Etiqueta: Leon Kossoff

Assignment 5 – The Urban Landscape

Assignment 5 – The Urban Landscape

Drawing 1 has been quite a journey for me and I have enjoyed every part of it.

Even from my early beginnings in painting at the age of 14 years old I was interested in movement and people, cultures and history – something that was with me during this end part of Drawing 1.

For this part of the course I knew that the Urban Landscape would be a challenge for many different reasons:

  • I would have to sketch outside
  • The outside environment – particularly in the City – in Chile can be dangerous with beggars, drunks and thieves ever-present
  • I wanted to find or at least start to find a voice
  • I wanted to draw in a series
  • I wanted to capture the spirit and movement of the chosen places

Among the subjects chosen for this series were the cemetary, the marketplace, the main avenue, the bus terminal and the main square.

Along the journey I also explored ideas from John Virtue, David Bomberg, Frank Auerbach, Dennis Creffield – however my greatest inspiration for these works were from Leon Kossoff’s drawings and paintings of London Landscapes.

In particular I was intrigued by his Arnold Circus drawings from 2012. They are like a documentary of the lives and people who use this area daily to walk their dogs, take their children to school, pass by on their way to work, feed the pigeons, rest, sleep off too much drink? – also there is a record of blustery days, calm days, trees with and without leaves, traffic and bicycles – Kossoff must have produced a huge amount of drawings throughout the year to record such a range of work.  Something that was not possible for me over the course of just two months working on this project.

His use of charcoal over soft pastel was interesting as was his use of broken – fast drawn (possibly blind) line work.

My final works for this assignment are a selection of what I believe to be the most successful drawings taken from Part 5.

I dismissed my Cemetary drawing as not being strong enough and for not using sufficent depth of tone/interest. I also completed several studies in graphite, and on mylar but in the end I was more attracted to the use of charcoal upon a tonal background of soft pastel.

In all of Leon Kossoff’s Arnold Circus drawings he used a portrait format, however because of the wide open spaces in my city I chose a wide angle landscape format – nearly the same size (approx. 60x30cm).

My first successful drawing was the result of several visits to the same site within the Main Avenue. Within some of my sketches of this area there were elements of blind drawing – which I feel Kossoff included in his work.

The Main Avenue, Alameda, Rancagua. Soft pastel and charcoal on grey tinted Fabriano Tiziano paper (160g)

The main avenue was drawn around midday in what is now our autumn – with the sun quite low.  With the tall trees there is a great deal of shade – like Arnold Circus with surrounding buildings (and low cloud) dulling the light.

The next drawing of the main square was drawn in the morning with the sun rising to left of the view.  The pink building and centre of the square were in full sun with the trees giving some quite heavy contrasting shade.

Whilst there are several inaccuracies in perspective and scale, the atmosphere, colour and light are a good representation of the scene. I also felt that I had shaken off some of the influence from Kossoff and dared to use my own voice in this work.

As in my drawing above there are some strong diagonals and enough foreground interest to keep the viewer’s eye moving around the drawing.

Plaza de las Armas, Rancagua. Soft pastel and charcoal on cream tinted Fabriano Tiziano paper (160g)

My final selection for this assignment was from my studies of the main bus terminal – this drawing was from a sketch and photo taken around midday with bright sunshine on the building and vehicles. This was reflected in my use of lighter overall tones and some harsh dark shadows.

Terminal O’Higgins, Rancagua. Soft pastel and charcoal on grey tinted Fabriano Tiziano paper (160g)


Part 5 – The personal project

The main bus station – Terminal O’Higgins

I made several studies of the main bus terminal on two separate occasions – what drew me to the station was the constant movement, buses, people, taxis and pedestrians. Also the fact that I have been a constant traveller and commuter all of my life and this bus station in Rancagua is the start and end point for many journeys.

My first two sketches below capture some of this atmosphere – the first sketch more so as the mark making is more fluid, and there is more attention paid to movement than form and correctness. The second sketch is more restrained and in trying to capture a busy moment with lots of traffic and people, I lost my way.



The next sketch as well as the second drawing above were from a high viewpoint in front of the station overlooking the scene.


Finally I looked to the right, moved down to a lower level and made this quick sketch looking towards the main avenue to capture the traffic and a huge flag pole that dominates the skyline in front of the station. I liked this view but in the end did not have enough detail/interest to complete a final drawing.


At home using a photo of the station from a similar viewpoint to my first sketch above I made the following drawings:

They did not really capture the atmosphere I was looking for and were absent of movement and people – even my markmaking was heavy and static.  This then turned into a more abstract style using heavy soft pastel – see below:


All were made in my A5 sketchbook.

I felt that I should backtrack and use my original sketches of the Terminal to achieve what I was looking for.

Thinking of the work of Kossoff once again, it was clear that although his linework is fragmented, hurried with lots of energetic movement – there is also rigorous observation of even the smallest detail such as pigeons, people, traffic and tree movements.

This can only be achieved by making many sketches of the same place over and over again – which is evident in many of his London Landscapes.

My final drawing of the Terminal was completed studying my sketches and using a photo as a reference for the additional details.

Again it was important for me to build up a sound base with many layers of soft pastel and then finish the drawing with charcoal and soft pastel highlights:

Terminal O’Higgins, Rancagua. Soft pastel and charcoal on grey tinted Fabriano Tiziano paper 160g (60x25cm)

I feel that this drawing captures the movement, colour and atmosphere of the Terminal – several details are not quite correct – such as the figure to the left of the bus which was perhaps too large and the sign over the building too far to the right and perhaps also too large but overall the composition works, and the electricity wires help fill the space left by what is a very bright blue cloudless sky (typical of the region).



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


Part 5 – The personal project

In the cemetery

The local cemetery located in the centre of the town was severely damaged by an earthquake in 2010, and has been restored as much as was possible.  It includes some antique tombs with wonderful architecture and was of interest to me as a part of the urban life of Rancagua. (Not much activity there as everyone is resting!)

I made a slow drawing:


and then a couple of faster sketches:



I returned to Leon Kossoff for my final drawing of the cemetery. I used the effect of his Arnold Circus series as my guide:

Rancagua Cemetery – charcoal and pastel on grey tinted Fabriano Tiziano paper 160g/m2 – 65x50cm

Like most cemetaries – even in London – there is a curious mixture of styles and in this view I have included tombs of many shapes and sizes.

In this drawing the mark making was not varied enough and I did not use tone effectively – even though in Kossoffs Arnold Circus series there is also a lack of tonal rendering! Because of the nature of the forms – tombs – described in this drawing my linework was very rigid.  In Kossoffs series there are buildings but none are drawn with straight lines.

His lines are broken, rapidly drawn, made up of a combination of line work with layers of lines not just one firm line – in some of his drawings it is like he has carefully laid the structure using lines/marks and an autumnal wind has swept them up to reveal a more energetic, more abstract version. In his catalogue of London Landscapes there are 25 drawings of Arnold Circus – all around 65x50cm in size – and I am sure that he made many more.

On the day that I was drawing in the cemetery there was an absence of wind and people and the sun was blazing with a temperature of around 27degC. The light was strong – nearly overhead and so not much change in tone/shadows on the grey stone buildings and monuments.

I need to lay a better foundation of pastel before applying the final marks if this style is to work for me.