part three: expanse project five: townscapes

Version 2

Part three has been challenging logistically and it looks set to stay that way with ‘townscapes’. I spend half my week in the small city of Aix, and the rest in the teeny village of Oppede-le-vieux. Though Aix would present the perfect townscape I can’t always choose where I get time to draw. So Oppede: A medieval village, abandoned in the C19th and now mainly ruins, some gentle restoration. Everything about this village is harsh: it perches on the edge of a deathly ravine and with the mountain looming over it gets but a glimpse of sun in winter. Its history is harshest of all: witness to endless battles and spilt blood in times when Provence was lawless.


watercolour (black and payne’s grey, pencil and ink with pen)

This viewpoint doesn’t really get across the situation of this village – which is its essence really – so I have to abandon this composition.


water-soluble crayons, charcoal and ink

The bottom two capture this village best. I continue to struggle with using colour. I invariably find the black and white has more atmosphere, and I don’t know what’s driving that; if it’s just what I like, if I’m programmed that way, or if it’s simply my lack of experience in using colour.

I’ve finally invested in something other than my kids’ school colour pencils – Caran d’Ache Neocolour crayons – that go down like a wax crayon but are water-soluble.


A4, sepia and black ink, green and blue watercolour

I’ve been writing about Peter Lanyon for the Research Point of this section. Through his work I get such a sense of connection to the history of the land – he doesn’t just paint the landscape, he digs down in to it.

This land is ancient. Movements of the earth are seen through great rocky folds across the land, fossils are abundant, the village is full of ghosts.

In the above I like the way the dark ink obliterates certain areas. The village is mainly ruin, with gaping holes where even the ruined is ruined. I continued the line of certain buildings down, I wanted the sense of their foundation running through the rock, the scar of former walls.


A4, sepia, black and Payne’s grey ink

In messing about on a spare sheet I dropped too much ink and mopped it up with kitchen roll – this left quite a useful feeling of texture so I’ve used it here to fill in the blanks of what is a more open sketch. I’m quite interested in leaving the pencil marks that show across the mountain and trees to the left (a bit hard to see on this photo).


Same as above but a little more landscape filled in and the page tidied by cropping.

Version 2

A further crop of the above.

I’ve learnt a huge amount in this one exercise:

  • when I feel the essence of something I need to keep tight hold of it and persist until it starts to show.
  • I mustn’t be afraid to keep working over a piece. I kept going back in to this with another wash of diluted ink, more ink and pen, more pencil, another wash – it’s starting to build up layers. I think if I did a hundred more of these I could really get across the feeling of cracks in the land, buildings missing, buildings rebuilt.
  • mopping up wet ink with kitchen roll works a treat!
  • Payne’s Grey ink diluted can go pink


I would love to carry on investigating this but as ever I am wary of keeping on track. Stopping here for now.

2 thoughts on “part three: expanse project five: townscapes

  1. suemaryoakley

    Lovely subject to work on. I’m drawn to the areas of texture which give interest and natural touches to the contours. And the Payne’s Grey animates gently. I like it!


  2. Kimbolina Post author

    Thank you! Though Payne’s Grey continues to mystify me! When I mix it myself (I think blue and sienna – can’t quite remember) it’s very stable and a perfect blue-grey. When I use the Payne’s Grey that’s ready-made in my little Cotman box it can go violet or pink – but not all the time…so this was a happy accident.



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