Drawing One Part Two Observation in Nature Research point Two artists with mastery of detail Stanley Spencer and Leonardo Da Vinci

Find out about two artists who exemplify mastery of detailed drawing and make notes about their work . Choose a modern artist and one working in the nineteenth century or earlier.


Stanley Spencer 1940s to 1950s

Aunt Jenny’s garden

– 1943-1944 – Drawing, pencil 18in x 11in  ref   http://www.kwantes.com/SSG%20website/collection/auntjennysgarden.html

This very soft drawing with a lot of mid tones gives a warm pleasant sensation which could be consistent with the garden in summer. The characters in the picture are large rounded and sculptural with soft block shading and areas of crease in the clothing delineated minimally increasing the impression of roundness. The figures are arranged such that the eye is lead from a point below the paper’s bottom edge to a point above the top edge in an S shape up the ladder. (Does it reflect the game snakes and ladders?)These figures take up more than half the paper space and stand out against a more detailed and textured background of leaves or bricks, and using a rope to tie up something on the wall, although the figure that crouches in the foreground does not seem to be involved in this activity and appears to be expressing some form of emotion? The drawing is done on a soft brown/pink paper or ground and the implement used to draw is equally soft. Although there are areas of darker shade there are no harsh lines. The overall impression is of harmony, working together, peace slightly disrupted by the figure in the foreground.

 Portrait of Joan George 1959  Pencil

ref: http://www.kwantes.com/SSG%20website/collection/portraitofjoangeorge.html

This is another soft drawing by Spencer. There are areas of hatching as shading on the hair and around the eyes but I believe these are due to the use of soft pressure on a woven textured  paper. There is a relatively hard but fine line around the left side of the face, the lips,the left nostril, the right ear and above the eyes. The hair and facial shading is much lighter and in blocks. The paper is once again a pale pink brown colour.  The face fills the centre of the paper but there is a gentle tilt of the head .



Leonardo Da Vinci

I have selected two drawings of as near possible comparable subjects to Stanley Spencer’s…a group of people and a study of a face.

Five characters in a comic scene circa 1490  ref:   http://www.drawingsofleonardo.org/images/ldv_oldmen.jpg

My first impression is that once again (as Spencer’s drawings)  the artist has chosen to use a brown coloured pencil to depict his characters on a pink brown surface –this immediately lends a softness due to the reduction in tonal contrast afforded by black or grey on white—I don’t know what Leonardo used and can’t find reference to his type of pencils.

He groups these characters in a circle, around which our eye is led as we follow the gaze of the individuals, perhaps the drawing was done to practice the different attitudes and characteristics of a group of characterful faces-two of the drawings are of side views, one  is an angled view one a frontal and one is drawn to reveal his wide open mouth.

If we half close our eyes we see three areas of increased tone which run in approximately three arrow shapes across the centre of the paper. From open mouth across the forehead and then down to the neck of the man on the left, through the laurel sheath and then down onto the neck of the central figure and around the face and neck of the man on the right.

There is a thin and incomplete line which outlines most of the figures heads and faces. The lines within the face are stronger. By the presence of the line these faces are helped in their feeling of harshness. All the lines lie on top of a diagonal hatching in which deeper tone is produced by closer approximation of the lines. This hatching although basically in the one direction curves like under the pull of gravity around the heads and necks of the figures. There are many small areas where the underlying surface shows through as the lightest tone in the picture and the lines and shading dwindle away in the lower part of the picture with a view representational squiggles to delineate the clothing.

The Head of the Virgin in Three-Quarter View Facing Right

Leonardo da Vinci  (Italian, Vinci 1452–1519 Clos-Lucé)

 ref: http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/90004537

This has nothing but softness and the gentle character of the subject. There is not a harsh line to be seen in close approximation or within this face. There are very faint pinks and blues , which appear to be beneath  this drawing and the lines and shadows are down in black or grey ?pencil or charcoal.

The shading on the face is in a soft block with edges that fade into the paper hence giving the softness to the face. There are thick but soft lines depicting the curls of hair and a few facial features possibly in charcoal or soft thick pencil. These too, fade into the paper at their edges, although  there are some soft fine lined “squiggles “ within the darker black shading . There seems to be very few areas of the paper that shade has not touched in some intensity or other  although I wonder if this was pre-applied before the art work was drawn either in soft charcoal, pencil or paint-to prevent any depth of tonal contrast between the subject and her background. Her face fills two thirds of the frame and tilts diagonally across the paper, with a sympathetic tilt of the head.

The whole image is soft and sympathetic, all achieved by the manipulation of the materials and the composition.


Drawing One Part Two research on stipples and dots as a form of drawing

I am foxed by the use of dots and stipples to produce shading especially when that involves using a biro which has a very thin point and hence involves a lot of time in the production of an area of shade with small dots—-and feels virtually impossible.

I googled shading using stipples and dots :

“Stippling has traditionally been favoured over hatching in biological and medical illustration, since it is less likely than hatching to interfere visually with the structures being illustrated (the lines used in hatching can be mistaken for actual contours), and also since it allows the artist to vary the density of shading more subtly to depict curved or irregular surfaces.” ref:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stippling

I have not yet aquired a reference book for drawing but do have Ian Simpson’s “Drawing Seeing and observation” 1992 and found works by the following artists who have used stippling:

Harold Gilman:

Harold Gilman, ‘Study for 'Leeds Market'’ c.1913

Harold Gilman (1876‑1919)
Title Study for ‘Leeds Market’ Date c.1913  MediumInk and graphite on paper ref:http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/gilman-study-for-leeds-market-t00143
Here Gilman, who was one of the Camden town group, uses line as the predominant vehicle of his picture making but stippling as areaas denoting shadow. There is no great depth of tonal contrast, perhaps due to the use of the fine stippling as shade. The picture also shows a compositional feature of central figures but the eye is taken by the roof’s perspective into the distance.
Georges Seurat
Although Seurat’s drawings appear to be made of small dots and stipples, these are achieved by virtue of the paper and crayon used
“Rather than grasping drawing as line, the artist prefers to blacken more or less entire areas of the page. Between the whiteness of the blank paper and absolute black, familiar extremes to draughtsmen for many centuries, he manages to obtain nuances of half-shades thanks to the textured weave of the support”.(Conté crayon and the legendary Michallet paper) ref: http://www.thearttribune.com/Georges-Seurat-The-Drawings.html
5. Georges Seurat (1859-1891)
La Grille, 1882-1884   Conté crayon – 24.8 x 32.4 cm  New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum  ref:  http://www.thearttribune.com/Georges-Seurat-The-Drawings.html
Van Gogh

Vincent VAn Gogh Ink drawing over black chalk   ref: http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/pd/v/vincent_van_gogh,_la_crau.aspx

Here Van Gogh uses dots and stippling in the middle distant fields and straight and curved lines in the foreground. This seems to give a greater sense of movement in the foreground and activity but not of any variety in the mid ground. The stippling does not vary in size of “dots ” nor their distance apart as they reced further from the eye.


I have been trying to achieve a depth of tone with stippling and dots but perhaps it cannot lend itself to the intensity of shade found in Seurat’ pictures–perhaps it represents more of a graduation between none shade and shade with little propensity for a graduation through shade itself.