Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A step by step sketch of the Long Border at Great Dixter

We visited the wonderful garden at Great Dixter yesterday.  The garden was full of tourists from Europe who'd come specially to see the garden - which was looking very full of flowers and plants and absolutely splendid as usual.

My sketch of the Long Border at Great Dixter
pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in Large Moleskine Sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
Below are step by step photos of how I got to the above (unfinished) sketch which I did while sat on the seat at the end of the Long Border.  I thought people who've not seen one of my step by steps before might find it interesting.

Media used are as follows.  Links go to either my website Pastels and Pencils - Art Materials or to the Sketching Toolkit module within my website Travel Sketching: How to sketch the places you see

Here's the sketches one by one

Sketch #1:  Mapping a pencil outline and guides

This was a complicated sketch, both in terms of subject matter, zones, and perspective.  So, as I knew I was going to be drawing with pen and ink I decided to give myself a little bit of help.

I first took a photo.  That's something I very often do to work out what to make the four lines around the edge of the sketch - what to leave in and what to leave out.

I looked at my photo and used it to map out some very rough guidelines quickly in pencil.  This took me no more than two minutes.  I was mentally looking for halves, quarters and thirds relative to the picture format as I found my guidelines.

I added in a bit of shading afterwards just to remind myself where the darks are - it's help to locate places within the picture when doing a complicated sketch.

Pencil guidelines and a bit of pencil hatching re darker tones
mechanical pencil in Large Moleskine Sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

2. Starting to draw with pen and sepia ink

This photo was taken after I started to draw in the lines I wanted for my sketch. I highlight shapes - both large and small, squiggley edges of plants, edges of tonal areas, important lines and edges which guide in and around the sketch eg edge of the path, roofline.

I also started to add in hints of the colours as I find this helps me with the drawing.  Saves time trying to work out which bit is which!

Starting the pen and ink drawing for the sketch
pen and sepia ink in Large Moleskine Sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

3. Starting to add Coloured Pencil

Initial layers of coloured pencil are focused on the things I need to resolve the distances involved.  I find if I get the foreground, middle ground and background issues resolved I then find it easier to find my way around a complicated sketch.

At this stage there are lots of "notes to me" in this sketch - of things that need to further developed and finished later.  For example, I'm using ink to hatch in the beginnings of what will become darker areas.  Plus I'm locating the colours of specific flowers in the border.

Starting to add coloured pencils
pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in Large Moleskine Sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

4. More Coloured Pencil

One of the main things I do when using coloured pencils is to mix colours and tones on the page.  I don't want the 2D flatness that you get when you use just one colour for an area of colour.

For example, there's about six colours in that roof and about four shades of green in the strip of grass alongside the path.

I'm also constantly tying in colours laid down in one place to colours used elswhere - which adds unity to the development of the sketch

Starting to think about darker tones and variation within 'one colour' areas
pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in Large Moleskine Sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

5. Where I've got to

The sketch as it stands at the moment (see top) is where I got before "he who must not be bored while I sketch" decided it was time for tea!

It needs finishing.  Everything is a little bit too light.  The light areas need more darks so they'll start to pop. The main thing is that I needed more greens to complete the trees and the hedges.

I'll post the proper sketch when I've finished it.

UPDATE:  Here's the movie of a slideshow of the sketches!

This is how it was made - Sketching slideshow - iPhoto to slideshow to Quicktime Movie

More sketches of Great Dixter

Below there are more sketches of Great Dixter - ordered chronologically.  There's even another sketch of the Long Border!

More about Great Dixter and gardens

These are some more links which you may find interesting if you like gardens


  1. Thanks for your demo with the steps to how you work out your sketch. This looks great! Even though I don't use colored pencil, the process would work with watercolors too.

    I haven't been here to check your blog in a while and I noticed you had been in Bali. Were you on the same trip as Wendy? I followed her postings of the trip. It was great to see your sketches too.

  2. No - I visited in 1992 and 1997 and had never got around to writing about the trip so I'm now doing an update slowly.

  3. I love your drawings and find the process intriguing. Such a sophisticated design and method of working. Simply beautiful. Thank you for your inspiration.


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