Division of space

It’s too late to change this sketch, but if I could, I would modify the division of space in the picture. The image at the top is the original sketch, and as you can see, it’s about half sky, half buildings/foreground. If I had spent a few minutes planning this better, I think I would have changed that proportion. Since the foreground doesn’t have much interest in it, I should have moved that complex strip of farm buildings and trees down on the page. That would have allowed me to have a sketch with 3/4 sky and 1/4 land instead of a 50/50 split.

Here’s a cropped version of the sketch with less foreground, but it’s still not right.

Ideally I would extend the sky by another two inches. Sadly, I don’t have enough room on the paper to add more clouds, but by the modern miracle of the “content aware” tool in Photoshop, I can get a better idea of what I should have done.


29 Comments on “Division of space”

  1. How about cropping it leaving the silo on the right out and one of the trees on the left out? leave all the foreground in and cut the sky above right below the white part.
    Thank you for brightening my days every day with your work.



  2. Joan says:

    I like how you show your “mistakes” (I would call them treasures) and how to go about fixing them. Even though you’re not pleased with this sketch, I like it very much. I love stone buildings, rural settings.


    • It wasn’t that I disliked the sketch Joan. It’s just that I wished I had a bit more paper. I wasn’t unhappy with the middle part (buildings and silo) but now that I look at it again it could have benefitted from more sky.


  3. Another great sketch, another great lesson


  4. Monique says:

    I love the first one just as much..but what do I know?:)


  5. Ron Wodaski says:

    I like both of your approaches. The first one has spontaneity, a certain liveliness. And for me, the little foreground items and their cast shadows create some of that. They are also grabbing my eye in a good way, and then I float up to appreciate the rest.

    All of that dominates over the somewhat equal proportions. For me, anyway

    The changed also work, but I find a little more delight in the original. That openness at the bottom is inviting.


  6. Dominique Gaillard says:

    I personally don’t like the addition of the 2nd upper cloud in your last version because now we have 2 clouds of the same shape one on top of the other (2 similar shapes next to each other). There are several repetitions of pairs: 2 buildings, 2 silos, 2 distant electric poles and 2 poles close together although there’s à 3rd one on the right of the painting, and 2 clouds. I would eliminate one element in at least 2 of the pairs and completely change the cloud shapes. Nevertheless, you have incredible talent in rendering such a mundane scene and make it attractive, riveting even thanks to the light traveling across the scene. And every time I discover your daily sketch I’m in awe and I learn something. Thank you so much for sharing. We all benefit so much.
    Best, Dominique Gaillard.


    • Thanks for writing Dominique. The duplication of the cloud is something that Photoshop does and I agree, it is not ideal because of the repetition. The point I was trying to make was just to show what would happen with more sky, but not this exact sky which is not what I would have done in paint.


      • Dominique Gaillard says:

        I’m sorry I didn’t say what I wanted correctly. I meant 2 sky shapes one on top of the other (not clouds), but you got my drift anyways. Thanks, best


  7. Dee says:

    You are so smart. I personally like it any of the ways but do agree that the last one is best!


  8. Ross says:

    After reading today’s post, the real question that comes to mind is how much of what you post each day is your own work and how much is Photoshop (which is obviously a dangerous tool in your hands)? Do we need to rename the blog to “The Photoshop Sketchbook… mostly Monteal, and my work most of the time”.

    Is there a puddles/reflections tool in Photoshop? : )


    • Of course there is a “reflect” tool in Photoshop, Ross. And there’s even a “watercolour” tool. In fact, maybe none of my work originates in a book. Maybe it’s all digital, right from the start. I might be using a tablet and a pen tool that replicates a dip pen. Wouldn’t that be funny?


      • Ross says:

        Yes hilarious… that would be quite a prank. Now, I know that there is at least one “real” watercolour that you have done and posted, because I have the original in my possession… and I have just examined it very closely to make sure it is not a print. But I can’t vouch for the other posts.

        Is there a Power Lines Tool in Photoshop? What about a Wheelbarrow Tool?


      • When the reply to the reply to the reply to the comment doesn’t seem to require a response, I usually stop. Unless you want me to tell you that there in no wheelbarrow tool in photoshop.


      • Ross says:

        But there is a dodgy car tool… which I assume you have used. And I am still looking for the self-portrait tool, which you really should use.
        [No reply required this time]


  9. Trevor Travis says:

    Photoshop or not the work is beautiful. It is the end result that counts not the tools (see Hockney) :-). I really like the first version. think that it is because the effective horizon is very low down. I also love the series of squares set up by the composition. Kept me looking at it a long time.


    • Thanks Trevor. Of course, I am a big fan of Hockney’s work, including the iPad drawings. Wish I had gone to London a few years back to see the big show…


      • Trevor Travis says:

        Have just been to the Hockney Museum Shari to see the exhibition Arrival of Spring – magical and life enhancing. It is what made me make the above comment.


  10. Michael says:

    I like this posting. Composition is often forgotten when we begin to sketch a beautiful scene in front of us. My common mistake is to start with an object and then to do the rest of the composition. Invariably I run out of space on my paper. Methinks I should first block out the entire scene and then work on the objects. That way I’d have a better chance of getting the composition right. Thanks for sharing your ideas on what works and what doesn’t.


    • Doing that little plan is really the secret to figuring out the composition, but I am also too often guilty of not figuring it out in advance. I don’t know about you but when I see something really beautiful, I just want to jump right in and paint it. That’s often a mistake because you can go too far into the sketch or painting and realize that you’ve made a compositional error. I almost never regret taking the time to do a value sketch first.


  11. Les says:

    When I was painting with oils on a board, it was important not to rush the composition stage. A friend was doing watercolor and would remark that she could always crop the sheet afterwards. Sounded like a wonderful degree of freedom then.

    But now I’m doing watercolor in sketchbooks so I can’t crop it unless I pull out the sheet :).

    Anyway, I’m glad you discussed this Shari. With the cold weather I can see why you’d want to get the composition stage over with fast.


    • I never thought about it that way with oils Les. But of course you have the shape determined by the frame of the canvas. I guess we are lucky in watercolour because we can just hack off a chunk of the painting, but sometimes even that doesn’t save it!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s