Pictorial Terms Defined
In the following pages is defined some of the key terms relating to pictorial construction. Given the inconsistent nature of the art universe, some of these terms are known by other names. For example, tone is also known as lightness, and the silhouette line is sometimes known as the outline.
These terms are mostly drawing-related, but may be broadly applied to painting as well. Colour is not addressed in this collection, being covered elsewhere in Martin Constable’s optical enquiry network.
Line is where the practice of drawing begins. The first drawings that we do as children are line drawings, and most drawing courses begin with line drawings, only afterwards addressing tone drawings and composition.
There is an inherent magic in line, with a good artist being able to imply with a few swift lines that which novices would describe using a multitude of complexity.
Outlined on the following pages are key attributes of line drawing. The following paragraphs summarise these attributes.
There are several different types of lines. The simplest, and most important, is the silhouette line (p5), commonly known as the ‘outline’. As a hill rolls away from view, it presents at its crest a contour line (p6). Mild undulations in the surface of the hill can be drawn with suggested contour (p7) which, as their name implies, suggest rather than describe (see suggestion on p52). All of these lines are dependent upon the vantage point (p53) of the artist and will change should the artist change their vantage point.
The four edges of a sheet of paper are drawn with an edge line (p8). Unlike the preceding lines, which are view dependent, edge lines correspond exactly to particular features of a form.
In response to the variety of nature, an effective line drawing is likely to include a wide variety of lines (see line variety on p9). This variety will be in such things as the weight, darkness and texture of the line.
The following artists are recommended as reference material in the teaching of line:
The 18th century French artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Ingres had a beautifully exact control over his lines.
Such is its importance, that the silhouette line can be understood as being the king of the line menagerie. It is the boundary between the drawn object and the background and is arguably the line that contains the most meaning in a drawing, signifying the ‘signature shape’ of a thing. An example of its use can be seen in how the silhouettes of the Simpson family are each designed to be very different to the other.
The shape of the silhouette is also dependent upon the viewer’s position. See how, in Figure 1, a different profile is presented as the head is rotated.
Contour lines are formed when the continuity of a surface is broken by undulation. In the flag below, the green stripes are broken at the point where the folds of the flag curves away from view. Figure 2 shows the green stripes and the contours (in red) superimposed on top of each other. Note how the green stripes are broken at this point. Contours can be found in many places, but are particularly important when drawing drapery. They are usually drawn with unbroken lines.
Look at the back of your hand. There you will see tendons and veins marked by slight undulations on your skin. These may be drawn with suggested contours which can be understood as being ‘nearly’ contours. Whilst contours and silhouettes are usually drawn with continuous, dark and complete lines, suggested contours are usually drawn as broken or soft lines. This manner of drawing is termed suggestion (p52).
Other examples of suggested contours on the human body are in the undulations under the collar bone and the soft undulations produced by the muscles and bones on the back.
In Figure 2, the suggested contours are shown as red. Students are usually in the habit of drawing these lines too heavily.
An edge line coincides with the edge of a form, such as the four edges of a sheet of paper. The cuff of your sleeves are other example of edge lines, as is the hem of a skirt.
In the drawing of drapery, edge lines are very useful for indicating the orientation of the form. In Figure 4 ‘A’, we are looking up at the cloth, whilst in ‘B’ we are looking down at it. This difference in orientation is particularly noticeable in the edges. In drawings ‘C’ and ‘D’ these edges are highlighted in red.
Lines vary according to things such as how hard the pencil is pressed into the paper, how fast the line has been drawn and what angle the pencil is held at. Variance of line emulates the variance of nature. It also provides visual interest in a drawing, an unvaried line being a somewhat monotonous thing.
Figure 5 shows details from two drawings: drawing ‘A’ was done from observation, drawing ‘B’ was done with eyes closed. See the fabulous variety of line as compared to the drawing that was done in the conventional manner.
It is our habit since childhood to draw the lines that encompass a form as being complete and unbroken (for example, to draw a ball a child draws a complete and unbroken circle). This is not always a good thing. In Figure 6 ‘A’, the form has been rendered in tones. See how the edge of the nose is a light region meeting another light region, with no distinct edge of demarcation. In image ‘B’ this has been denoted with a ‘missing’ (i.e. open) line. In image ‘C’ the same thing has been drawn with a complete line. See how flat version ‘C’ looks in comparison to ‘B’.
Open lines also have their uses. An open line can make a drawing seem more rounded and believable.
Drawings may (very crudely) be grouped into those whose form is modelled through tone (i.e. light and dark) and those whose form is implied through lines.
It is recommended that tone be taught separately to line, delivered after students have acquired a confidence with line drawing.
Typically, students will attempt to haphazardly incorporate tone into a line drawing, producing drawings that are randomly spotted with dark areas of tone. In their teaching, teachers are advised to rigorously separate line drawing from tone, and to help the student find alternative responses to the tone that they are perceiving. This is likely to include responding to that tone with suitable variance in line or even ignoring the tone altogether.
Outlined on the following pages are key attributes of tonal drawing. The following paragraphs summarise these attributes.
An artist will simplify the infinite number of greys in a scene: breaking them down into approximate bands of light, mid and dark. This is referred to a tone simplification (p12). Correct evaluation of the tone value of a region is done with respect to the tone values of neighbouring regions (i.e. ‘A’ lighter than ‘B’ but darker than ‘C’) and is one of the main tools of the tonal artist. This relative relationship is called local contrast (p14). The tones of a drawing may extend from black to white or from light grey to dark grey. This extent expresses its global contrast (p15), and is what is being referred to when a drawing is described as ‘contrasty’ or ‘lacking in contrast’ (Rembrandt is a good example of a contratsy artist). The highlights and blacks (p16) of a drawing should be considered separately, and treated as ‘special guest stars’ in that drawing.
In a drawing, tone is contained within regions (p17). Identifying these regions requires that their edges be assessed. These region edges (p18) can be roughly categorised as being hard, soft or diffuse. It is through tone that shadow can be expressed. Shadow (see cast shadow and form shadow on p19) comes in two forms: cast shadow (the shadow that is cast by an object upon the ground) and form shadow (the shadow on the dark side of a lit object). Connecting an object to the ground there is typically a thin strip of contact shadow (p20).
The following artists are good reference in the teaching of tone:
Between white and black is an infinite number of greys. Artists find it easier to manage these greys by simplifying this variety.
The Figure 7 ‘A’ shows a tonal drawing done using three tones of charcoal: black, dark grey and middle grey. To these tones is added the white of the paper. A total of four tones have been used.
The drawing ‘B’ shows the same still life done on grey paper. Here the charcoal tones are: black, dark grey and middle grey. The paper supplies the light grey and white chalk supplies the white. A total of five tones have been added.
Added to these simplified tones, intermediary tones may be added as needed.
Some important things to remember regarding tone drawing:
Local contrast is the relationship between one region of tone and another.
Local contrast evaluation is the means by which tones are evaluated. Simply put: it is a technique for evaluating tones by comparing them to each other.
In Figure 8, the tabletop ‘A’ is darker that the top sheet of white paper ‘B’, yet lighter than the floor under the table ‘C’. This is a typical example of local contrast, being an entirely relative phenomena: ‘A’ darker than ‘B’ yet lighter than ‘C’.
Compare also the two sheets of paper ‘B’ and ‘D’, one on top of the table and one below. We know that both are white, yet their relative location has made one appear to be darker than the other.
The tones A, B, C and D are shown in relative position to each other in the gradient below.
Put simply, local contrast is the relative difference between things, while global contrast is the absolute contrast property of an entire image. In other words, global contrast is what we are referring to when we call an image ‘contrasty’.
The tones of Figure 21 ‘A’ span a narrow range of the tonal pallet, from light grey to dark grey (shown in the tone gradient). This is a drawing of low global contrast.
The tones of drawing ‘B’ span from black to white. This is a drawing of high global contrast.
Anything by Rembrandt can be used as a good example of a high contrast painting and ‘The Convalescent’ by Gwen John offers a good example of a low contrast painting.
Accurate global contrast is drawn through attention to local contrast (p14).
highlights and blacks
Highlights and black are the ‘tops and tails’ of tone simplification (p12). They frequently present in different ways, with black being thin and strip-form and highlights being spot-form or streaky (see Figure 1). Students commonly apply black ‘too soon’ in a drawing, treating everything bellow mid-grey as a black. They should be encouraged to consider highlights and black as ‘special guest stars’ in a drawing: things of rarity and value. Highlights are sometimes referred to charmingly as ‘gems’.
A region is a contiguous area of tone. It may or may not correspond to the bounds of an object. In Figure 40 the vase is defined by one clear region of dark grey. The table is defined by two regions: a mid grey (the shadow of the vase) and a light grey. When drawing regions, region edges (p18) should be carefully considered: are they hard, soft or diffuse? In the drawing below the edges of the vase region are all shard, whilst the edges of the shadow region are mostly soft.
The term region edges refers simply to the edges of regions (p17). Just as tone is organized into light, middle and dark, so also region edges are organized into those that are hard, soft or diffuse. Students have the tendency to employ only hard region edges.
In Figure 39 ‘A’, the region edge of the form shadow (see cast shadow and form shadow on p19) is diffuse, whereas the region edges of the cast shadow transitions from hard to soft. In Figure 39 ‘B’ . these are marked in green (diffuse), blue (soft) and red (hard).
cast shadow and form shadow
In Figure 13, a vase is lit from the right. Two distinct shadows are presented. The side of the object that is facing away from the light is said to be ‘in shadow’ and this is termed ‘form shadow’. The shadow that is cast upon the table top is termed ‘cast shadow’. The handle of the vase also casts a bit of shadow onto the vase body. This is sometimes termed self-casting shadow.
‘B’ shows the cast and self-casting shadow in red and the form shadow in green.
Cast and self-casting shadows are usually more hard-edged than form shadow. See how the cast shadow on the tabletop starts off quite sharp at the point that it is near the base of the vase. Different lighting conditions produce different qualities of shadows. Artists traditionally favour soft light as it produces cast shadow with softer region edges (p18), which in turn make the drawing easier to comprehend. Paying attention to the particular quality of these region edges is key to drawing effective shadows.
Contact shadow occurs at the point where an object touches the ground. It is the ‘root’ of a cast shadow (see cast shadow and form shadow on p19) and is useful for indicating the ground plane (p45). The contact shadow gives a sense of weight to the figure: tying it to the ground. In Figure 20 the contact shadows are marked in red.
The contact shadow of a shoe is particularly distinctive, being the root of the standing figure.
In a tone drawing, students will habitually draw a dark glow of tone around the perimeter of their form as shown in Figure 15 ‘A’. The effect is not a good one as it flattens the form.
In Figure 15 ‘B’, this region of darkness has been extended so that it no longer hugs the silhouette line of the face. Now the darkness functions more correctly as a void and the spatial effect is improved. However, the dark background meeting the light face renders the silhouette line (p5) of the drawing redundant.
In Figure 15 ‘C’, the silhouette line has been removed. Additionally, some of the tone has been ‘moved into’ the form of the shape (for example: under the nose, the top lip and chin). Now the impression of a face set in a dark void is complete.
common mistake in tonal drawing
In a tonal drawing, common student mistakes are:
Tone wrap is related to wrap (p187), the wrap being done with tone, not form. It refers to how the edges of an object against a background are contrasted to each other so as to make one edge darker than the background and the other lighter. This has the effect of enhancing the impression of depth in the drawing.
A simple Google image search using the terms ‘Rembrandt portrait’ will return many examples of deliberate tone wrap, similar to that shown in Figure 81. Tone wrap occurs naturally in a scene, but is also something that an artist deliberately employs.
Poorly managed tone wrap leads to
dark glow (p151).
This item is specifically addressed in exercises: 26 (page 83).
Figure 16. drawing ‘A’ shows a dark head against a light background. Drawing ‘B’ employs tone wrap. See how the right hand edge of the face is lighter than the background, yet the left hand edge is darker than the background. The tones of both the head and the background have been drawn in such a way as to accentuate this.
Perspective is an essential part of an artist’s toolkit. Certainly it is vital for any artist wishing to depict believable architectural space, such as the interior of a room or a street scene. It is also vital for the depiction of small, regular objects such as in product design.
The following section address perspective in the following way:
1.What is perspective? (p24). Perspective is a complete system that is so exact it is possible to describe it using mathematics. Artists need not know this system in its entirety, but they should be familiar with its basics.
2.The limits of perspective (p27). Perspective is important, but there are plenty of drawings that involve little, if any, perspective.
3.The use of perspective (p28). It is not useful for some things, but uniquely useful for other things.
4.Common mistakes in perspective (p31). It is possible to teach perspective prescriptively, i.e. to instruct students exactly on how it should be employed. But we have found it is far more effective to teach it from the opposite direction: by attention to common mistakes. This is because students can relate this more directly to their own experience of the topic. This is addressed in the section perspective: common mistakes.
The following two artists are recommended as reference material when teaching perspective:
What is perspective?
Perspective is a mathematically complete drawing system, designed to produce believable 3D space on a 2D plane. It is so predictable that it can be written as computer code and used to render gaming environments on our computer screen.
Simply put, the rules of perspective assume that a plane lays between the viewer and the scene (shown in blue in Figure 16 ). This plane is the picture plane (p46). Key points in the scene are projected along lines (shown in red) to a single point on the front of the eye. Where these lines interest the plane are the corresponding key points of the drawing.
This projection gives the impression that the opposing sides of a rectangular plane appear to converge at a single point. This point is known as a vanishing point. The three visible planes of a cube give us the three points of three point perspective. These points (‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’) usually lie outside of the bounds of the picture plane.
The horizon line (‘D’) is an imaginary line that corresponds to where the horizon lies. When drawn on the picture plane, it corresponds to the height of the viewer. Two of the vanishing points are located on the horizon line.
In Figure 18 ‘B’, a perspective grid has been overlaid onto a scene (‘A’).
The distance of the vanishing points from the edges of the picture plane is dependent upon where the viewer is in relationship to the scene. In this scene, all the vanishing points are far away from the edges of the picture plane. The bottommost vanishing point is too far away to draw (it probably lies somewhere near your feet).
Note how the top line of the picture frame on the left and the top line of the window in the door are exactly horizontal. This is because they both coincide with the height of the viewer (and therefore also with the horizon line).
The limits of perspective
Perspective is only one of the tools that an artist can call upon when he/she is attempting to draw a believable space. However, it must be stressed that it is not the only one.
Consider the drawing below. It has been separated very clearly into three depth planes (p43): the foreground, middle ground and background. The tones have been organised along these depth planes, with the objects in the background being lighter than the foreground. The levels of contrast and the size of the features have also been varied across these depth planes. As the arches recede into the distance, they appear to get smaller. Of all of these attributes, only the last has anything to do with perspective.
Despite this, perspective is of clear use to artists; it is particularly important to professions such as product design, architecture, and animation, where the understanding and designing of space is crucial.
The use of perspective
It is conventional for artists to sometimes do away with the bottom vanishing point altogether. This is called two point perspective. Though not optically correct, it can often ‘explain’ a scene more effectively. An illustrator tends to be more interested in this kind of space than in an optically precise one.
In drawing ‘B’, the third vanishing point has been removed. As a consequence, all the lines that were pointing towards the third point, have been forced into true vertical.
See the different effect these drawings present. The first gives us the impression that we are looking into the scene whilst the second gives us the impression that we are looking at the scene.
Perspective is useful for showing the relative position of the viewer to the subject. In Figure 21, a set of shelves is shown as it would appear to a tall person (‘A’) and a small person (‘B’). In both drawings we are looking up at those shelves above the horizon line (in green) and down at those shelves below it. Note also how the shelf that is at eye level (i.e. at the horizon line) presents with neither its top nor bottom face showing. It also presents as an exactly horizontal line that coincides with the eye level.
A similar thing is also happening in Figure 22 ‘A’ and ‘B’ (overleaf). The drawing ‘A’ shows a crowd of people as seen by a tall person, the drawing ‘B’ shows the same as seen by a small person. Notice the difference in eye level.
These drawings show how perspective can be used to change the apparent position of the viewer. This is an important psychological tool for an artist, giving them the power over the viewer: to place them in different spatial environments with different emotional impacts.
Looking up at
Looking up at
Looking directly at
Looking directly at
Looking down at
Looking down at
Perspective is useful for showing the size and/or position of an object. Figure 23 ‘A’ shows a normal sized cooker presenting in an entirely predictable way. The cooker in Figure 23 ‘B’ looks a little distorted. This can be because the viewer is very close to a normal sized cooker, or that the viewer is the size of a bird, or that the cooker is exceptionally large.
In this manner, perspective can be used to manipulate the spatial impact of a scene. This is used in adverts to influence our perception of an object’s size and thereby also its presence and value. Google the term ‘laptop’ and you will see hundreds of such examples, with their perspective manipulated in order to make the product look impressively large.
Common mistakes in perspective
The following three pages show three common mistakes that students make when they use perspective.
In Figure 24 ‘A’ a table top is drawn in correct perspective. The opposing lines of of the tabletop (shown in red and green) are obediently aligned to the perspective grid. See how they are not parallel with each other.
It is very common for students to mistakenly draw these sets of lines parallel to each other, as shown in Figure 24 ‘B’. Here the overlaid lines do not correspond to the grid.
The table in Figure 25 ‘A’ below is drawn in correct perspective. The viewpoint lies directly in front of the table, so the leading and back edge of the table present as being parallel with each other.
It is very common for students to draw the plane of the table as being lifted towards the viewer, almost as if it is being looked at from above. This is shown in Figure 25 ‘B’. The difference between the two can be seen by the difference in length between the two arrows, with the ‘wrong’ one being excessively long.
In Figure 26 ‘A’ a table is drawn in correct perspective. The viewpoint lies slightly oblique to the table. The lines shown in red are all converging towards a point around 2m left of the edge of this book.
As already stated, it is very common for students to draw all these lines as being parallel, even though they are not. This is shown in Figure 26 ‘B’. Here, an additional mistake has been made. All the lines shown in red have been drawn as being horizontal, which in the correct version they are not.
Drawing drapery is a test of an artist’s ability to employ suitable lines in response to subtle changes of form (see drapery and line on p35). For this reason its is advised that the teacher first reviews the appendix on line (see Line on p4).
Any item of drapery is an interaction between cloth and the body. The body functions as a point of suspension (p36). Many forces (p36), such as gravity, and tension, will act upon the drapery. The form of the body will be occasionally hidden by the cloth and occasionally revealed (see reveal on p36).
Though cloth can present in an infinite number of ways, it can be generalised as a few fold types. These were first classified by the English artist / teacher George Bridgeman in his book ‘Bridgman’s Complete Guide to Drawing from Life’ (first published in 1924 and still popular today). For the purposes of clarity, we have left a few of them out. The most basic fold type is the pipe fold (p37), which as its name implies, looks like a simple pipe. Other folds are: the zig zag fold (p38), the diaper fold (p38), the spiral fold (p39), the inert fold (p39) and drop fold (p40). Drawing pattern (see folds and pattern on p41) on cloth can make the drawing harder to do, but it can also make the form easier to read (see reading on p50).
The following artists are recommended as reference material in the teaching of drapery:
drapery and line
It cannot be stressed enough that in order to draw folds successfully, students need to be conversant with the line types.
When drawing the slight undulations on the surface of the cloth, the classic student mistake is to employ overly hard lines instead of suggested contours.
The hidden master of folds is force. Force comes in many forms:
The drapery should be drawn in such a way as these forces are evident.
point of suspension
Simply put, the point of suspension is the point from which free hanging fabric is suspended. In Figure 27, the point of suspension is supplied by the hand.
Folds can be thought of as being in an intimate conversation with the form over which they are draped. As the dress falls over the leg, the form of the leg will be revealed. As the cloth falls away to the floor, the form will be hidden and the folds of the cloth will take on their own life.
The pipe is the basic building block of drapery, with many other fold types being elaborations of it. From a point of suspension the cloth forms tube-like folds as it falls towards the ground. In Figure 28, many pipe folds are gathered at the top of the dress. As they fall towards the ground, the pipes will often be reduced in number, getting simpler and smoother. This is shown by the two cross sections: one from the gathered top (in red) and one from the hem at the bottom (in green).
Yes, we know it’s a funny name, but we didn’t choose it. In the drawing below, two points of suspension produce two sets of pipes. However, there is an additional pull force that acts to blend these two pipe sets together. Diaper folds are frequently found on the front of T-shirts. They may be understood as being softer and flatter forms of zig zag folds.
zig zag fold
Take a pipe fold and bend it. The inside of the bend will become crumpled and compressed, the outside will be under tension. Zig zag folds are most commonly found in the drop folds of long, flowing drapery as it collapses to the floor or in the top of baggy trousers.
Where the bottom of baggy trousers meets the shoes, the fabric might fall in a spiral form around the ankle. These folds can be understood as pipes that are wrapping around the leg. As they do so, they get broken and merge haphazardly into each other. Spiral folds are also found around the waist of a baggy T-shirt at the point where it is folded into the trousers.
Drapery laid over the figure is an exciting combination of supports, pulls and gravity which are all reacting against each other. Let a cloth fall upon the ground and it becomes an inert pile. In the drawing below, the form of the pile is a ‘conversation’ between the cloth and the floor, with the cloth being a lifeless blob upon the floor. The floor clearly has an influence upon the form of this blob, and the floor is apparent through its folds. An artist should also note any contact shadow between the two.
The suspended drapery falls towards the ground in a graceful sweep. Should the hem be visible, it might create a sweeping sawtooth pattern (as shown in drawing ‘A’). As it hits the floor, it creates an inert fold (as in drawing ‘B’). The drop fold is more untethered than a simple pipe fold, being complex and inclined to overlap itself.
folds and pattern
A printed pattern upon drapery will follow the form of that drapery as it undulates across the folds (as shown in the drawing below). This sometimes makes it easier for the form to be read and is heavily used by illustrators such as Hergé and Winsor McCay.
The depth planes of a figure drawing are organised very simply, with the figure as the foreground and everything else as the background.
Landscape and architectural drawings are usually more complex, requiring at least three distinct depth planes: foreground, middle ground and background. To this, an optional sky may be added (see Figure 35).
The advantage of this reductive arrangement is that it is easy to exaggerate the difference between these regions, thereby exaggerating the impression of space. In the foreground, the tone, detail and edge contrast is high while it is low towards the background.
In Figure 37 the vantage point (p53) of the artist was too close to the table. The result is that the entire scene can only be drawn if the student looks in two directions directly at the table and down at the floor. This results in a ‘dizzy’ feel to the drawing. The solution is to position the vantage point further back (so that the scene can be viewed in a single look) or to change the format of the paper (see size and format of paper on p50).
From an oblique viewpoint, a circle (such as that formed by the lip of a cup) presents as an ellipse (Figure 36 ‘A’ below). There are two things that can go wrong when drawing an ellipse: pointed ends (’B’ below) may be drawn instead of rounded ones and bias may appear in the top and bottom curves (‘C’).
The ground plane is the plane on which the floor sits. In drawings, it is frequently implied rather than explicitly drawn. See how in the drawing below, the ground plane has been implied by the cast shadow (see cast shadow and form shadow on p19) upon the ground and the contact shadow (p20) under the feet.
If one form appears to conceal another from view, there is said to be overlap. The advantage of overlap is that it encourages a depth reading: for example, one object being clearly behind or in front of another. For this reason, it is an important part of the artist’s toolbox.
In Figure 40, football pair ‘A’ could represent one football either behind or in front of another. In football pair ‘B’, the overlaps makes it clear that one football is behind the other. Depending on the needs of the drawing, both strategies are acceptable. With the edge of the two footballs apparently touching each other, football pair ‘C’ is unpleasantly ambiguous.
The picture plane is an imaginary plane that lies between the artist/viewer and the scene that they are painting. In Figure 39, the picture plane is marked by the red rectangle. Projected from the viewpoint of the artist, it describes the limits of the scene (the green rectangle).
Poor management of the picture plane can lead to floor creep (p44), wherein the picture plane appears to curve towards the viewer.
This simply refers to the placing of a drawing on a page. At a simple level, it might involve no more than ensuring that a figure does not extend past the boundaries of the paper (in other words: that ‘it fits’). However, even should it fit, it still might require attention.
In Figure 41 ’A’ the figure has been drawn so that its feet touch the edge of the paper. This is poor placement as it is spatially confusing, the edge of the paper and the illusion of space being at odds with each other. ‘B’ is an improvement, but has been placed in the exact centre of the paper, which is also spatially confusing, as centres are not ‘friendly’ to the illusion of space. ‘C’ is the best solution: here more space has been left above the head than below it. This ‘bottom heavy’ strategy gives the impression that the figure is standing on a ground with the sky above it.
positive and negative space
Positive and negative space refers to the space around and between the silhouettes of objects (see silhouette line on p5). Positive space encompasses the drawn object, negative space constitutes everything but the drawn object.
In Figure 42 ‘A’, all three donuts are slightly touching each other. Also the bottom two donuts are exactly level with each other and the hole of the donut on the bottom right is barely visible. The positive and negative spaces can be seen more clearly in the black and white diagram. The result of this arrangement is spatially confusing.
In ‘B’, these shortcomings have been addressed. Clear separation and clear overlap (p46) has been introduced. Also, the bottom two donuts are now at different levels and the holes of all donuts are clearly visible. This is a clearer arrangement that ‘A’.
There can also be said to be two types of negative space: explicit (being the spaces between objects) and implicit (being the spaces between the objects and the edges of the paper).
In Figure 43, the explicit negative space is shown in red, and the implicit negative space is shown in green. Implicit negative space is harder to see than its explicit cousin.
size and format of paper
The first decision that needs to be made in a drawing is what size and format the paper is.
Size describes the difference between a big drawing and a small one, which in turn impacts its emotional effect (it is clear that a large object figures differently in our senses than a small one).
Format refers to the proportion of the two sides of the drawing to each other. Hence, a long thin rectangle and a square are clearly different formats.
Students rarely think outside of the given norms of the ISO A series standard (A4, A5 etc). Different size and proportion configurations produce noticeably different aesthetic results and should be explored.
Most of the drawing addressed in this book has been done ‘from life’, which is to say that it has been drawn in front of the subject. However, drawing is also often done by referring to source material such as photos or videos. Such material is termed ‘reference’. When using photographic reference, it is important to recognise that a photograph is never copied, rather it is translated into a new medium.
A good photograph does not necessarily produce a good drawing. Good reference photos are clear, without excessive lens distortion, and not too stylised. A photo taken specifically for drawing reference should be taken from a reasonable distance from the subject so as to avoid such distortion. A tripod should be used to avoid camera shake a. Using a flash should be avoided as these produce unpleasant hard-edged shadows.
In the context of art, reading refers to how well a drawing conveys intensions. In the case of a portrait of a young girl, if the face looks like that of an old man .
If such things as overlap (p46), positive and negative space (p48) and global contrast (p15) are not effectively attended to, then the viewer might not be able to read the drawing. The test of a drawing is how well it can be read by anyone other than the person who drew it. This is sometimes a cruel test.
small and large features
A feature can be an edge, a corner or a distinct region (see regions on p17). Features are the ‘visual things’ that we notice about an image.
Features may be organised simply according to whether they are small or large. Small features correspond to the details of an image. Figure 13 ‘A’ below has been treated to show its large features (‘B’) and its small features (‘A’). It is in the large features of a drawing that the structure lies. See how when the large features are isolated they look very much like the original, whilst the isolated small features have an abstract quality.
It helps to understand the large features of a drawing as being its skeleton and its small features as being its elaboration or decoration.
When drawing from observation, a vantage point (p53) close to the subject will result in more small of its features being visible. These can be very difficult to ignore and can get in the way of seeing the large features. A simple way to filter out these small features is to chose a vantage point further away from the subject. This will have an impact upon the natural scale of the drawing.
It makes sense for an artist to start a drawing through attention to its large features and end with its small features, a policy commonly known as ‘details come last’. It is common for students to begin details prematurely.
Suggestion refers to a thing being drawn in such a manner that the exactness of its form is not apparent. A good example is a drawing done of a tree, where despite the fact that we can not see each individual leaf, the large masses of leaves are effectively suggested by using invented lines.
Suggestion is frequently employed when the details of a thing can not be seen from the artist’s vantage point (p53), such as the leaves of a distant tree. It is also employed when the details of a scene are too complex to draw easily, such as the hair on a person’s head. When an artist is making a line drawing of an aspect of a scene that involves tone, he/she has to use suggestion. Suggested contour (see suggested contour on p7) is such a case, where the undulations of a surface have been drawn with sugested line.
In all cases, suggestion requires that the artist invent lines and marks that emulate what they see without exactly copying it.
Wrap is a form of overlap (p46) wherein one form wraps around another. In the image below, the shirt collar is wrapping around the neck. Wrap is very important in the drawing of items of clothing such as cuffs, trouser hems and shirt collars (Figure 46). The key to understanding a wrap is in identifying the difference between the inside of the wrap (green in the inset figure) and the outside (blue).
A vantage point is where the artist is standing with respect to a scene. This involves a consideration of where they are facing, how close they are to the scene and how high they are positioned. It has a large impact on what kind of drawing is produced and also high difficult it would be to draw.
A vantage point should always be actively selected, never accidental or ‘default’ (for example: ‘in class, I always stand at this spot because it is near my friend, who always stands at his spot’).
A drawing is composed of many things: tones from dark to light (three tone structure), regions large to small, textures etc. Despite this variety, an effective drawing is also unified. Unity is managed by a consideration of how all these fit together. Composition refers to the act of establishing this unity.