Sunday, January 16, 2011

What Lurks Down an Alley?

Alley at Belleview and Wise
©2011 Steve Penberthy
Watercolor and ink in Canson Montval All-Media sketchbook, 90-lb CP paper
9" x 12" (22.9 x 30.5 cm)

If you're looking for ideas for landscape subjects to sketch and paint, don't rule out your nearby alley--it's a great way to practice your perspective drawing.  A perspective view really draws the viewer's eye into a painting or sketch. I guess this is why I'm drawn (no pun intended) to alleyways; they usually stretch out for a long distance, lending themselves to a single vanishing point. Plus, alleys always seem to contain such interesting, odd stuff: boxes, dumpsters, trash cans, strange lighting and fencing, what appear to be abandoned cars, etc.

Alleys in older European cities are usually the leftovers of an ancient street system.  Today,  they seem to serve as places to put out the trash or to perhaps park your car between buildings.

I wanted to do this quick sketch because alleys have been on my brain lately; I don't know why.  Since the scene has a only single vanishing point, I just kind of guessed at the perspective lines. I spent about 15 minutes creating the little thumbnail sketches, mostly to see what I wanted to do with my values. I spent about 30 minutes on the watercolor sketch, again paying the most attention to getting some really dark values into it.  You'll see that I did three thumbnails:  two of the same scene with differing value choices and one of a alleyway of telephone poles.  I didn't choose the telephone pole scene to paint since it didn't look as interesting to me as the other alley scene.  Always good to have a choice!


Vicki Holdwick said...

Great idea and I like the sketch and the thumbnails.

Perspective is one of the many things I have to work on and this looks like a fun way to do that.


Frank said...

I love the way you handle perspective Steve, it makes a picture look so much more dynamic. Your bold use of colour here also adds to the attraction.
It would have been interesting to see a small photo of this scene alongside your thumbnails for comparison.
On the subject of alleyways, I have a photograph of one somewhere - I'm off to go look for it - who knows what I might come up with after reading your blog!

Steve Penberthy said...

-Vicki: Thanks for the comment! There's an excellent book by Phil Metzger that deals with perspective, aptly titled, "Perspective Secrets" which you might benefit from. I've read the book myself and highly recommend it. Here's a link to the book on if you want more info on it:

Good luck! Send me a note on your progress!

Steve Penberthy said...

-Frank: Thank you for the kind words. You should definitely dig up your alleyway photo; I'd love to see some artwork from it--send me a link!

That's a good idea about the photo alongside the thumbnails; I'll try to do more of that.

Thanks for stopping by!!!