Winter Woodland

Charcoal is a big, blunt and fairly crude medium, and for the best effect you need to work large. A photograph taken in Germany’s Black Forest was used as the starting-point. In a composition such as this, where the shadows are so important, the decision about the light source should be made at an early stage. Putting in the very dark and very light areas early helps to give shape to your composition; if you find the contrasts are too stark it is easy to modify them later.

The original Photograph

Step one

With both chalk and charcoal, sketch in a few preliminary planning marks

Step two

Looking at how the composition works from a tonal point of view, block in the very dark areas

Step three

In this picture the light is coming diagonally from the top right of the picture. Put in the large areas of white as bold statements, making marks which are sympathetic to the direction of the elements

Step four

With chalk, add a small waterfall

Step five

Using charcoal held lengthways, work up grey washes to modify the tonal effect of the background

Step six

Start to add the mid tones, noting the effect of the charcoal over the white chalk of the rock

Step seven

Using charcoal, extend the prominent triangle shape

Step eight

The triangle shape has been extended and passed behind the tree, which has the effect of pulling the tree forward and making it appear to stand out from the background

Step nine

Soften the outlines of the tree with chalk to suggest foliage and grey tones

Step ten

With charcoal and varying the pressure and angle, add lines to suggest the branches and twigs of the background trees

Step eleven

With chalk, add snow to the central section, building it up in layers to eliminate the textures of the paper. Use the charcoal held lengthways for the shadow effects

Step twelve

With chalk, harden the edge of the snow drifts

Step thirteen

Another design decision: the tree almost in the centre of the picture now looks unbalanced. I have decided to rub the lines out with a putty eraser before redrawing it in a more pleasing shape

Step fourteen

With charcoal, draw in the clump of trees in the foreground, then use chalk to add snowy accents to the V-shape made by the branches

Step fifteen

With charcoal, sharpen up the definition on the clump of trees in the foreground

Step sixteen

With chalk, begin to put texture into the rocks

Step seventeen

Sharpen some areas and soften others to create the illusion of depth on a flat surface

Step eighteen

Start to work on the area of water, thinking about the tones and reflections as you draw

Step nineteen

When the picture is almost finished work over it with your fingertips using a circular, rubbing movement, to soften the details

The finished picture

Time taken: 2 hours

This demonstration is taken from the new book by Ronald Swanwick, Drawing Landscapes, published by Search Press

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