I guess I should say my current favourite, or one of my favourites, because my favourites do change, but ever since I’ve had this book (the last year or so) I’ve kept it within reach. There are lots of books on painting landscapes (including pastels), but far fewer on drawing the landscape in pencil. Only pencil, and only landscape. For me, Suzanne Booker‘s Essential Techniques of Landscape Drawing has filled a gap in my library.
On her website, Suzanne says her book “employs observational skills to translate the scene through drawing techniques in graphite. … is aimed at the novice drawer and builds from fundamental concepts of visual thinking to light logic and shading techniques to composition. Each of the components of the landscape (sky, terrain, trees and water) are described in detail with practice strokes and demonstration drawings that show their step-by-step development.”
And I think it certainly does. It starts right at the beginning, the absolute basics, and builds up. Things are unpicked and explained, set out to try and encourage. All focused on pencil. It’s only in the last chapter that charcoal, watersoluble graphite, coloured pencils and pastels get a little look in, as the contents list shows:
My copy has got quite a few Post-It notes in it so I can easily find things, and quite a bit of underlining and notes in pencil as I read through it and re-read it. Last night I opened it up again as I was thinking about mark making, this month’s painting project and what next’s might be, and ended up focusing on the various descriptions the author’s used for different types of mark. For example, “flat bubble stones”, which is exactly those accummulations of small smooth pebbles you can get in a river or on a beach.
If you’re thinking the name of the author seems familiar, it might be because I’ve used quotes from her landscape painting book for several Monday Motivators: here, here, and here. It was my enjoyment of that book, which the in-house art critic had bought as a surprise present, which led the him to buy me the drawing one. One of the many times he’s known what I needed before I did.
The context for my enthusiasm for this book is this: as I’ve become more and more interested in the use of line in paintings, incorporating line used in a way that’s usually categorised a drawing technique, so I’ve realised that in my learning to draw with pencil it was either still life or the figure, that I’d never studied landscape drawing in pencil, nor charcoal. I’ve sketched with pencil sure, but that’s not the same as doing a finished piece in pencil only. I’ve done lots of landscape drawing with Payne’s grey ink, but that’s a wet medium not dry. (That I’ve not used charcoal doesn’t surprise me because although it can produce magnificent drawings, I hate how fragile the result is.)
Below is a detail from my current painting-in-progress, which is acrylic and oil paint on wood panel. You can’t see it, but I started with pencil.