Part 5 – The Personal project

Main Avenue, Alemada, Rancagua

During this part of the course I have been outside sketching, gathering ideas from various sources and different artists that inspire me in my chosen subject of the Urban Landscape.

One particular artist that inspired me the most was Leon Kossoff. His links and influences from the works of English masters that he copied, Frank Auerbach and David Bomberg was also of great interest to me, as were the works of Dennis Creffield and John Virtue.

Leon Kossoff`s drawings in charcoal and pastel are an inspiration and the more I look at his work the more I find:

  • Both drawings are relatively large – aprox. 50x80cm
  • I believe that Leon is left handed as these particular rapid strokes would be awkward for a right handed person
  • In the LH drawing there is a terrific movement of heavy traffic, many people also a blur.  The atmostphere is stormy with grey overbearing cloud – this may be the reason for the hurry!
  • There appears to be a multitude of layers built up from a tonal, blended and smudged pastel background to the final energetic, rhythmic, repetitive almost overwhelming layer of heavy charcoal linework
  • Marks made with an eraser
  • An almost absent or darkened sky
  • A high viewpoint – looking down from a building, window or bridge
  • Working direct or from many sketches – not photographs, like John Virtue and Frank Auerbach
  • The use of complementary colours to enhance depth, add interest and guide the viewers eye around the drawing
  • Limited palette
  • Angular, rounded, distorted perspective – like when using a fisheye lens
  • His inclusion of cars, people and bicycles are fleeting, blurred gestures that I have also experienced only from drawing in the street – not possible from photographs

This is my development for a view of the main avenue in Rancagua – Alemada. My first sketch was freely drawn (standing) and included details of buildings in the background, people, traffic and tree outlines – I particularly liked making the gestural drawings of fast moving cars, trees and people –  also I was quite accurate in the placing of buildings, people traffic etc and felt really connected to the atmostphere.


This second view drawn a couple of weeks later included more detail with a lower viewpoint as I was sitting down to draw this. Too much detail this time but of use to develop the work further


During the same session I made this pastel and graphite drawing on mylar, but felt that I had lost the plot! No foreground, background, middleground, inaccurate perspective, no focal point, not much use of tonal contrast to depict form and I should have used more careful observation of the scene.


My final attempt at this scene (drawn at home) was more successful, after studying more closely the style of Leon Kossoff`s drawing – View of St. Pancras Way (see above)


There were some notable differences in my drawing:

  • There was a lack of rhythm in my linework
  • I could have built up more darker detailed tone in the foreground and used less detail in the background
  • I did not effectively use complementary colour in the scene
  • Not many layers of tone under charcoal line work
  • The scale of 43x25cm was perhaps too small to allow for more energetic gestural marks

Positive elements included:

  • Use of 95g/m2 Strathmore Charcoal paper
  • The relationship between line/grain worked well and the paper allowed for a good degree of blending of the pastel colour – I particularly liked the sky and some details in the trees
  • The composition worked well with the RHS/LHS trees framing the scene with the dominant background buildings drawing the eye into the drawing

I made a final drawing of this series building up more tonal layers, incorporating complementary colours, many different layers of charcoal linework, erasure marks and light yellow pastel for highlights. The paper was light grey Fabriano Tiziano paper which I further tinted with an warm light orange base:

Main Avenue, Alemada, Rancagua – Pastel and charcoal on Fabriano Tiziana paper, 160g/m2 (65x32cm)

I worked from my sketches, but also from memory of the scene.  What is very noticiable is the elevated viewpoint (eye-level) – it is as if I have lifted myself up over the scene and wonder if in some of Kossoff’s work he did the same?  I am very pleased with the result and feel that I have captured my personal feeling of the scene and not just a photographic copy.

In this drawing I improved upon what I believe were errors/faults with the previous version:

  • I incorporated many layers of colour/charcoal before the final gestural marks were made
  • I included erasure marks – something Leon Kossoff is very good at
  • I used complementary colours to add depth and interest to the scene
  • Adding charcoal to some layers may have dulled the wonderful soft pastel colouring
  • I have included sufficient detail and interest for both a distant and close viewer
  • I was able to use looser, gestural marks in the final layer




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