Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sketches from Great Britain

Susan Brubaker Knapp here. I’ve been working in my travel sketchbook since I returned from my trip to Great Britain in early July, and have several black ink sketches completed to share with you.  I thought it might be good to self-critique my work. It helps me to improve when I make a list (either written down, or just in my head) of what I like and don’t like. 

Psssssst: If you do this, it’s important to remember that a critique should not be self criticism. It should be an honest assessment of what is good and what needs work. It is not healthy to sketch while hearing a little voice inside your head telling you how bad a job you are doing!

I loved this photo I took in Scotland, showing a ewe and lamb together on a rocky outcrop. I had to lighten the photo somewhat to get the details for their faces.


GOOD: The faces have lots more personality now. I like the texture in the wool, and on the grass and rock. BAD: I think I made the faces too big in proportion to their bodies. The face on the lamb is definitely too big, and should be higher up; it’s a more dynamic composition that way. The texture of the grass is so similar to the texture in the wool that it tends to blend together, so that the sheep don’t stand out as much as they should. This is a sketch that would benefit from adding color; making the grass green would help reduce the visual confusion. 




These Beefeaters guard The Tower of London. I snapped this casual shot as I left; I love how they wore walkie-talkies despite their traditional uniforms!

GOOD: I challenged myself to work on this sketch, because I am really afraid of drawing faces. I was pleased with how I did on it. The cross hatching works well in this sketch because it brings the figures forward and helps connect the two men. (They were in a conversation.) I eliminated the extraneous details in the background.

BAD: I regretted filling in the crown/crest on the one Beefeater’s uniform; it makes it too dark. To make it work, I’d have to darken the uniforms, and I didn’t want to do this. Not sure I handled the face on the man on the right very well. Maybe it needs more shading.


I was amazed at how foxglove grows wild all over Great Britain, on the highways, country lanes, and hiking paths. 


GOOD: I love how the cross hatching sets off the buds on the flowers and makes them look more delicate. The addition of the grass on the right side was a good idea; I like how it makes the composition off balance and more interesting. BAD: It’s a little blotchy in the cross hatching in spots (such as in the center just to the right of the foxglove). There is some confusion as to which buds are in front and in back of each other. This could be helped by adding color and using darker values as cues.


This architectural wonder is Little Moreton Hall, a stately home built in the early 1500s. I picked this photo because I knew it would be a challenge to do the perspective and get the twisting walls to look right.  
 

GOOD: It was a challenge, all right! I think I did okay on the perspective, but it was hard to get the windows the right sizes. And this is another sketch that really needs color. Part of what is interesting is the contrast between the strong white and black in the building and the bright green vine on the wall.  



I love these amazing houses in the harbor in Pittenweem, Scotland (along the coast south of St. Andrews). Piles of traps and fishing nets sit next to them, and some are painted bright colors, like pink. I knew it would be fun to draw their charming tile roofs. 


GOOD: I edited this one a bit, moving the traps so that the architecture of the houses took center stage. I love all the lines in this sketch, especially the tile roofs. BAD: The edges of the roofs, with their little stair-steps, are so dark that they really stand out. Color would help balance things out. I think the houses are a little taller than they are in real life. I stretched them out a bit, I guess!


This is the Edinburgh, Scotland, home of John Knox (1514-1572) – clergyman, leader of the Protestant Reformation, and founder of the Presbyterian church in Scotland.


GOOD: It was a good choice to remove the dumpsters and tourists; now the focus is on the amazing architecture of the house. I am feeling better about this sketch when I see it here in reduced size. Not sure why. BAD: The three little stones that guard the house are done in incorrect perspective; I should have paid more attention to the photo. The perspective is generally good, but there are a few places where it falls apart (at the bottom of the stone section right in the middle, for example). But hey, it’s an old house, so that’s a partial excuse!

I will also share with you two photos I took recently while traveling in Great Britain and in New Zealand. I have made small fiber art pieces from them, working directly from the photos to trace the images, paint them on fabric, and then stitch them:






I think it is time to take some of my Great Britain black-and-white sketches to the next step, and add color. I’ll show you some of my results the next time I post.

13 comments:

  1. I enjoyed this so much, your work is wonderful and to have such a detailed sketchbook of your travels is a treasure,

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    1. Thanks, Laurie! It is a wonderful memento, and I think it helps me remember.

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  2. Woohoo! I have on my list to do these amazing sheep! So glad to see that you did, too! Your drawings are very ambitious. I love your exercise of constructive criticism. It's a great challenge for us...thanks, Laura

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    1. Can't wait to see what you do with the sheep, Hastypearl! Have fun.

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  3. really enjoyed seeing the drawings you made of your visit here to the UK - and enjoyed reading your self assessment - and very balanced & insightful way of working - and getting better! Thanks for sharing Ali x

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  5. Ooh I love your building sketches. They're fabulous and your stitched hen is fantastic.

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    1. I like sketching buildings... they are a challenge, and help me work on my perspective.

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  6. Great sketches and interesting to read your critique. I'd love to be able to draw buildings like that, I take one look at them, think that they look too complicated and generally find something else to draw instead.

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    1. Give it a try, Lins, it is fun! I like trying to figure out the scale and perspective. Maybe I'll do a post in the future about how I approach a sketch of a building...

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