Saturday, July 28, 2012

Big Ben in Scaffolding

Congratulations to all the people who prepared London for the successful opening ceremonies of the summer olympics.

Here’s a sketch I did of Big Ben back in 1985, when it was covered in scaffolding. (I’m a huge fan of scaffolding.)


Here’s a close-up detail. When I’m drawing a subject like this, which is infinitely complex, I try to be accurate but impressionistic, suggesting detail with somewhat abstract strokes drawn in perspective.

I used two hardnesses of graphite pencil, HB and 2B, as well as a little bit of light gray ink wash.
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On Monday I'll be giving a talk on composition at the Academy of Realist Art in Toronto. July 30, 2012 @ 6:30 pm.

15 comments:

Vicki said...

Accurate plus impressionistic, Abstract plus perspective. You make it sound so straightforward. I have tried the same thing, but for me it did not come so easily. Getting a reasonable amount of detail (that is, not TOO much, not too little) in a long distance drawing is tricky. For me, either I try to put in too much, and what happens is that where I am working gets bigger and bigger, or I do too little, and it all turns into a vague image that makes me wonder later what it was that originally caught my eye.

vlad74 said...

Love your sketch James.

Daroo said...

"From accurate impression is the poetry formed..."

I think thats a Coleridge quote ... er... maybe Yoda -- anyway great sketch!

Anonymous said...

Hi James
Yet again you have made me look at something differently. On a recent visit to Italy I was disappointed to see scaffolding around some famous landmarks, but now through your sketches I can see I could have approached this from a more creative angle. I am inspired to have a go!
Thank you

Rich said...

I was just imagining how your Big Ben sketch would have looked without the scaffolding:
I would probably miss it.

Izak van Langevelde said...

Technically speaking, Big Ben refers to the clock inside, while the tower was recently given its official name of 'Elizabeth Tower' And, yes, I do love these drawings of yours...

Matt Ursell said...

Actually big Ben is the bell. i also love this drawing ;-)

David J Teter said...

Great drawings. I too am a big fan of scaffolding and enjoy these unusual depictions of landmarks.

Any one any time can do it without scaffolding so what a Big surprise it must have Ben (pun intended).

One question...
What was that section angled upward on the right side all about?

James Gurney said...

David, I assumed that up-tilting section was a "catcher" to keep falling debris from damaging the structure underneath.

Thanks, everyone for explaining about the name.

Vicki, I know what you mean--it happens to me, too. Using a big brush or a broad pencil often helps. I still have to be accurate, but I try to do as much detail with the big tool as possible.

Daroo, love the quote. I guess "accurate impression" appears to be a paradox.

Anon, I was especially fascinated by the bamboo scaffolding in China.

Sarah Chalek... said...

I've been following your blog and this seems like a question only you would know the answer to. If I accidentally sprayed Raid, the bug killer, all over my watercolor paper, is it still ok to paint on it, or will it deteriorate over time? Thanks!

James Gurney said...

Sarah, wow, that's a good question. I guess the best thing would be to try it out. I don't know how long the toxins linger, or whether it would leave an oily film. I would air it out and try a test swatch. If it smelled funny, or if bugs start dropping out of the air around you, I'd just get a new piece.

Cameron said...

Lovely sketches.To me, they're reminiscent of Ted Kautzky's works, if you're familiar with him.

Also I love the implications of the last post... "Aw, just sprayed Raid on my watercolor paper. Maybe Gurney would know what to do."

markmors said...

I was thinking you looked influenced by Ernest Watson. I always wanted to draw like him. I had your drawing book you did with the other guy back then and really liked your work.

James Gurney said...

Cameron and Markmors, you're both right. Kautzky and Watson were both big influences on me then. And they still are, anytime I sit down and try to draw a complex building in pencil. Check out the post on the drawings Watson did for the "El Dorado" pencil company: http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.ca/2010/09/el-dorado-page.html

Using flat-shaped tools in general is a great way to get that "impressionistic but accurate" look. When I'm painting architecture in oil or watercolor, I'm almost always using flat watercolor brushes.

Scaffolding hire perth said...

It is really a great sketch. Thanks for the post.