Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sketching Constable in the V&A

John Constable has several paintings in the Victoria and Album Museum plus they have a facsimile of one of his sketchbooks

My sketch of Constable's "Boatbuilding near Flatford Mill"
11" x 16", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
This is my recent sketch of John Constable's painting Boatbuilding near Flatford Mill (which I thought I'd already posted and then discovered I hadn't!).

In reality this painting is 50.8 x 61.6 cm (20 inches x 24.25) which means I've got the format wrong.  However I chopped off a chunk of sky and some of the foreground!

It's worth checking out the dimensions on a painting before starting to sketch it in a museum as it helps to get the picture format within your sketchbook correct.  You don't have ot draw the whole painting and it's fine to draw only the part that you like!

Flatford Mill
a page from John Constable's sketchbook

in the Victoria and Albert Museum
The actual size of Constable's sketchbook is astonishing given the size of the paintings it generated.  It's just 11.3cm x 8.6cm (that's 4.5 inches x 3.38 inches ) - really tiny!  The one on display was used during 1814.
Constable filled his pocket sketchbooks with figures and scenery, many of which reappear in his paintings. A selection of images from the sketchbook are shown on this page.
If you start here, you can go through a slideshow of Constable sketches. When you're looking at the sketches
  • remember how big they really are!
  • note his technique
  • note also how he doesn't always fill the page
  • they're not value designs but they do give a sense of values as well as recording what he saw.
This is a link to some of Constable's oil sketches - also in the museum.


  1. Katherine, this is a wonderful sketch and thank you for the links, amazing how much infomation Constable was able to get in such a small sketchbook! Absolutely inspiring.

  2. Great insight, I'll now need to go there myself!!!

  3. You've really captured Constable in this lovely sketch, Katherine. I've lost most of my morning studying Constable's sketchbook. Thanks so much for the link.


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