Project Three – Exercise 2: Foreground, middle ground, background

While preparing for this exercise I realised that some of the elements I already tried to include in the previous exercise. I understand this exercise such way that I will work on A3 paper in graphite and water soluble pencils. I think a good opportunity to go outside and draw on location. I will see how far I go and whether I will do one or more drawings. I chose a sunny day, no clouds, with my place at a canal at a curve with trees. The reflections of the trees in the water got my attention. Overall, I intended to make a quite light drawing to keep the fresh and sunny atmosphere.

I worked with F and H pencils in the background, H – 2B in the middle ground, and softer pencil up to 9B in the foreground as well for some shadow areas in the middle ground. As I wanted to keep a certain bold approach I mostly drew with the side of the pencils, the tip only for the background shades. I applied towards the end coloured pencil marks with light washes. I kept the background rather white with only light pencil marks to push further the visual depth perception and to convey the light appeal of of the scene. I used coloured pencil with the intention to differentiate better between foreground and some part of the middle ground versus the background. I used blue for the water to translate the tonal value gradation on the water better.

Stefan513593 - project 3 - exercise 2 - composition 1

Stefan513593 – project 3 – exercise 2 – composition 1

After finishing this drawing I was not so happy with the result. I think the rendering of the foreground towards the end moved me again into a less bolder approach. I struggled with the application of color and the washes. Coloured pencils are just not my best friends. Also I thought that the trees did not get enough attention.

Therefore I decided to work on a second drawing but on a rougher surface (watercolor cold press). I moved a bit my viewpoint to get more foreground and more focus on the middle ground trees. With the new composition I was pleased. The paper surface allowed me to make bolder strokes and to give the water reflections a rougher and more interesting texture – imitating nicely my observation: some light shining through the trees and mirrored on the water surface.

Stefan513593 - project 3 - exercise 2 - composition 2

Stefan513593 – project 3 – exercise 2 – composition 2

For the foreground I applied first a mid value tone in pencil and rubbed out the shapes of the grass with a hard rubber, followed by some outline marks. I did not use color in this drawing as I felt the different pencil markings more convincing for this scene. I feel that with this drawing I am getting closer to a bolder and combined approach of accuracy versus details.


  • Using different pencils grades helps to differentiate between background (harder pencils=lighter marks) and middle and foreground (softer pencils = darker marks)
  • Thinking about the three levels helps to make a drawing more believable as a nature scene.
  • Working in pencils on a rough surface (watercolor cold press) makes my markings bolder and can add texture.
  • Working in coloured pencils and washes can turn easily into a messy appearance. I found out that for best results I should only once wash over a pencil line. Layering further pencils marks and washes leaves just stained marks.
  • Negative drawing (usage of rubber) in some areas makes it easier to extract the overall impression of a scene.
  • Overall I feel pencils are good for sketching especially outdoor, but not so good for scale A3+. I overcame the limitations a bit by working more with the sides of the pencils.

Next time:

– My idea to combine black and colour drawing side by side could be pushed more and I need to work more on that.
– Working more with the rubber (as in my charcoal drawings). I think I was too cautious not to touch the white light areas on the water and the sky.
– I feel a combined approach of pencils with a more bolder medium (charcoal, ink, gouache etc.) would have less limitations. I take this for work at home I will work at home. How to do this on location?
– I will look at other artists and their approaches of working on location (e.g. Kate Downie)

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