3.3 Illustrative drawings

The purpose of this exercise was to explore how the sense of the place can be heightened or distorted by the way that you treat the drawing, away from the location itself.

Key words from the brief:

  • Think about what your drawings of some of the landmarks on your routes are saying.
  • Write some words that describe the qualities you want to convey about them.
  • Refer to both the drawings and photos you have of the location.
  • Hone into and edit from various scenes to create a new series of visual “snapshots”.
  • Be conscious of one of your chosen words and think about how to communicate it through your choice of composition, colour, marks, materials and textures.
  • These drawings don’t have to be finished.
  • You will be exploring how to make an image based on description that is increasingly interpretative.

What I did

One of the locations I used during 3.0 Observation was the Barbican Centre in London. The Barbican Centre is an excellent example of Brutalist architecture and the bare concrete and steel structures conjured up images of a dark dystopian landscape.

So the adjectives I chose to work with was ‘dystopian’.

I could see how I could use the experimental techniques and effects I’d discovered during 2.2 Investigating a process to help communicate this interpretation.

The first three images were created in an A2 sketchbook and the final one on A1 cartridge paper.

In line with the brief, I wanted to experiment with different techniques and approaches with a focus on my ‘dystopian’ interpretation rather than creating finished artwork.

All of the drawings were based on observational sketches.

Drawing 01

Drawing 1 was based on the following sketch.

Sketch 12 – The Postern walkway just entering the Barbican Centre

I used a photograph of a similar location as additional reference (on the left hand page of the image below), and noticed the that photograph still made sense when flipped on its side. I thought that using this unconventional view for the foreground would give the picture more of an otherworldly/strange feel.

The drawing was made in Indian ink using a print roller and fork. I picked up a tip from reportage illustrator George Butler about using the long edge of a lollipop stick to create straight lines and I used this extensively in all of the drawings to create parallel lines.

Dystopia sketchbook drawing 02
My initial drawing using Indian ink and flipped photographic reference

Drawing 2

Drawing 2 was a direct redrawing of a smaller sketch of the Barbican Centre from across the lake.

The original observational sketch was made using and ink pen and coloured with liquid watercolour brush pens.

Sketch 13 – View over the lake towards the Barbican Centre early afternoon

The reinterpretation was made using Indian ink applied with a small print roller, lollipop stick with additional detail added using a dip pen with a broad nib.

The black blobs were created by closing both pages in on themselves and applying pressure when the ink was still wet. I wanted to create a grungy unclean uneven colourless finish.

Dystopia sketchbook drawing 03
Barbican Centre redrawn

Drawing 3

The third drawing was another interpretation of an earlier observational drawing.

Sketch 15 Ink pen sketch of the concrete pillars that form the underside of the Barbican

It built on the techniques in the earlier drawings and extended this by using a collatype print technique to create the parallel lined texture along the bottom of the picture. To do this I inked up some corrugated cardboard and rolled this against the paper to create the printed texture.

For this drawing I used poster paint rather than Indian ink.

The composition is based around a view looking out from a concrete building and I created a contrast between foreground and background by using a different drawing technique for each. The way there are two backgrounds, one on the extreme left and one on the extreme right, make the image uneasy to read which adds to the effect I was trying to achieve. Like the other two drawings I used no colour to create a bland banal landscape.

Dystopia sketchbook drawing 04

A combination of views from the Barbican pulled into a single image

Drawing 4

Drawing 4 combined two drawings.

The first was another observational drawing of the walkway under the Barbican Centre and the second was a reinterpretation of one of the blind contour drawings from the exercise in PART 2.

The background and base of the figure were created using variety of tools and Indian ink. For this drawing I wanted to use colour and worked on top of the base drawing with charcoal, Conté crayon and soft pastels. I can make very quick and expressive marks using these drawing tools. The image is A1 sized.

I added the silhouetted figure at the far end of the bridge to add narrative. The idea of using the blind contour drawing was to create a sense of a disturbed figure in broken landscape.

Dystopia drawing 01

Questions from the brief:

How did your images evolve as you focused on your adjectives?

Each of the four drawings was an evolution that built on the techniques used in the previous picture. The first two drawings were mostly about experimentation with different tools and media to achieve different effects.

In the last two I started to think more about composition and narrative with the final drawing being the most complex, including the combination of two different subjects and extending use of media to include colour.

Which compositions and interpretations best convey your adjective?

Drawing 3 and 4 best convey the adjective.

In drawing 3 the narrative is achieved through point of view and how the viewer reads the image; looking out from a concrete tower block onto a cold concrete landscape.

Drawing 4 is the most sophisticated and the narrative is expressed through the ambiguous relationship between the two figures. The figure in the foreground is in some kind of broken state.

How did you use photographic reference in the process of developing your original sketches?

The final drawings were almost all a reinterpretation of earlier observational drawings. The photographs filled in some of the detail that I hadn’t captured in the source sketches e.g. a couple of the concrete buildings in drawing 3 were based on photographic reference.

How did you enjoy the process of building upon your sketchbook work?

It was a surprise. It’s given me a sense of the interpretive role of illustrator that I hadn’t really grasped until this point. It also tied together a number of previous exercises.

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