A drawing is complete when you have nothing more to add to it. It is finished when you feel you have done enough. It is as simple as that.
But one or two points occur to me that might help you arrive at that decision. Fill your page completely, from top to bottom and side to side. The reason for this is, that before you can confidently leave out, you must overdo what you put in. The same applies when you are concerned with studies of single objects, or details, that you are going to incorporate into a larger work. It is also easier to frame a completed drawing in your sketch book. But never tear out a picture if you can help it. Keep a sketch book intact.
If you want a particular scene framed do another version of it from the original sketch. Sometimes, however, it cannot be avoided. A sketch book picture has to come out. But do be careful when doing so. It is easy to tear your drawing and your sketch book as well. The binding will become loose and all the pages fall out.
I have suggested that using a viewfinder is helpful in settling the problem of what to draw. However you may want to do the view next to the one you have chosen. Add that view to the one you have already completed, either on the page opposite or by adding a further section. This can be attached with tape quite easily and will fold into your sketch book neatly. You can, if you want, continue adding as many
sections of views as you like, folding them into your sketch book and attaching them with masking tape Any change of tone, or even style, from section to section will not harm the total effect when you pull out the finished work. On the contrary, it adds something to it.
Remember, though, the view must continue from one section to another. The lines in a panoramic drawing must move easily from drawing to drawing, else it will look odd.
TIME MARCHES ON
It is not always possible to devote hours to one work outdoors. This fact must be recognized. Rain, disturbances, limited time available, will tend to cut down the time you can devote to a picture or drawing. This need not deter you, however, from producing any finished work. If you are very short of time, go for quick lively sketches. Make lots of notes that mie:ht help you and finish them up at home. Also, with a more ambitious work, if you cannot complete it out-of-doors, finish it off at home.
It is best to do lots of rough studies of a scene, plus one or two careful details and a few written observations. Then, when you get home, assemble the material into a completely new picture.
Making up two or three half-finished sketches into a completely new work is one of the things I shall be discussing in the chapter on composition. For the moment, let me say
this. Outdoor drawing and painting is the best source of
ideas. It should be persevered with and will reward you in many ways. As you will have realized, there are few rules to bother about. The approach I have taken is purely practical.
If you have drawn inside, you will be able to draw outside.
There is no hard way and there is no easy way. There is only your way. And that is the only thing I want to encourage you to develop. If you are in doubt, or find your spirits flagging, go and look at the drawings and paintings of those great artists who have got their inspiration from working outdoors. Turner, Constable, Samuel Palmer, Cox, de Wint and, in our day, Carel Weight, Ruskin Spear, John Minton, Edward Bawden, etc. There are many of them and their works will help you. By relating your problems to these works you will find not only help, but appreciation as well.
The viewpoint you take up will affect the angles of the things seen. It will affect your foreground and, by being either up or down, change the middle and background too. If you are high up you will see more background; you will be looking right down on to things.
If you are set low you will be looking up at them. All this may sound obvious, but it is amazing, when we first start drawing outdoors, how easy it is to forget the obvious.
In selecting your viewpoint don’t be timid about letting any object, a tree or a lamp-post, sit right in front of your vision. An object, close to you, that you have to see round or through, makes an excellent foreground, and will create an interesting lead into the middle distance.
Similarly, a line of the road that shoots away and enters into the center of the picture, will give movement. Avoid the viewpoint in which all the angles are either horizontal or perpendicular. This tends to create monotony. Look for angles that move down or up. Movements that are inherent in nature, but which are so difficult to pin down into a small rectangle.
Color should be used sparingly on the first few outings, and at best should not be used too lavishly. If you start flinging color all over everything, you will destroy the very point of using color. Color can be very effective for giving just that extra kick to a black and white drawing, as long as it does not swamp the drawing altogether. Restraint when painting is necessary. Your control over what you are doing is lessened if you use too many colors. Mix, at first, only the very obvious colors you can see, avoid attempting all the subtle halftones. Better to draw those in, than to try and work out how to do them. If you have one or two important colors to deal with you will find that they will be sufficient to give liveliness and sparkle to your sketch.
This applies to both opaque and transparent watercolor, though it is probably easier to get the halftones more successfully with transparent washes, it is still better to use restraint.
Drawing people outdoors is a little difficult for the one good reason they never keep still for one minute, and as soon as they spy you doing a sketch of them either take umbrage or hare off immediately. It is possible to go into a crowded place with a small sketch book and discreetly draw people as they move about. But this is not easy. It needs an iron nerve and a good eye.
It may not always be convenient to do a full-bodied tonal drawing. You may not even want to try. A simple line drawing is a quick and handy way to express an idea or to put down something you have seen and remembered. It is also useful for doing sketches of people who won’t keep still and of capturing the fleeting ebb and flow of life outdoors.
However, we don’t see things in line as there are no lines in nature. In nature, forms merge and are lost and found again. Lines are invented, you might say, to put round things as they are seen. In spite of this, a simple line drawing does give us a sense of reality.
A line drawing is nearer a symbol than any other form of drawing. Consequently, to make that symbol interesting, the more the line varies, the more it parallels reality. Thin and thick lines, textures, patterns, all help to give a line drawing vitality. You can make textures with a flexible pen quite easily (Fig. 10) and you can vary the contours of forms, scribble and smudge with your finger to give an interesting variation of line.
Fig. 10. Pen line textures
And you can darken parts of your drawing, not so much to represent tone, but to simulate color. A rich dark in a line drawing can give a sense of co lor, without the use of shading or actual color (Fig. 11). The secret, then, in line drawing is in what you leave out and not what you put in. It is the important shapes that must be stressed, and the significant detail last. As you will get little help from nature in this, you can experiment with all sorts of ways of trying to eliminate what you don’t need.
The object of a good line drawing is to be as simple as possible, and it will take a little practice to be able to select the lines and darks you want. But as you can see it is an interesting experiment because you will never be really sure how the thing will turn out, and that’s where the fun comes in.
Lines in drawing are made in several ways. The smallest lines are made by means of the medium (pencil, crayon, pen, or brush), held so as to be controlled principally by the fingers, wrist, elbow, or even by the arm at the shoulder socket. In a sitting position, the two former are most used; the latter two movements are more frequently used while standing, as at the blackboard. Small details are usually executed by the control of the thumb and first and second fingers.
Broad Effects – More freedom and broader effects are produced by the movement of the fingers and the motion of the hand radiating from the wrist. Still more sweeping effects are’ secured byholcling the hand nearly rigid and obtaining actions by means of the forearm swung from the elbow. A still greater radius may be had, though infrequently required, by swinging the full length of the arm, as, for instance, in describing a circle on the blackboard several feet in circumference.
Scratchy and Unevenly Spaced Lines, with few exceptions, such as when drawing grasses, etc., are to be avoided. The upper lines in Fig. 3 are of the scratchy and uneven kind, while those below are more deliberately and carefully placed. In Fig. 4 the difference between the correct lines and the reverse is made apparent.
Fig. 5 shows practice lines that should be repeated over and over again until the pupil becomes quite expert in their use. To avoid tiresomeness, they are introduced with frequency into other examples in which interest is obtained by enclosing the practice lines in various forms. In A, the lines arc about as evenly placed as could be expected from a pupil after several months of training. In B, the lines are such as would be made by the absolutely untrained hand and eye.
C shows lines enclosed in order to train the pupil to stop the lines within prescribed limits.
In Fig. 6, at D, the lines are drawn backward and forward quickly without removing the pencil.
E consists of lines drawn quickly, but by lifting the pencil at the end of each stroke.
At F the lines are broken, but firmly and evenly placed.
Use Even Pressure – Teach the student that it is most desirable to learn to make a line with an even pressure, from the moment the pencil or crayon touches the paper until it leaves it; that is, the making of a line that neither presses into the paper at the beginning nor drops off at the end.
Fig. 7 gives practice lines that are used in nearly all drawings, from the parallel lines at the top, the graduated lines in the second row, the cross-hatch lines near the bottom and, lastly, the solid shading in which the lines are placed so closely together as to nearly or quite lose their identity.
Repeated Practice – Fig. 6 shows practice lines that should be repeated over and over again until the student becomes quite expert in their use. To avoid becoming tiresome they should be introduced in small doses over a period of time, though the student should study each kind of line thoroughly.