On the Drawings as a Means of Representing Multiple Views

In my last post, I trialled the use of drawings to depict multiple historical views of the same scene. Here, I will note what I think was successful and where the method presents problems.

This was the first drawing I did, of a curve in the path beside the river and a slope to the right. In black ink is the late 1970s view, in which the slope is covered with lots of long grass and there is a largeish tree just behind it. There are also trees to the left and the line of sight to Middleton is clear enough that a few buildings can be seen.

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The green ink shows what the scene looks like now, with large trees near the curve having blocked the light so that the path is now in shadow instead of in sunlight, which allowed grass to grow there in the past. The slope is no longer covered in long grass but is bare in the patches between the young trees that have taken over this area. Nor is the view to Middleton clear, being obscured by the large trees.

I enjoyed doing the black ink part, but hit problems with the green. The large amount of shade was a key change but I couldn’t figure out how to do it without flooding most of the page with green ink. Superimposing one view over another meant that my negative space, the areas around the marks on the page, had disappeared. I could not draw in green and expect the areas in white around the green ink to make sense of the shapes I drew, because the page was already covered in black marks. Here is the image with just the black, in which the composition of the 1970s view is much clearer because of this negative space.

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Perhaps the green is too weak in comparison to the weight of the black, but I think the problems go beyond that and are really about composition. It might be better to pick out only the key features and have a much more stylized drawing, one that is less attached to the naturalism of the scene. In order to think about the white spaces that both views need, I might have to do several versions so that I can see where problems arise and leave room for what I need in the second drawing. A true superimposition might not be possible in a way that makes sense to the eye.

Another problem is the fact that the second drawing records the additions but does not remove things that used to be there but which no longer are. In this drawing, the example is the grass in black in the foreground. While this composite represents the multiple images I now have in my head, knowing both past and present views of the scene, this drawing (at least) does not convey the bareness of the path now, only the presence of the grass that used to be there. Another medium might solve this problem. Or there might be some techie solution, with one drawing fading out as the other comes to the fore, and the reversal of this movement? There must be some way to convey this sense with drawing, however.

For the second, I tried a different approach: copying in black ink a section from the OS Six Inch, 1888-1913 from the National Library of Scotland Map Images resource, then using watercolour to indicate the changes I wanted to highlight – the alteration of the river’s course and the growth of trees and shrubs, especially just behind the houses.

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Watercolour is not my preferred medium, but its translucent properties might be an asset in solving the problem noted above — the difficulty of overlapping shapes from different periods and keeping them both visible. The map on the National Library of Scotland site was great because I could fade in and out between the old map and a photo of the current scene, making it possible to see exactly where the river’s course had changed and where new trees were.

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Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

I enjoyed sketching using the late-19th century map as a model; it has a charm in the quality of its lines. If I wanted to try this again then I’d have to get some waterproof black ink, as mine bled when paint went over it.

For the third drawing, I returned to a view from the ground, combining black ink representing the old view and coloured pencil crayons for the new vegetation. This is better than the black and green ink, I think. Similar but closer to what I wanted. The black is really weaker than it should be because I washed the green out of my fountain pen nib and the water diluted the black ink. I also used another pen with a thicker nib for a bit more depth in places.

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