Friday, April 11, 2008

Sketching the Japanese Landscape at Kew Gardens

coloured pencils in Daler Rowney sketchbook (8.5" x 11.5")
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

This is the second of two blogs posts about a visit this week to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. The other post is on my other blog - Japanese Art - drawing the Chokushi Mon in Kew Gardens #1. It about how I designed my sketch in relation to specific aspects of Japanese art and the things I now need to do to translate it into a more formal drawing. If you do sketches to provide material for more formal work you may it interesting.

This post will contain a few basic reminders about useful practices when sketching - plus a few other items of interest to those visiting Kew this Spring and Summer.

I'd completely forgotten that there was a Japanese Garden in Kew (no 17 on the map). I was actually on the trail of the non-existent blossom when I found it. It seemed to contain one of the very few cherry trees in the whole of Kew that was actually in blossom. However, when I got there I decided it must be fate - given my current project on Japanese Art - and started to sketch.

'How to sketch' reminders

Have a walk round before settling. The idea is that you shouldn't just start drawing wherever you happen to end up. "He who must not get bored while I sketch" picked his bench in the sunshine to read his book and I sat down on the next one along. The view (in #1 below) was OK but wasn't grabbing me. I got up with camera and started to wander and take photos to see if there was a better place to sit (I'm not above dragging benches to be able to sit to see the best view!) For example, I couldn't sit in the raked gravel - but maybe just beyond it.......

The funny bit is that MNGB now knows to watch me as I start taking photos because I often walk backwards without looking. He functions as my 'auto pilot' and sometimes shouts directions to steer me away from falling over obstacles!

Here's six photos of alternative perspectives to see how I kept looking as I walked around. Can you see what the problem was that kept cropping up on most of them? Which do you think you would have chosen to do?

Why a thumbnail sketch is a good idea These are great for getting a better sense of the overall value pattern which you might lose while sketching in colour (I did!) and which you definitely will not get from any photos taken. I'm inclined to think that my thumbnail sketch on this occasion was maybe a little more successful at rendering the values and I'm going to be using this one to help me work out the final drawing.

What sketches have and don't have
Sketches have information about colour which you lose in photos. You'd never know there was turquoise in that roof from the photo! What they often lack is correct perspective and proportion - especially if you're having to think about too many things. I found that having to think about all the Japanese design and composition matters distracted me from getting both perspective and proportion right.

Why taking photographs is also a good idea:
I don't worry too much about getting perspective or proportion wrong if I know I have a camera. Basically photographs provide me with information for corrections - if I want to make them

I also find a camera useful because I can take photos from places where I can't sit to sketch - or I can get a perspective while standing which I can't get when sat down. So - in relation to this particular sketch, the angle of the top of the gateway varies depending on where it's taken from - and was really difficult to get right while sketching. Studying my photos afterwards I notice it goes up if sat down and down if stood up. I actually prefer the going down angle, so when I work this up that's probably the one I will use.

I did a second sketch later on - of a contre jour scene outside the Orangery. The funny thing in the background is called White Peaks and is another one of the refreshments areas (mainly for kiddiewinkies) - but it also contains a gallery and shop.

White Peaks from The Orangery
pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in Moleskine
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Just to the left of this view was the queue of Henry Moore sculptures waiting to go to their respective homes! The gardens are currently full of fenced off areas and big holes!

The new treetop walkway at Kew, a festival of trees and a photography competition

Finally, our visit to Kew started with us eating our sandwiches sat on a bench while some engineers constructed part of the new overhead treetop walkway.

I've photographed the whole thing from hoist to completion for one section - albeit the completion photo was taken after I'd been sketching the Japanese Gateway! Here's some of the sequence.

Installation of a section of the treetop walkway at Kew
photographs copyright Katherine Tyrrell

The new Rhizotron and Xstrata Treetop Walkway will be formally opened by Princess Alexandra on 22nd May and will then open to the public on Saturday 24th May 2008. The walkway has been designed by the people who designed the London Eye and will have both stairs and a lift to take people to the top.
The side supports are of an ingenious pattern based on the Fibonacci sequence, often found in natural growth patterns such as the scales of pine cones or the arrangement of leaves in a bud.
RBG/Trees, Kew
This also marks the opening of Kew's 'The Year of the Tree' also has a A Festival of Trees which runs from 24th May to 28th September 2008.
Supported by the Hanson Environment Fund, Kew’s Rhizotron will give visitors a unique opportunity to delve into the natural world beneath the trees learning the vital relationships between the trees roots and the micro-organisms in the soil. Then rising 18 metres into the air the 200 meter long Xstrata Treetop walkway designed by Marks Barfield architects will allow visitors to wander through the canopy of sweet chestnuts, limes and broad-leaved oaks to discover birds, insects, lichens and fungi that rely on these huge organisms. Kew will also be exhibiting the winning entries from this years ‘Garden Photographer of the Year’ competition at a purpose-built outdoor exhibition.
Kew Garden Highlights 2007/8

1 comment:

  1. It was very interesting to see how you use both photos and sketching. I just bought a secondhand book on the subject so there is some... synchronicity? going on here. I really like the softness of your coloured pencil work as well - I struggle with them.


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