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TILES can be tricky.

Perspective comes into play a lot, and not only do we have the matter of the tiles on an average roof appearing to reduce in size as they get further away, through normal perspective, but we have to take account of the fact that the roof is usually sloping as well - introducing a further perspective into the equation.

Let us look first at a particular roof covered in interlocking tiles  and compare this with a roof covered in old traditional tiles and finally one covered with slates

In this section we will be looking at roof surfaces in general - so that means not only tiles, but thatch ( roofs covered with reeds or straw ), stone and tiles of many different types - many of them giving challenges to the artist

Modern Interlocking tiles

Traditional baked clay tiles

Hand cut natural stone slates

More hand cut natural stone tiles

More different roof surfaces - some from warmer climates

You will see from these illustrations that roofing surfaces can vary a great deal and getting those lines of tiles correctly shown can be a challenge.  I can’t give you a simple way of portraying the different tile types - there would be no point in filling pages of the website with information that will have very little use.  What I can do, is give you a guide on how to approach the drawing of the lines of tiles in correct proportion and perspective.

Firstly consider that our roof has tiles which appear larger the closer they are to the viewer and smaller the further they are away.  This is a natural law of perspective.    Tiles therefore obey perspective in two directions

In the sketch here, you will see that there are two ‘vanishing points’  a horizontal on to the right at ‘A’ where the horizontal lines of the roof would vanish if they continued to the distance, and the much further away vanishing point at B, up in the sky, where the sloping surfaces would similarly disappear from sight if they went high enough.

As you will see, I have halved the vertical height of the roof and then marked the quarter points. I have then sketched in a single tile at each corner - upper right at C and lower left at D.  These are in proportion to the scale of the roof and you can readily see how much larger the left hand and nearer tile is compared to the upper right hand one.

So how on earth do we make sure that we have correctly drawn in all the tiles ?

In a couple of words……. We don’t.  We give an impression of the tiles, making sure that they obey the basic laws of perspective.  Depending on the type of tiles and the height and slope of the roof, there will be a given number of rows of tiles, but we don’t need to go there.  Our picture simply needs to give a close approximation of those rows.

Provided we get the shape of the roof correct, and observe the way the lines of tiles run, we can take a section of roof, and mark half way spots along the roof edge, then halve those sections and then halve again.  As in the sketch below, the tiles will then observe correct proportion.

Have a rough count of the actual number of rows of tiles and judge how to approach the task.  In the study above, I have shown there to be 8 rows of tiles.  In fact there were many more, so your next option here would be 16 rows ( by halving the spaces shown above ).

If you measure 3 equal spaces at each end of the roof when you start - instead of two - and then halve those spaces and halve again, you will finish up with 12 rows (or 24).  In fact you will probably only need to show an overall indication of the individual tiles so the essential ones are those nearer to the viewer - in the bottom right hand corner.  Horizontal shadow lines and the colour and shading will then tell the viewer that he ( or she ) is looking at a tiled roof.

If we are looking at shaped tiles - as in this tiled barn in Somerset UK, then there will be clearer shadow lines which in the case of the image to the left, will show a ripple effect where they overlap.  Make sure that your colours show the vertical shapes as well as you can see here the whites and reds.

In French Provence and other warmer climates, more unique shapes to tiles can mean that your shadow lines can run in both directions …..see the pictures  below.

In more northern countries ( to the left is Talinn in Estonia ) the hard winters mean that roofs need to be steeper to shed snow more easily, so roofs tend to have more rows of tiles which are similarly ‘U’ shaped to provide a double layer of protection - this time from the cold rather than the heat.

To sum up drawing out tiled roofs, take some care in working out the number of rows of tiles you need ( approximately ) and give an impression of the shape of the nearest tiles and the way the sizes and shapes change with perspective.

Put down a pattern in a dark/cool  colour to show the shadow areas, then look at the overall colour the roof will display.

  That colour is important, so get a base coat down over the shadow pattern and then work with the roof in a similar way the the approach you would use with fur on an animal …..

Keep your strokes going in the direction the tiles are laid.  

Keep the pencil strokes light and observe any areas

where the roof shows up as being much lighter

- as in that picture of the Somerset barn.

And above all … don’t get stressed about doing every tile

Now let us have a quick look at other roof types - such as Thatch.  For those of you who are outside the UK and in other climates, thatch used to be common in England and also in Brittany and Normandy in France.   It can still be seen on old cottage properties in rural England though there is a fire risk and thatch needs regular upkeep so property owners tend to replace it with more modern roofing when they get the chance. I have also seen thatch used in Scandinavia.   Thatch can be done with reed or straw, the finished roof can look superb and it stays warm in winter and cool in summer.  If not maintained, it can be attacked by birds and vermin for building materials.   

As you will see from the above images, thatch changes colour over time, but the common  thing about drawing and painting thatch, is the the need to ensure that the grain of the fibres is observed, and a further point to watch is the way that thatch often overhangs windows and gives a very much darker edge to your roofline.  Thatch is laid in layers and the top layer is laid to shed rain, with a top line along the crown of the roof often laid in a pattern.  Thatched cottages often have chimneys separated from the roof to keep the risk of fire down.  Irish and Scottish thatch is often seen with solid end walls as shown below.

I will extend the topic on roofing when I get the next opportunity, but my final image (for now ) is a wooden tiled roof.  I have seen these in Canada and also in Scandinavia where reed/straw is in short supply and timber is in abundance.   You get some lovely colours in the old wood surfaces where algae has grown.



In the landscape


using Watercolour

and Wax type pencils