Drawing - Notes for the Advanced Artist
Like many an artist, I’ve read a good many books, viewed many a video and studied with a quite a few experts. My initial idea was to read anything that I thought would be useful, but after I had read about 30 books and taken a few classes I was more confused than ever. So about ten years ago I decided to get organized, take careful notes (in my own words except as otherwise noted) and compile them into a single document so that I could compare what one expert said with what others said.
The resulting document was so helpful, that I have continued to edit, delete and reorganize my notes ever since. Art is so extensive that every book and every instructor has to focus, but my notes could be more wide-ranging, especially as I limited them to bullet points. Anyway, I thought others might find them useful.
The notes were for my own use, so I tried to avoid taking notes on something I already knew. Consequently, the neophyte should look elsewhere for instruction, but I think the advanced artist will find them quite helpful. They are, currently, organized into eight categories: color, composition, design, drawing, figure painting, landscape painting, still life painting, and vision and light. They are all posted on my website (http://keenewilson.com/ For Artists/Still Life Painting) and, assuming WetCanvas has no objection, I will be posting them all in the proper categories on WetCanvas. What follows is the section on drawing.
Drawing - Notes and a Tutorial for Artists
Notes from many experts including: Glenn Vilppu, Karl Gnass, Felix Fixler, Elio Camacho, Henry Yan, Vadim Zang, Will Weston, Nathan Fowkes and others
Draw what you see, and if you can’t see, draw what you know
Show soft corners, nearest observer
Observe angles, arcs, verticals and horizontals
Observe both sides of the form, draw into the form, not just the contours
Use structure and symmetry
Use errors to improve the drawing, start lightly and don’t erase
Get the gesture first
Move from general to particular
Increase the contrast. Make all areas in the light a little lighter than you see them, and all areas in the shadow a little darker than you see them. The object is to make all lighted areas hold together as one group, as should the shadow areas. Otherwise, the subject will not hold together; it will lose validity. – Fred Fixler
You need to know how to make something unimportant as well as important [focus]
Even in a sketch, have something implying the background
Should not have line driven style and shape driven style in the same picture.
Intensify proportions, exaggerate, use caricature
Draw what you know if it helps the drawing
Follow a procedure: rough proportion (tic marks), gesture, proportion, form, modeling form (including core shadow and anatomy), finish with emphasis
Get the gesture right (action, proportion and balance) before moving on
When editing drawings at home, it should be a subtractive process: eraser, not pencil.
One can do anything with the darks as long as it is accurate where it meets the light.
In strong light, impose a definite boundary to all lights and all shadows, arbitrarily if necessary
Strength in draftsmanship lies in the degree to which structure is depicted. – Fred Fixler
Show different mechanics between resting and moving
Relate the drawing to its support/base and dynamic relationships. Feel the bend and stretch
What faces you (or light source) is light, what recedes is tone
Can contain complex forms within simple forms
“I add looser strokes so it doesn’t look like I worked so hard.” - Glenn Vilppu
Use overlap to clarify the structure of complex shapes like trees and boats as well as figures
Often use the model as a guide for drawing from imagination.
It’s all about suggestion, not contour.
Flow is critical part of drawing, making the eye move.
Matisse recommended tracing over drawing using fewer and fewer lines - to get the essence.
Every device must be employed to carry out accuracy of initial mapping-out of a drawing. - Fred Fixler
In a drawing, try to keep open or white spaces as part of the design; they provide rest for the eye. Be aware of the positive nature of the paper left untouched. Doing thumbnail sketches will help you to see this. You can do anything with the darks so long as it is accurate where it meets the light. – Fred Fixler
Emphasize construction line rather than contour line in the blocking-in of a figure.
When the light and shade of an object varies in clearly defined areas, it is said to have planes. If light on a form varies with no discernible boundaries, it has no planes; it is rounded. In the light, sometimes things appear too flat. These aren't just arbitrary variations of tone—look at them as planes.
Try to determine planes that are directly reflecting the light. All others will be slightly darker.
Details are easy to see. It's the big form that's most difficult.
A change in outline or contour is also a change in plane. Modeling of a surface should be set out in planes of tone, first larger ones, then smaller ones. Good modeling subtly fuses them together.
Every tone in a drawing represents a plane, facet and sub-facet, ad infinitum.
The degree of finish is a matter of how far you continue breaking down individual planes, probing for details
The degree of finish is the level to which one breaks down planes.
“Anatomy doesn’t matter unless you don’t know it.” Glenn Vilppu
Edges are nearly as important as values. The edge of a shadow begins where planes of form turn decisively away from the light. Squint!
What is the hardest edge inside the figure? What is the hardest edge outside the figure (on the silhouette)? The softest?
Edges vary according to:
1. Conditions of the light Shadow edges in sunlight, for instance, are very hard.
2. The distance from the viewer (edges become more diffuse and values become lighter the farther away a subject is from the viewer).
3. The intrinsic sharpness or softness of the object.
Soft edges always give the effect of light, and make things look luminous.
Ask yourself before you begin to draw:
1. What is the hardest edge inside the figure?
2. What is the hardest edge on the silhouette?
3. What is the softest edge on the silhouette?
4. What is the softest edge inside the figure?
Hard edges attract attention and make the form move forward. The best place to use them is within the light areas. The smaller the jump in value, the crisper you can make your edges.
Soft edges—most often exist on the shadow side of the form.
Lost edges—are the softest you can make, mainly on the shadow side.
The big blur—is the largest area in the picture where values on the model and background are similar and where edges between them can be softened or blurred [are just as frequently on the light side as on the shadow side].
Edges can be lost in the light as well as in the shadow.
Try to blend or mass adjacent light and dark areas together, eliminating any lines between them wherever possible: a unifying effect. This does not have to mean the elimination of lines around the form, if wanted for delineation or for a decorative effect. Try exaggerating hard or soft edges as you follow shadow shapes.
Look for and create contrasts in value, color and edge.
Halation—the spreading of light around an object (i.e., sunlight coming in through a window sill, where two sharp edges occur and cross each other). Soften the one behind it, especially where they meet. There are only shapes, values and edges.
Go for freedom and looseness through your treatment of edges.
A studied treatment of edges yields the illusion of space. You cannot reduce these principles to a formula. If you look only for shapes and delineation, that's all you'll see. You should also look for softness, merging tones, etc. These are qualities we revere in the really good artists.
Overlap is the most powerful conveyer of depth
Even in abstract art sharp lines, clearly defined shapes and values, complex textures and intense colors are associated with near positions while hazy lines, indistinct shapes, grayed values , simple textures and neutralized colors are identified with background locations.
Follow the form contour, even where not visible (possibly using alternate tones rather than line)
Perspective and recession is essential to all painting (Payne)
Warms advance, cools recede (yellow, orange, red, green, blue, violet - in that order) – Red advances, blue recedes, but yellow and purple neither advance nor recede - Graves
Itten (Cezanne modeled the form using warm color to advance and cool color to recede)
Adding either white or black gives atmospheric quality
Converging lines/forms convey depth
Relative size (for example placing a similar object of reduced size in the distance as a cue), relative height on picture plane (depth increases as objects approach apparent horizon[tal] line), nearness to frame
Use clear foreground, middle ground, background
Perspective, dominant horizontal line = interpreted as horizon line
Bottom left advances compared to top right
Detail, texture, intense colors advance
Sharp, clear and bold textures advance; fuzzy, dull and minuscule textures recede
Image coming out of frame or too large to fit inside frame
Conveying form, structure, contour
On a white field yellow recedes and blue advances with red in between; the reverse is true on a black field (p 122 Itten, The Art of Color)
Transparency tends to produce a closer spatial relationship
Interpenetration provides a very clear statement of the spatial positioning
Space appears two dimensional when planes seem to lie on the picture surface, three dimensional when edges of planes point toward front or back of picture plane
Volumes can appear to project from the picture plane if the apparent picture plane overlaps a portion of the volume and is overlapped by the protruding portion. (Example figure 8.44; Art Fundamentals: Theory and Practice by Ocvirk, Stinson, Wigg, Bone and Cayton)
Analogous colors limit spatial movement; contrasting colors enlarge the space
The stronger the contrast between the figure and ground, the farther apart they seem to be in space
A shut off plane, usually a vertical plane such as a wall, mountain range or mass of trees, marks the deepest point of picture depth and increases the sense of depth
Deep space can be depicted as receding along a Fibonacci series of 3,2,1,1 with each number representing the proportion allocated to that zone p122 -123 “Conversations in Paint”, Dunn
Halation (lightening the more distant object where it abuts the nearer) can help avoid the graphic star (junction of two lines or forms that destroy space)
Exaggerate planes and push the contrast between light and shadow
Find the largest shapes possible within a form, simplify the form, then reduce the number of value changes needed to suggest it. (Ramon Kelley)
To preserve the illusion of form, paint the darks in the lights lighter than they appear and the lights in the darks darker than they appear.
The object is to make all lighted areas hold together as one group, as should the shadow areas.
Highlight (typically not a plane but in the hills and valleys where planes come together), light plane (color tends to warm/cool shift in the direction of the light source), half tone (strongest local color; tends to be darker and more colorful than light plane)], shadow, core shadow and cast shadow
Clear top/bottom, sides, corners; emphasize soft corners (always the “edge” nearest to you)
The shadow shape (corner) tells us where and how much the form turns
Show the general form/structure in the darks, so the viewer knows what they are seeing
Crest light – Soft on all sides, follows the direction of the form, most commonly used for arms and legs, disappears as it merges into a flat surface.
Accent – Darkest dark, where no light gets.
Shadow shapes should describe the human head without the help of individual features.
Exaggerate the differences between planes to give them strength, believability and form and to render light, half tone, shadow and color. Establish planes in the preliminary layout and decide if I want to use some, none or all in the final painting
Exaggerate – By overstating selectively (planes, light, shadow and color), the painting can be adjusted to the point where the form appears most convincing (McCaw)
In the head, show the corners at the eyebrow
Cool lights and warm shadows, cool cast shadows (or the reverse)
Cools will come forward if the edges are hard because it reads as a figure overlapping a ground. If the edges are blended, a cool on a warm surface clearly recedes.
Open color - When a color spills over the edges of the form. “lost and found” edges create softness and variety and permit a gradation across forms
If you emphasize the reflected light in your modeling, you reduce your form, if you subdue it, you will enhance the roundness of the form
Model the form from the center toward the contour to obtain roundness
Caravaggio painted in a darkened room to bring out form more vividly
Wedging – Inserting one object into another, as the deltoid into the space between the biceps and triceps or putting a spoon in a bowl to show volume.
Wrapping – draping a cloth around an object
Cupping – Creating a niche (like an umbrella)
Showing the volume surrounding the object helps portray the objects volume too
Seize the opportunity to show the form, even with very thin forms such as cloth
Forms in body tend to be redder, darker and more intense the smaller they are (limbs, noses, fingers, ears). As human forms get bigger, they get bluer, greyer, lighter.
Plane breaks always occur at knees and elbows, except with the totally straight arm.
Where the bone surfaces, you can always get a little cooler, a little sharper.
When you draw or place one eye, always do the other so they relate
To create the illusion of form darks next to light must have greater contrast (be darker) than darks further from the light
When drawing the hand, be sure to study the position of the forefinger in relation to the thumb. Once you see this, you capture the character of the hand and the rest is easy. – Finck
Exaggerate, but not beyond what is possible. Dynamic tension is at its most powerful when it is at its furthest extension (but not beyond)
Draw action in the first 30 seconds, because later the model will be in a holding pattern which you don’t draw
Use line to draw the gesture unless the figure is severely foreshortened; then use overlapping of forms, starting with those furthest back and often not visible
Don’t copy, analyze. Understand dynamics and draw how one form fits into another. Look at reality and extract the things that work. The key is understanding what the forms underneath are doing. Symmetry of the box makes the action come through. – Vilppu
Your drawing, viewed with eyes wide open, should look like the model does with your eyes half shut. – Fred Fixler
Where the figure rests on something, draw the imprint of the form first. – Fred Fixler
“Without measure you will always, always be wrong in your proportions.” Harley Brown
Avoid choppy strokes when painting women and children’s faces and hands
To draw expressions, feel/experience what the model is (would be) doing.
Knee faces the same way as foot, usually
Use accents to show what’s happening and where bones approach surface
Show the effect of gravity
Show definite cast shadow to emphasize form (as under breast) which joins core shadow
Be aware of what’s happening in transitional areas (joints)
When drawing the hand, start with the wrist
Center of balance = 2” behind navel; check the balance pt
The shoulder line is where the rib cage is, not where the actual shoulders are.
“You get vitality with rhythm and gesture. Bones add dynamics (relationship between one force and another)
Think of the arms as on fluid rhythmic unit.
Highlights are simply reflections of the strongest light falling on either an imperfectly reflective or curved surface.
According to John Ruskin:
a) Reflections are the image in reverse, showing just so much as we would see if we were below the water’s surface just as far as we are above it.
b) Water in shade is more reflective than water in sunlight
c) Only light is reflected and so the darker an object is the more its reflection is partially an image of the object and partially a reflection
d) Water, because it is not perfectly reflective reflects more the sharper the angle of viewing (looking down it is either transparent or, if deep enough, black)
e) Clear water has no shadows
f) The side of every ripple reflects a piece of the sky.
g) In rippling water reflections, perpendicular lines are seen clearly, sloping lines are broken and horizontal lines nearly invisible
1 Point Perspective
To avoid monotony placed slightly to right or left of center
Objects with sides near the vanishing point are distorted least
Horizon line: low on page if artist is close to ground, high if the artist is on ladder, centered if the artist is standing
2 Point Perspective
To avoid distortion: Artist usually works with only portion of complete field of view to minimize distortion. Horizon line represents width of visual field with vanishing points placed just outside the pictorial area and possibly off the page on either side of the drawn horizon line, depicting a distance of approximately ¼ the with of the visual field (thus ¾ of visual field is in pictorial area).
To exaggerate perspective, place vanishing points extremely close (inside edges of picture frame); to distort and nearly eliminate receding quality, space vanishing points extremely far apart
3 Point Perspective
Usually the horizon line will be relatively high (bird’s eye view) or low (frog’s/worm’s eye view) on the picture plane
First establish left and right vanishing points, the closer the more distortion; then locate vertical vanishing point perpendicular to the viewers location point (further = less distortion)
Objects extremely close to the observer may be in “reverse” atmospheric perspective; that is, blurred and out of focus with the sharpest edges and strongest value contrasts in areas slightly farther away
Massing – averaging of values during the lay-in
Paint large areas of light, disregarding lights in the dark and darks in the light
Always know what you are emphasizing (line, mass or form)
Either paint the light and render the illusion of form or render form, painting the actual forms of the folds and drapery
Dark materials and light materials have less contrast between their light and shadow areas than do materials of medium value.
Lighten the front of each fold to enable observers to perceive one edge as being in front of another instead of abutting
Posted by: Keene Wilson (Notes covering color, composition, design, drawing, figure painting, landscape painting, still life painting, and vision and light may be viewed in the appropriate forums on WetCanvas or at http://keenewilson.com/ For Artists)