The second lesson started to explore formal elements of composition, specifically organising content in planes using thumbnailing to test different combinations.
One of my overall objectives is to become comfortable and proficient at drawing people on location, so I looked for places that would give me that opportunity.
I carried out the exercises over a long weekend at four locations.
Location 1 – The Barbican Centre
The weekend weather was sunny and warm and I knew the Barbican cafe would be crowded over lunch.
In the first set of thumbnails I reorganised the subjects in front of me and designed a layout that had a diagonal line of content cutting across the image from bottom right to top left.
The fourth thumbnail, which is what I based the larger drawing on, is better than the worked-up drawing which I gave up on.
Location 2 – Spitalfields Market
In the afternoon I walked to Spitalfields Market. I spent 30-minutes walking around the stalls considering different points of view, and then stopped for a late lunch.
I created the six large thumbnails below, alternating the hierarchy of each plane, and then a seventh smaller one to finalise the design.
What was interesting is how I failed to match the scale of the foreground figure in the thumbnail with the larger drawing. I think I got so excited when a person stood still in front of me that I forgot scale and function and focused on getting something down. A lesson might be to add guide lines onto the page before starting to draw to indicate size.
Like the previous worked-up Barbican drawing, this one didn’t fully work. It felt like it was trying to be good, but as well as misjudging the scale of the foreground character, I also messed up the dimensions of the figures and lost their feet off the bottom of the image.
On the way home I sketched a couple of passengers on the train and experimented by digitally dropping in one of these figures into the foreground of the image. This emphasised the diagonal composition of the figures and covered up the mistake with the feet.
It’s a cheat but it allowed me to be true to the design.
Location 3 – Polesden Lacey
On the second day I returned Polesden Lacey, one of the locations I’d visited in Lesson 1.
I did two drawings.
The first in the cafe. I used the thumbnails to best frame and design the drawing from where I was sitting. I didn’t experiment with different planes but include the drawing because I was thinking about composition in terms of shapes, rhythm and colour.
I had the same issue scaling the foreground figure correctly to match the thumbnail. Learn the lessons!!!
A three piece jazz band were playing in the gardens and after lunch I sat amongst the crowd in the sun.
The main design challenge I had was what to do with the architecture to make it more visually interesting. From where I was sitting the view of the house was straight on and visually dull.
I think the final drawing would have been improved if I’d done more with the architecture, possibly pushing it further into the background and distorting perspective to make it more interesting.
I think the visual hierarchy works with the eye being drawn to the keyboard player in the centre of the picture.
Location 4 – Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare
The final drawings were made on a sunny evening next to the River Thames.
I wanted to test a very loose drawing style that was quite rapid and gestural. I liked where it was trying to go and decided to experiment further.
In this exercise, the thumbnails are more successful that the worked-up images. I need to be more careful starting the final drawings, possibly mapping out key elements in each plane before launching into mark making.
Spending quality time designing, and seeing this as an essential part of the process, is really making a difference to the effectiveness of the images.
List of illustrations
Figure 1 – Hadfield, Hugh (2022) Eating lunch next to the lake in the Barbican Centre In possession of: The author
Figure 2 – Hadfield, Hugh (2022) Spitalfields Market thumbnails experimenting with the three different planes In possession of: The author
Figure 3 – Hadfield, Hugh (2022) Worked-up sketch In possession of: The author
Figure 4 – Hadfield, Hugh (2022) Digitally composited foreground character In possession of: The author
Figure 5 – Hadfield, Hugh (2022) Sunday lunch thumbnails In possession of: The author
Figure 6 – Hadfield, Hugh (2022) Polesden Lacey cafe In possession of: The author
Figure 7 – Hadfield, Hugh (2022) Thumbnails exploring different approaches to positioning the background In possession of: The author
Figure 8 – Hadfield, Hugh (2022) Sunday afternoon jazz at Polesden Lacey In possession of: The author
Figure 9 – Hadfield, Hugh (2022) Thumbnails testing content on different planes and shapes In possession of: The author
Figure 10 – Hadfield, Hugh (2022) Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare In possession of: The author