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Drawing shapes – re-seeing form as a series of shapes

Quite a task for a Monday morning!  We all hold a visual memory of an object in our head. We know what something looks like. If I asked you to draw an apple for instance, you would know that it is a solid distorted sphere with a hard often shiny skin. You might even add a stem for good measure.

The likelihood however is that when presented with an apple as a study piece you will see that an apple is less round than you thought. It may be wider, longer or bumpier. Certainly, the inner shapes in terms of surface pattern and light fall will be more interesting and detailed than in your drawing from memory.

I took todays exercise from Bert Dodson’s book Keys To Drawing available very reasonably priced on @worldofbooks.

The intention of today’s session was to help us see the form of an object through the shapes on it.  This called for an object which would trigger the “I know what that is” response. We spent 45 minutes on three drawings of a plastic toy soldier!

The first step is to draw an outline of the edges of the object as a single line before beginning to identify negative spaces, larger areas of shade before refining the drawing down into more tonal areas. The soldiers had to be dropped from shoulder height to set the placement. (no cheating allowed! This meant that, inevitably, the figure was placed in a non-familiar way so it would be more difficult to use automatic responses when drawing.

Repeatedly the comment was that it was very difficult “indeed” to look at the shadow shapes without labelling them as a leg, or shirt, or hat. As we progressed through the morning it became apparent through the confidence shown in the progressive drawings that everyone was beginning, more easily, to identify larger and larger areas of pattern within the figure and divorce these areas from the need to label particular forms. As an aside I noticed that the description of the outside shapes of the small plastic soldiers became more accurate with each rendering.

As a reward for sticking at it we finished the morning with a simple clothes peg. A simple and easy way to realise shapes in the shadows and lighter areas rather than through contour drawing.

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