('La Chambre rose' by Edouard Vuillard)
As we are spending so much time in our indoor spaces, it's a perfect time to get to grips with an often under-appreciated genre: Interiors. As a subject for drawing they are rich with variety, and can offer a lot of possibilities in subject matter and interpretation. It is possible to to blur the lines of subject matter by including sitters in your scene, incorporating window views, or pushing an emphasis on still life subjects.
Looking at the work of different artists, we can see there is a diverse approach to drawing and painting interiors. Emphasis has been placed on different aspects, be it on drawing related ideas such as pattern and perspective, or subject, such as giving extra attention to figures, or still life set ups. Because interiors tend to be relatively unchanging and static subjects, they allow us the freedom to experiment.
('At the Linen Closet' by Pieter de Hooch)
Figures are a key feature in many of Pieter de Hooch's interior paintings. They are however, not posed for portrait, but more in a sense of everyday life- though it is highly unlikely they would have waited there for him to paint them! If you have family members or house mates to hand, try incorporating them into your work. If there are not going to stay put for long, take quick drawings and later add them to a bigger piece. Figures add a sense of narrative interest.
('Interior' by Édouard Vuillard)
Although figures still feature in many of Vuillard's paintings, often they play a different role. As pattern and colour take over, the figures can melt, almost camouflaged, into the scene. Areas of pattern interlock to form the composition as a while the figures are rendered in minimal detail.
('The Study, Ardilea, North Berwick' by Patrick William Adam)
Interiors needn't have figures. This painting by Patrick Adam allows us to focus on light and colour, without the presence of people to distract attention. What you choose to include in an interior composition plays a significant role in what the viewer focuses on. We are innately curious about figures, and will look to them first above other subjects. Other elements – light, colour, pattern, etc. - can be used to generate visual contrasts. You can arrange furniture and props to build an interesting composition as well.
There is no need to be intimidated by the idea of using perspective - a handful of ideas will go a long way in drawing interior scenes. I do recommend digging deeper into the principles of perspective if you are keen - it comes in useful in unlikely places!
1. Place the Ceiling and Floor
If you have both the ceiling and floor in your scene, find the position of the wall between them. If you want to emphasise the perspective, pick a corner – this gives some interesting compositional options. It is a good idea to find the big objects and 'chunks' of scenery early on. For instance, large items of furniture, windows, floors and ceilings.
2. Find an Eye Level
The eyelevel is the height of the viewer – you – relative to the scene. To figure out where this is, look for surfaces that you can and cannot see the top of. Here I have indicated the eyeline through the centre of the image, but have also marked the height of a few furniture items and the windowsill to help find it.
3. Place the Furniture
Imagine that your furniture has a floor space – you can simplify it down to a rough rectangle, with the legs at the corners. Once this is in place, 'raise' the object from the floor with vertical lines at the corners. This helps the furniture look grounded on one surface.
4. Vanishing Points
Whilst I feel it is overkill to draw in a vanishing point for every piece of furniture, it is worth keeping them in mind to double check angles. If you are unfamiliar with vanishing points, the idea is that as two parallel lines point away from you, the distance between them appears smaller. Eventually, the eye cannot discern this, and the two lines meet at a point on the eye line.
5. Defining the Contours
We only need a little bit of perspective to give our drawings structure. Once the biggest, simple shapes are in, we can start defining the contours of the furniture.
6. Filling in Tone and Details
Once you have a good layout, adding tone and detail becomes an exercise of observation. Here I've been mindful of the local values of the chair and table relative to the wall; they are darker, and even though the wall has a lot of shadow, it still needs to be paler than these objects.
('Desktop in the prisoner of war camp, in Mühling' by Egon Schiele)
This is a good warm up exercise to try if the prospect of a complex interior scene seems like a lot. You want to give yourself a reasonable chunk of time to do this; at least 15 minutes, but 30-45 minutes would be ideal.
1. Situate yourself in front of a busy interior scene. The more clutter, the better!
2. Start your drawing at one side of your page – ideally the opposite side to your drawing hand. Draw with one, continuous line. Don't take your pen or pencil off the page at all.
3. Slowly explore into the scene with your line. Keep your pencil on the page and resist the urge to stop; just keep working from the nearest subjects to the more distant ones.
4. Once the big objects are in, try to circulate around your whole scene as you draw; avoid getting too tied up with any single area.
Once you have done this warm up, have a try at drawing an interior with the tips and ideas above. The idea behind this exercise is that it will help familiarise you with the relative size of your subjects, as well the sense of perspective in the room.
This is the sixth of our weekly 'Drawing From Home' blog posts, commissioned during lockdown to help you draw more at home. Please do share your drawings with us, as we would love to see what everyone is up! Just tag us with @Draw_Brighton on social media or use the #DrawingFromHome #DrawBrighton hastags.