Pr4-R.P: A Bit of Treesearch on Constable

I thought I would research the tree drawings of English romantic painter John Constable. He produced some very detailed pencil studies of trees many of them made around Hampstead Heath. He made studies of many different species. Elms and firs seemed to be a favourite but there are also oak studies and willow. Many of which he went on to incorporate in his complex landscape paintings.

elm-trees-in-old-hall-park-john-constable Elm-TreesI have decided to brake things down to the elements of drawing I have so far learnt about. With in each bullet point I will look at the tree drawings of Constable I have collated and see how he handled each of the criteria. Whilst thinking about my own handling of these areas so far and looking to the future. (This is how I laid out the constable tree notes in my sketch book and as I was struggling a bit to find a structure to this research thought I’d continue the bullet points into the log blog.

  • Form & Tone 

There are a large range of values evident in Constables tree drawings. Even in the quicker less detailed sketches the darkest value is very dark even black.

  • Line

The drawings are highly detailed with many branches and twigs drawing with just a line. There is evidence of individual leaf masses being marked in with line.

  • Space

In my large drawing of tree, the oak tree, I felt the negative space between the leaf masses that show sky and the lightest ares of tree mass where indistinguishable. Contestable dealt with this problem in a number of ways. In many of his drawings on close examination even in the lightest are of tree mass the texture is very faintly drawn in. Thus giving these areas a slightly darker tone to the sky when viewed as a hole. Around the edges of these masses there is a clear and constant line (that wiggles around leafs and twigs) of varying tone. This separates mass (positive space) from negative space. In most of the drawings the sky is the lightest value left white. If this is the case the lightest leaf masses should be faintly darker to show the difference. However, in the midst of the tree or trees Constable dose leave some white space to bring the masses towards us and held describe the form of the tree. Around the edges the masses always look darker than the sky. Where sky meets tree individually drawn leafs and twigs can be seen defining the edge of the tree.

  • Texture

The leafs are depicted using a variety of dashes, squiggles, semi circles in directional clumps using different intensity and frequency of mark making tone and form. With some of the drawings shading is used at different tones. The directional horizontal lines are visible and uniform. This would work well for trees that are further away. The mid ground trees are highly textured with differing marks and areas of tone.

  • Perspective

Arial perspective is common place in these tree drawings of Constable. In my copy of Elm Trees in Old Hall Park I forgot this rule and although the two back ground trees are correct in scale they appear far closer than they do in his drawing as the trunks are far to solid black. This means they do not appear to recede enough and look like tiny trees nearly on a level with the huge mid ground Elms.

Some Constable drawing studies and notes on subject.

Some Constable drawing studies and notes on subject.


About Emma Perring

Artist, oil painter

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