Monday, 29 August 2011

The Inquisition

The Inquisition
Aquarelle pencil and wash.
Last year, I took a painting along to our local art club for evaluation by a professional artist. It was a busy scene at an outdoor cafe, and there were lots of people in the painting. While the evaluation was pretty good on the whole, our professional artist remarked that I had "seen too much", and that I should have concentrated on a small group rather than including everyone in the picture. Well OK, but that wasn't what I wanted to portray, I wanted to get the feel of all these people sitting at the tables and chatting away, an atmosphere.

This year, while in Wells, we walked around the busy market there. Camera in hand, I got a few pictures, mostly of the stalls and lots of people browsing around them. Now, a few months later, aqua pencil in hand and nothing much on the telly, I thought I'd have a go at sketching one of those market scenes. Looking at the photos, thinking about what a lot of work there would be in them, our professional artist's words came back to me, "seen too much"! This in mind, I centred my attention on a couple of women at one of the stalls. I was helped in this fact by having used a camera with 12,000 pixels, which allowed me to zoom in on the subject with little loss of definition.

The sketch above is what I came up with. I used an aquarelle pencil for the sketch and initial shading, followed a wetted no.6 paintbrush to pick out a few mid tones. It took me around a couple of hours, which is about my attention span for a drawing or painting A3 size. I do tend to lose interest rapidly after this time, so although it is not perfect by any means, it's as good as I want it to be. Is that the right way to feel about your artwork? Maybe, maybe not, but that's just the way it is.

The picture below shows the original scene. By taking the two women out of context, the busy market atmosphere is lost, but now the scene takes on a new feel. They are both looking inquisitively at something we can't see. Something that makes us wonder and think that they are definitely interested in something? In the original photo, they are both obviously looking at the market stall, but in the drawing, no matter how many times the viewer will come back to look, they will never know what.
Wells Market: Original scene
In a photo like this, there are lots of little scenes going on if you look around for them, so maybe I can get several paintings from this one photo, instead of painting the scene as a whole. Mr professional artist, maybe you were right after all!


  1. I know I shouldn't disagree with a professional Frank but I remember the painting you are referring to and think it showed what you wanted it to show very well ... a busy, active cafe frontage. Take this excellent sketch. If it had been your objective to portray a busy market scene then it would have failed miserably. By ommitting everything going on around these ladies a whole new situation has been created. Only you, the artist, can determine what you should and shouldn't be concentrating on in my opinion. Great sketch. ;-)

  2. I truly love pencil work, with or without the wash.. so this intrigues me and the title is so perfect... They do look inquisitive !
    btw, I've left a comment on my blog to answer your question about my women paintings. BJ

  3. I really really really loved this drawing. One of the best works that I have seen from you with due respect to the other works. This is my fav..

  4. I agree with Prabal. I really love this Frank. You've done a great job with their expression. And sometimes I think a couple of hours work is really all that's needed, any more and you kill the spontanaeity and life. Within reason. :)

  5. I clicked on the image to make it large and it gave me more of an idea of what it looks like in A3. I'm glad I did actually, because though I like the drawing, it looks far better, bigger.
    I love the expression on their faces - It has an almost comical feel. I really like the lively marks you have used too, and the way you have included your signature - very quirky!

  6. John, you have a good memory - that cafe did appear on these pages, and thank you for your opinion. Now I know that I can make up my own mind as to whether I paint the whole scene or filter it down to some small part like this.
    Thanks for your feedback Barbra, and for such a detailed reply to my question.
    Wow Prabal! Thanks for saying that this is your favourite.
    I'm glad you said that Crystal, as my previous tutor seemed to get a little cross when I didn't want to spend more than a two hour session on each painting. She would have me spend a whole term on one work, but I never want to put that much detail or perfection into it.
    Sandra some things do look better bigger - I know the rugby union does on my 40" TV!!! One lovely tutor I had some years back now, said that I should use paper no smaller than A3, and even in this sketch, I ran out of paper for the legs.
    The signature thingy is something I learnt years ago - follow a prominent line somewhere in the work to keep it discreet. Sometimes a signature across the bottom can stand out like a sore thumb!

  7. very good drawings and paintings, Frank : )

  8. I have just written a long very enthusiastic post and when I went to click on the 'word verification' the page jumped and I clicked on a "Fools Rush In" link instead ... lost it all. :(
    Will try again ... :))

  9. I think this is outstanding piece of artwork Frank! I love the Pen/Pencil and Wash, there is a very slight caricature effect, and it really brings the ladies to life, love it!
    I too believe we should stop when the time is right for us. Once we have captured the 'feeling' we wish to convey then the rest is fiddling (imho). Wrote twice as much as this the last time ... :))

  10. Thanks Ingrid, I value your opinion. What a shame I didn't get to read your original post - this has happened to me on several occasions. Now, if I type a long post, I always select the text and copy it to the clipboard before submitting, then if it does happen to go into cyberspace somewhere, I can always paste the original comment and post again :)