Part 2. Project: Drawing and painting interiors

Quick sketches around the house

I was a little dismayed to come across this exercise as it is  the same exercise in Drawing 1. Have got lots of drawings of the interior of my house for this previous module (for instance I decided to look elsewhere for my sketches of interiors. Having recently set up a little studio in my attic that seemed a logical place to start. There isn’t much scope for a 360 degree view due to space constraints so I did two facing my table, one standing up and then one sitting down

Of these two sketches the second is more successful. The lower view-point provides a more intimate interaction with the space: the area under the table is visible and the fact that the table is set back in the recess of the eaves is more evident. I like the roof support beam slicing through the composition diagonally. It adds a bit of drama and again a sense of the cramped space. To paint I have to stand the other side of this beam and basically can move my feet in an area of around 2 square feet. If I want to step back from my easel I need to make sure I don’t fall down the loft hatch! In this sketch I haven’t captured the tonal variation of the dark recess of the eaves at all. You get more of a sense of this in sketch 1.

As much as I like the second of these two sketches, and the fact that I think it would make an interesting painting, the problems of actually being able to physically paint it were too great. I was very keen to paint in situ rather than take photographs and there was no practical way of being able to do this. So I looked elsewhere to do some sketching.

I moved to an annexe, somewhere I was going to be able to leave out my paints for a few days undisturbed!  In my attic sketches I had liked the idea of seeing under the table, having a view of the messier parts of life. With this in mind I drew 4 views of room whilst sitting on the floor.

I found the first two sketches more appealing because the shadows added interesting depths to the underneath of the stair case and the benches. The views of the sink and table, and the bookcase corner and fridge were boring in comparison. As the next exercise is on linear perspective I chose to develop the sketch of the stairs into a painting.

Simple perspective in interior studies.

The staircase provided an area showing linear perspective – the bottom part of the stair receding away from the viewer. The bannister upright posts act as a natural frame for the view as does the edge of the doorway to the left of the view. Wellington boots are normally kept in the small recess to the right, I did toy with adding them back into the composition but decided against it in the end: I found the way the light fell through the (mostly) slatted steps more interesting.

The light was quite bright and came from the door situated immediately to the left of the stairs. The colours were quite bright in the strong sunlight but limited in hues. I therefore chose a limited palette of acrylics to work from: yellow ochre, raw umber, burnt umber, Payne’s grey, mars black and titanium white. Keeping the same view-point (I propped my book up against a box on the floor). I completed this quick study of the view in my sketchbook.

Staircase quick study

This study threw up a few issues that needed to be resolved:

  • step heights and widths
  • the format of the composition
  • the floor shadows in the recess
  • distinguishing shadows from the steps

I tackled the problem of composition first of all. The view was not falling naturally into a portrait format (too much bare space at the top) or a landscape format (loss of sense of journey up stairs around the corner). The solution seemed to be to crop to a square format, which provided I could be more accurate with measurements of step width, would still allow a sense of journey, but reduce the empty wall space to the top and reduce the messy woodwork supports on the right to being a natural frame for the painting.

For the shadow issues I realised that in such bright sunlight I was going to have to look very carefully for subtle dark tones in order to distinguish important areas of the painting, such as the wall-floor line of he back wall under the stairs and to the left. As it was, this was made easier for me when I returned to do a more detailed painting a couple of days later as the sun was not as bright. Whilst this muted the colours somewhat, it did allow the shadow colours to stand out more, making it easier to resolve the contrasts.

Staying with the same limited palette of acrylics I completed an underpainting to map out the main areas of the composition and enable to me check the accuracy of my perspective.

Stairs – underpainting

I think the square format works well, and I was happy that my depiction of the stair height and width was more representational of reality that my previous study. Once dry I went on to complete the painting, trying to keep the looseness of the brushwork evident in the sketches and the underpainting.

Stairs, acrylic on paper


Overall I was happy with the progress that I made with this painting from the initial sketches, using my sketchbook to resolve potential issues to producing the final painting. I have managed a loose style than previous work, not to the level I would like, but definitely an improvement. I am pleased with the way I have captured the light in the recess, given that this was what drew me to the composition in the first place. The tonal variation is perhaps not as great as it should have been, partly as the day I painted the final version the sun was not as bright. However the brush marks evident of the wall give an indication of the play of the light.

I am a disappointed with my highlights on the wood. They seemed to have dulled a lot with drying. I think I need to invest in artist quality titanium white for such effects. The brightest highlight is on the bottom step after the return. This was indeed a very bright highlight, however without the brightness of the others on the handrails, this seems a little out-of-place.

Unfortunately one area that hasn’t’ worked too well is the floor/wall interface to the left under the stairs.

Stairs detail

I haven’t managed to resolve the corner of the room in the shadows effectively and have lost the correct sense of perspective of the left side wall. A small slither of the back wall is visible under the second step. This runs to the corner in the correct place, however the shadow on the adjoining left hand wall makes it appear as if the line of the floor is wrong. In addition, the shadow behind the wooden side support is the wrong tone, bringing that part of the wall forward level with it. Of course this wooden support is fixed onto the wall, so the wall should appear further back. All this points in combination make this part of the painting unsatisfactory!




Part 2. Project: Drawing and painting interiors

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s