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Landscape Sketching in Pen and Ink, page 1


Landscape Sketching in Pen and Ink

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Landscape Sketching in Pen and Ink

  Landscape Sketching in Pen & Ink

  Pen sketch made from a window in the Great Square of Northampton on Market Day

  Landscape Sketching in Pen & Ink

  With Notes on Architectural Subjects

  Donald Maxwell

  Foreword by

  Gašper Habjanič and Sonja Rozman


  Mineola, New York


  (Modified from the original edition)

  The artist would like to express his thanks to the following artists for allowing him to reproduce examples of their work: Messrs. Frank Brangwyn, Frank Reynolds, and F. L. Griggs.

  Also he would like to acknowledge kind permission from publishers and editors as follows: The Editor of the Church Times, for use of drawings; Messrs. Anthony Cavendish & Co. 51 Cavendish Road, London, S.W.12, for permission to reproduce various prints that they have published; and the following publishers who have lent drawings from books: Messrs. John Lane & Co., Cassell & Co., Ltd., Macmillan & Co., Ltd., The Faith Press, and the Proprietors of Punch.


  Copyright © 2019 by Dover Publications, Inc.

  Foreword Copyright © 2019 by Gašper Habjanič and Sonja Rozman

  All rights reserved.

  Bibliographical Note

  This Dover edition, first published in 2019, is an unabridged republication of the first four parts from Sketching in Pen and Ink, published by Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, Ltd., London, in 1932. For the Dover edition, three illustrations have been retained from Part V (Brangwyn: from "The Book of Bridges," Reynolds: from "Punch," and Griggs: from "Highways and Byways in Sussex"). Twenty-two additional sketches of landscape designs and architecture have been selected for the gallery from the following four volumes:

  Chicago Tribune Book of Homes, Chicago Tribune, 1927

  Modern Pen Drawings: European and American, The Studio, London, 1901

  One Hundred Bungalows, Rogers & Manson, Boston, 1912

  Pen Drawing and Pen Draughtsmen, The Macmillan Company, New York, 1920

  The Foreword has been specially written for the Dover edition by Gašper Habjanič and Sonja Rozman.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Names: Habjanič, Gašper, writer of foreword. | Container of (work): Maxwell, Donald, 1877–1936. Sketching in pen & ink. Selections.

  Title: Landscape sketching in pen and ink : with notes on architectural subjects / Donald Maxwell.

  Description: Mineola, New York : Dover Publications, Inc., 2019.

  Identifiers: LCCN 2018047986| ISBN 9780486834283 | ISBN 048683428X

  Subjects: LCSH: Landscape drawing—Technique. | Pen drawing—Technique. | Architecture in art.

  Classification: LCC NC795 .L36 2019 | DDC 743/.836–dc23

  LC record available at

  Manufactured in the United States by LSC Communications



  DRAWING in pen and ink is a technique that hasn't changed technically from its beginnings until today. Although its purpose might have shifted from a naturalistic depiction of reality toward expression and recording of the artist's thoughts, the technical process remains the same. Still, taking a book in your hands that was written almost a century ago on the topic of drawing can be revealing and exciting.

  Maxwell's Sketching in Pen and Ink was first published in 1932. Today one can read it in two ways that reveal two different layers of information. The first is intended by the author at the moment of its publishing—to give advice and present techniques on how to illustrate landscapes in order to tell a story. The other side of the book is most likely unintended by the author, but perhaps even more valued today—it is an insight into the thoughts of a master from a century ago, from the golden era of illustration.

  Donald Maxwell was a British illustrator active at the turn of the century. He was a master of storytelling through images in which everyday landscape scenery takes on a lead role in a narrative. Between the challenging motives on one hand and the constraints of the reproduction techniques of his time on the other, Maxwell managed to create stunning imagery that surpasses what one would think is possible with pen and ink. Through his illustrations Maxwell presents places, points to the main characters, sets the emotion, and creates a picture of a whole, coherent story that is still understandable today.

  A landscape, the subject of most of Maxwell's drawings, is a very complex concept to depict if one wants to convey a story. It is not only a hard task in visual arts but a general challenge to the human mind. When observing a landscape, our brain instantaneously reduces the number of visual cues it takes in and focuses on the essential. This has been important for us during our evolution. Being able to focus when scanning a rich and complex environment has enabled us to find food, shelter, and avoid danger. To try to depict such a rich view as a landscape, an artist has to apply the same process our brain uses to scan scenery—abstraction. It is a complex process that Maxwell tackles with full awareness in the book. He compares drawing to talking—you can say a great deal about something, or keep silent.

  Maxwell's deep knowledge of the landscape and the natural and human processes that shaped it helped him understand his subject and tell a better story about it. His ability to carefully observe and reinterpret produced amazing imagery that conveys not only structural elements of a landscape but also weather, delicate light conditions, atmosphere, and, most importantly, his thoughts. The results are beautiful images that are not only excellent in composition but also carry the narrative and document information that has kept that additional value a century later.

  Maxwell believed everyone can learn to draw. Although not an easy task, he manages to technically explain his results. He demystifies the secret of an artistic creation and plainly and effectively explains it to the reader. His emphasis is on the ability to think and be aware of the meaning and message of each line. He deconstructs and lays his process wide open for the reader to understand. On examples of his drawings, he explains the choice of view, the process of making pencil outlines, the mapping of materials' textures, and finally, rendering in ink. He warns about common mistakes and gives useful tips on techniques of image reproduction from that time, its pitfalls, and how to avoid them.

  The technique Maxwell shares with us in his book is a combined result of the need to tell a story through an image and the nature of the tools and printing techniques of the time. The author and his contemporaries had to think about the delicate process their work had to go through in order to be reproduced and published in a newspaper or a book. That had a direct impact on the drawing style and content. Reading about the types of considerations, such as deliberately broken lines or the removal of birds on the horizon that would end up as smudges by the end of the reproduction process, encourages us to consider the publishing techniques we use today in an age of digital reproduction.

  Even if we no longer print images in the same manner to reproduce them, the lessons from the book are still relevant, since the technique of drawing in pen and ink has not changed. The true value lies in the descriptions of the images, gathered from Maxwell's earlier books. The author does not only give tips on how to shade, set a composition, or draw vegetation but also explicitly explains the processes and his thoughts behind each image in the book. This is where we learn, for the value is in learning the process, not copying an image. The author's detailed descriptions of his thoughts also give us an exciting and unique opportunity to peek into the mind of a master. We see what ideas and doubts he had and what problems he faced when working on
a piece. It reminds us of the questions we ask ourselves today, and we realize that they might be quite similar. This brings us closer to the author and allows us to understand his work better.

  Today, drawing in pen and ink does not have the role of the documentation it had in Maxwell's time when it was regularly accompanying text in books and newspapers. It would seem to make little sense to carry a sketchbook around today when a view can be captured through a photograph with devices we carry in our pockets. And yet, sketchbooks, pen, and ink have not disappeared. We can observe a return to the analog, especially travel sketching, where a drawing has taken on a different kind of demonstrable role. It documents the artist's thoughts about a certain place in a certain moment. What is the story of that moment? Which part will I tell, which part will I leave out, and which part will I invent new? These are the questions Maxwell essentially teaches us to ask ourselves.



  November 2018


  I HAVE so often been asked why I have not written a book on sketching in pen and ink, that when Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons suggested the same thing for their technical library I felt bound to do so without delay.

  I must make some sort of apology inasmuch as I have illustrated these essays entirely from my own sketch-books. This would appear to be vanity. It is, however, really a kind of special modesty.

  It would be an impertinence for me to attempt to tell you how such masters of line as E. J. Sullivan or F. L. Griggs interpret nature, but it is likely that I shall be able to speak with some helpfulness on technical problems which I myself have solved. I will not say that these problems have been solved always with complete artistic success, but with some success nevertheless.

  I am writing chiefly for those who are going to get their living by illustration or who are about to try their skill in the arena of public competition. Therefore, I will not hesitate to point out— to encourage the others—that all the sketches published in this book have been in one direction a success. They have not blushed unseen or wasted any such sweetness which may be theirs upon the desert air. Editors of newspapers and publishers of books have at least parted with money for them—and that is something.

  At least it can be said of the author of this book that he did not take as his motto: "Do as I say and not as I do." I cannot tell you without fear of contradict on the best way to draw. The thing is highly controversial. I can tell you, however, one way to draw, and when you have mastered that way wish you all good luck in finding others.















  THE pen is the one instrument of drawing in the use of which no instruction is needed. Any one who can write a postcard or put down a column of figures is perfectly well equipped technically to make a sketch in line.

  Let us, therefore, start straight away and draw something without any further argument or any suspicion of what psychologists name the inferiority complex.

  We will draw a brick.

  Anybody can draw a brick.

  On page 4, in the right hand bottom corner, is an outline of a brick marked B. It you don't like this brick go and find a better one. Take a foot rule and measure it. You will ascertain that it measures, as viewed in a wall, 8½ in. by 2½ in.

  On page 5, this same outline, marked B, is filled in with a series of downward strokes. A line along the bottom will bind these together and a line at the end, a little thicker than the others, will denote that the brick goes no farther to the right. In fact, these bottom and end lines show the brick as lighted from the top left corner of the paper.

  You will say, I know, that it is all very well drawing a brick, but what about perspective and art and technique and poetry— hang it all a man can't draw a picture if he hasn't got a gift.

  You are quite right in some ways, but you do not argue that it is silly to attempt to write an account of a football match unless you can be Shakespeare, nor futile to be able to multiply by six if you are not Einstein.

  FIG. 1

  Bricks in a wall drawn in outline

  In the Middle Ages most people of culture, the highest in the land, had to send for a priest if they wanted to write their names or read a simple message sent in writing from a neighbouring manor. King John, as a matter of cold fact, never signed Magna Carta, for all the assertions of the history books. He could not write his name, so he made a mark like a squashed frog and the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote it in for him.

  This all seems very ridiculous to us, but it is not more ridiculous than the system of culture under which we live in the Merrie England of to-day, when we have to send for an artist if we want to draw a brick.

  Now we have learnt to draw a brick for ourselves. And if we can draw a brick we can draw many bricks: we can draw a wall, a gate, a tower. In fact, we can draw, with due patience and a plumb line, anything that a man has made. If a man, not highly skilled as the fine arts go, can put brick on brick and thus build a wall, so can any one with a pen and a piece of paper put brick on brick and make a representation of a wall.

  Here is a piece of wall. In Fig. 1 the bricks are drawn in pencil outline. In Fig. 2 that same piece of wall is shown in pen and ink. The various shapes have been filled in and the pencil lines rubbed out. Now note the different character in the bricks and the method of toning with lines to show that character. No. 1 is a new brick, a smooth plane of bright red. The general appearance of this brick in black and white is well expressed by the careful, almost parallel and firm lines that shade it. Brick No. 3, however, is an old one. It must be expressed with a less orderly and less parallel set of lines and these will give it a rough and battered appearance. Note that the mortar has come out and the join between this brick and the brick below it is hollowed out and therefore in shadow and expressible by black marks.

  FIG. 2

  Bricks in a wall toned to represent varying colour and age

  At bricks 5 and 6, however, and the zone underneath them, there is a zone that has been whitewashed, though now rather dirty and going grey in the mortar between the bricks. Thus the simple outlining of the bricks and the slight toning with a few fine lines of the mortar, will give the appearance of a lime-washed wall or one made of very light coloured bricks.

  If you will come with me only a few steps outside my studio, we will make a study of an old and rather tumble-down part of my house, a subject a little more advanced than this strip of brickwork. It is a bit of the Tudor fragment left when the house was rebuilt in the time of Queen Anne. In fact, it has at this date, I think, been rebuilt to some extent itself. The red bricks are not part of the original work, which would all have been in stone. It is the old bake-oven of the farmhouse, and the fact that it is in very bad repair is all the better for our purpose.

  There is plenty of time, so we will fetch a chair and sit down to the job. A distance of about ten yards will suffice for scale, and we will avoid any perspective problems by taking up our position at right angles to the wall. We will measure each bit carefully. Let us begin by a definite statement that is well within our powers so far as we have advanced at present. Let us draw one brick as we did at B. We, therefore, set down our brick at X. In the pencil sketch in Fig. 3 we will mark this brick with an N to remind us when we come to detail and expression that it is a new brick and it must be shown as such if we are to express our piece of wall effectively.

  FIG. 3

sp; Pencil sketch of a piece of wall

  FIG. 4

  The same sketch carried on in pen and ink and the pencil work rubbed out

  Then let us show the two bricks above it and the one just under the tiles. Then we will outline the two bricks below our brick N, and still farther below that, two more bricks, which are newer than most of the work. These we will also mark N to remind us.

  Before we go any farther, let us get down this much in ink. Brick X we can shade with careful and evenly distributed straight vertical lines and we will treat the other two new bricks in the same way. Then we will put in the two bricks under X with rougher and darker lines, and so, brick for brick, expressing old or new, dark or light, until we have this little section of brickwork well nigh complete. From this definite and accurate statement we can add on and measure out other parts.

  In the brick course, underneath the stonework, are two outlined bricks in Fig. 3, each marked O. This reminds us that they are old. They are darker and more crumbled than some. It is a good idea to put these letters N and O on different features in a wall because we may take your pencil sketch home and finish the pen work at leisure. Weather and other circumstances will often stop us being long before a subject, but an accurate pencil outline thus lettered will stand us in good stead.

  Then, as in Fig. 3, we will complete our outline of the principal shapes of the various component parts of our wall, not forgetting to indicate in deep black those fissures in the masonry that give shadows.

  When we come to tone this work and complete our statements about it, we shall have to devise some method of "colouring" the stones—some method of lining that will give them greyness and darkness without making them look like the bricks in surface. The seven large stones in the two top courses are almost white in comparison with the dark bricks. A jagged line here and there and a few dots will break up the surface enough to show their character.

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