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Buildingscapes in pencil

Paul Riley urges you to consider drawing buildingscapes, and offers his advice and tips for equipment to take with you and techniques to use

For me there is nothing more satisfying than settling down in front of a view and simply drawing. A drawing takes time, and gives you more of a connection with the subject than a photograph. Buildings involve numerous lines for the structure and textures, not to mention shading, shadows, reflection in water and so on. A pencil with a fine point is an ideal tool for this, plus it is easy to erase, and smudge for effects.

Many people consider depicting buildings a step too far, but by following a few of the following tips you might well surprise yourself – and the fresh air and exercise will do you good!

When choosing a location it is important to be safe, warm and comfortable but it may be that the best view does not meet all these criteria. A town or city is likely to be busy. Simply ignore the people; if they want to take selfies with you in the background simply shake your head to say no. It usually works. If it is really bad, it should be possible to find somewhere quieter.


Although pencil is monochromatic there are many possibilities regarding tones and textures. For example, varying the weight of line produces a degree of depth. A fine lead with a hard grade will give you distance, a softer lead will produce nearness, going over lines will emphasise. I introduce blocks of tonal contrast for shadows and hatching, which in buildingscapes is mostly vertical. It may be noted that the sun would cause diagonal shadows due to its angle and height. I find it best to have a diagonal edge but tone it with vertical hatching. This helps to best express the vertical plane of the building. Try to vary the spacing of the hatching – further apart for distance and lighter, closer together for nearer and darker. I find crosshatching a little fussy unless it is done very neatly, so I tend to keep it to a minimum.

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About The Artist

Welcome to the April issue, packed with practical articles and demonstrations designed to inspire artists of all levels to develop their skills in all media. Our top artist-contributors this month include Hazel Soan, who suggests techniques for creating light and shade in your watercolours, Ian Sidaway who encourages you to paint a self-portrait, and Paul Talbot-Greaves who shows how to paint colourful boats in three easy stages in acrylics. Practise your skills as you learn how to loosen up and be more expressive in your drawings, use coloured pencils to create a found still life, simplify a busy harbour scene to create a composition full of light and colour, and achieve clean colours in your acrylic landscapes. This issue we also welcome back Geoff Hunt, who begins a new series documenting the results of his painting trips. Plus Roger Dellar offers tips on how to secure an artist-in-residence position and Mark David Hatwood explains how to reach potential buyers by working with partners. Enjoy trying new ideas in your own work with help from this month's artists and tutors.