quite negative at the  moment, I don’t feel as if I have progressed much during part three. It is a very long section and, working alone makes me feel very unsure about where I am going with it.

Nevertheless, I chose a scene of a country road I walk pretty much every day, come rain, snow or sleet. I chose charcoal because it was suggested to use a soft drawing media.


country road

In real life it does feel like going through a tunnel of trees which I think I have shown. It also manages to represent aerial perspective.

I tried a second drawing in soft pastels, choosing a field:

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Clearly I cannot draw a straight line so I need to practice those. This is not a great drawing.

My final attempt was in charcoal again:

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charcoal study of back field

Of all of them I am happiest with this one. It shows the back field behind my house which I love to look at. I think it mostly works well in the front and the background but the middle ground is getting a little lost.

I am trying to figure out why my motivation has taken such a dip of late, perhaps some of it is due to the very lengthy section without any feedback. Perhaps also I need to have some personal interest in the subject matter.

Angular Perspective

I had a feeling going into this section on perspective that it would be my least favourite part and so far I am being proven right. I’m not sure if I am missing something but drawing buildings don’t really excite me. However, as it was raining when I started this, I drew my garden shed from my backdoor.

I’m not quite sure where my eye level is so am going to hazard a guess on this one.

This image has two-point perspective, meaning that it has two vanishing points on the horizon. It is possible to have multiple perspective. I suppose if your vanishing points were not on the same horizon or level it would create a confusing feeling to look at. Sometimes this is done deliberately, for example Hockney played around with perspective in his earlier works so it can be altered to create a different effect.

I am learning that if we did not use perspective drawings would look more like comics, being two dimensional so, most of the time, it is necessary to get a three dimensional view.




Parallel Perspective – Interior View

After reading all of the exercise instructions, I didn’t quite understand the perspective rules but thought it best to attempt it to see where the problem was.

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through the doorway

Apart from the fact that I can’t draw straight lines, this was a bit of a mess and didn’t quite work out. I was sitting on a chair to draw this so my eye level was lower down but the perspective is clearly off. I used the ruler to see where the lines should be and had another go.

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into the kitchen

Not a great drawing but the perspective is much better than earlier. The important thing to remember is that the eye level is an imaginary horizontal like that is parallel to the viewer’s eyes. So, if we move our eye level the horizon will also move.

Foreground, Middle Ground, Background

I pass this spot everyday and noticed that it had definite divisions between the back, middle and foreground so it seemed ideal for this exercise. The view is from a country road so I worked from a photograph, deeming this to be the safest option.

I loosely sketched the scene in willow charcoal before using chalk pastels to work on the background of trees and clouds. This wasn’t too bad. I used a blue pastel and charcoal to add some definition to the trees, just to give them a loose shape and slight tone. I actually didn’t spend too long on trees or the sky as I am very aware that I overdo it with too many strokes so was trying to be gentler on the scene. I used blue in the trees as I know it is a colour that recedes.

I ventured onto the middle ground, with more detail and slightly muted colours. The colours and shapes can be softly smudged to get that slightly out of focus look. The hardest part was by far the immediate foreground, I found it hard to focus on just one area when you are taking in so much information.

On the foreground I used brighter, more vibrant colours and tried to show more detail, I also drew them larger to make them stand out in order to be the main focus.

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country field in chalk pastels and charcoal


I think this is reasonably successful although lacking a bit of finesse! The background and middle ground work well enough but it was hard to draw the finer detail of the wild flowers in the front. However, I think the sharper focus as the front of the image makes it work in terms of perspective. It’s hard to show the direction of the light as it was overcast and there was no obvious direct sunlight, there has been a severe lack of that this summer!