Pt 3, Pr 5, Ex 2 – Study of a Townscape Using Line.

Struggling to find a clear view of the city that wasn’t clogged with over reaching buildings, or any point of interest I headed across the River Irwell near the old cathedral to get a better range of the cities buildings.

It was a lovely crisp autumn morning, and the low, bright sun shone over the buildings giving them nice precise angles and a clean sheen to their surfaces. The actual position of the view was perfect, elevated on a sloped bridge giving me an intense foreground that dropped onto a road to the left which ran across another eroded stony wall, dropping down to the Irwell which ran just out of site.

Detail, buildings and foliage

The sky line was elevated to show a line of buildings, with the contrast of new and old buildings, trees, foliage, and the receding sky scrapers in the background.

The layers of bridges gave me a great scope for contrasting light and dark points of interest and there were lots of lines in the foreground of the roads to give the composition some movement. The numerous types of building materials, stone, bricks of various types, slabs and concrete gave me lots to play with regarding textures and varying surfaces and the overall feel of the view gave a nice ‘old meets new’ vibe.

I did some quick sketches in pencil and pen to mark out the movement and the areas of interest, such as the two bridge openings, the two layers that made the foreground, the immediate foreground, and the background containing the skyline.

I used the pen to create high contrast between the light and shade to mimic the clear crisp morning, and also to exaggerate the dramatic drop into the river that was also emphasised by my elevated height on the bridge.  Using a fine Posca paint pen for the final piece. This gave my a nice sharp line and control over the marks, and also a nice varying intensity of line by applying different pressures on the page. I could also make very quick lines that gave a light grainy texture to them. A few techniques became apparent as I was sketching and as I got more comfortable with the pen I was able to utilise the pressure a lot more accurately and precise towards the middle and end of the picture.

The main things I picked up on were:

  • Texture – Drawing familiar surfaces with similar patterns helps the eye to distinguish between buildings, buildings/foliage.
  • Repeating shapes – consistency of repeated shapes such as windows, brick work, tiles on roofs helped make surfaces stand out.
  • Angles of marks – setting a vertical angles against a horizontal one will make shapes stand out and become bolder. These can then be further grouped together by overlapping lines to create varying shadow and depth.
  • Shadows – cross hatching can be applied to create shadow, making the lines more dense to illuminate depth and contrast with lighter buildings. Also using a mixture of one, two and three stroke hatching can give adequate scope on tones.
  • Overlapping – By overlapping cross hatching I could pull groups of objects together if they were in the same shade, while still having the underlining subtle tones of the objects themselves.

I found that using these techniques really gave a dynamic depth to the drawing which heightened the sense of the dramatic relationship between the dark, eroded depths of the unseen river, moving up to a network of crossing roads and bridges, and finally the buildings, foliage and the sky line.


However, I could have used the railing in the immediate foreground as a natural frame for the bottom of the composition which would have evened it up a little. Afterwards I tried, but struggled to recreate the texture of the smooth rail to set it in contrast, but really didn’t do the picture any justice!

In hindsight I should have just lightly added in the small bumps of paint with slight cross hatches and dots, would have made it stand out more.


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