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As we look back at the 100 editions of Northern Life, we celebrate the life and work of Alec Pearson with Alec’s article from issue one. An incredible talent, Alec made art look effortless and engaged Northern Life readers for years. Look out for more in future editions as we share his popular Sketchbook series again.

Many people enjoy looking at drawings and paintings of landscapes and many people I know wish they had the talent to be able to draw or paint one. If you would like to be able to do just that then the following tips and advice on how to go about it might be useful – even though you might never have attempted it before.

When starting a drawing you might find it easier to copy from a photograph rather than do a drawing outside. That’s OK. I did this picture from one of my own photos and I’ll explain in stages, how to go about doing one of your own, using this one of mine as an example. Have a rummage in your photos and find a picture you’d like to turn into a painting, or go out and take one. Views down country lanes like this make excellent subjects and are not too difficult to do. You’ll need a sheet of good drawing paper about A4 size. If you intend doing more drawings it will be worth getting an A4 sketch-book, (you can get these from most decent art shops) – and a soft drawing pencil. These are graded for softness and a 3B or 4B grade pencil is ideal for most sketching. This is the photo I used to do the drawing.

Stage One: I started by very lightly sketching in the outlines of all the main bits. (Drawing in lightly means that it’s easier to rub lines out if you need to correct them.) This stage didn’t take long but these first lines are important. They set out the way the picture will look eventually.


Helpful Tip: To get the correct angles of the way the road narrows into the distance I simply held my pencil along the line I was going to draw and transferred that angle to my paper.


Stage Two: After a bit of rubbing out and correcting I was happy with the general composition and the main proportions of the picture. I firmed up my original lines and added a bit more detail. It’s better to avoid doing too much detail at this stage but to still keep things fairly general. You’ll notice how the main areas of the picture – the big tree, the angle of the lane, the hill at the back, the wall and the gate, are now sorted out and just need more detail.

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Stage Three: This is an enjoyable stage when the picture starts to come alive. It’s also where your soft pencil comes in. With the point you can make good, strong dark lines where necessary (such as here, on the big tree and the side of the lane,) and do large areas of shading by leaning the pencil over and using the side of the lead. I used that technique at this stage, on the wall at the right-hand –side, on the field and on the hill at the back.

Stage Four: Now the job is to keep adding more detail, a bit at a time – and more areas of shading, to get that quality of light in the drawing. This is a sunny day in winter and the light is sharp. Also, it provides a good opportunity to observe and capture the structure of the trees without their foliage. When adding detail and shading at this stage I find it better to work from the top of the drawing down. This avoids getting my hand messed up and smudging areas that I’ve already done.


Stage Five: Using a soft pencil as I have done here it is possible to get the full range of shading in a picture like this. If you practice on a spare piece of paper with a 4B pencil you will be able to produce a range of shades from jet black to very light grey – all the shades I have used in this drawing… And that’s it finished. The drawing isn’t too detailed. There is no need to get bogged down in too much detail by doing every last stone, twig and blade of grass. It would get too tedious and you need to enjoy your drawing.


So get cracking! All you need is a pencil and some paper and you’re away. That’s the beauty of drawing! It’s a simple pleasure and a very rewarding one.

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