How would you translate this photograph into a pen and ink drawing?
Here's the way Charles Maginnis, a writer from 1903, analyzed the problem.
"First of all, then, does the subject, from the point of view at which the photograph is taken, compose well? It cannot be said that it does. The vertical lines made by the two towers are unpleasantly emphasized by the trees behind them. The tree on the left would be much better reduced in height and placed somewhat to the right, so that the top should fill out the awkward angles of the roof formed by the junction of the tower and the main building. The trees on the right might be lowered also, but otherwise permitted to retain their present relation.The growth of ivy on the tower takes an ugly outline, and might be made more interestingly irregular in form."
"The next consideration is the disposition of the values. In the photograph the whites are confined to the roadway of the bridge and the bottom of the tower. This is evidently due, however, to local color rather than to the direction of the light, which strikes the nearer tower from the right, the rest of the walls being in shadow. While the black areas of the picture are large enough to carry a mass of gray without sacrificing the sunny look, such a scheme would be likely to produce a labored effect.
"Two alternative schemes readily suggest themselves: First, to make the archway the principal dark, the walls light, with a light half-tone for the roof, and a darker effect for the trees on the right. Or, second, to make these trees themselves the principal dark, as suggested by the photograph, allowing them to count against the gray of the roof and the ivy of the tower. This latter scheme is that which has been adopted in the sketch. It will be noticed that the trees are not nearly so dark as in the photograph. If they were, they would be overpowering in so large an area of white. It was thought better, also, to change the direction of the light, so that the dark ivy, instead of acting contradictorily to the effect, might lend character to the shaded side.
"The lower portion of the nearer tower was toned in, partly to qualify the vertical line of the tower, which would have been unpleasant if the shading were uniform, and partly to carry the gray around to the entrance. It was thought advisable, also, to cut from the foreground, raising the upper limit of the picture correspondingly."
A few observations:
• The drawings use short strokes and open, airy darks, rather than long lines and black areas.
• A lot of his thinking has to do with the organization of tone.
Other pen-and-ink artists who used a similar impressionist approach are Daniel Vierge, Joseph Pennell, and Ernest Peixotto.
The new app: Living Sketchbook, Vol. 1: Boyhood Home takes you deep into moments like this. It's available for iOS on Apple phones and tablets at the App Store and for Android devices at Google Play.
"When I found out about his app, I thought to myself: “Why didn’t I think of that?” It embraces technology and allows users an opportunity to get closer to an artist’s sketchbook. There are buttons that brings out the voice narrations with occasional videos of how he has painted on-site. Imagine a talking sketchbook with videos.”
—Erwin Lian, The Perfect Sketchbook