Monday, December 22, 2014

Back to Basics


   What is is essential for musicians to practice regularly? Answer: scales. They are the ABCs used to build words, sentences, paragraphs, stories. As level 1 students at Studio Incamminati, we have been introduced to the visual equivalent of musical scales through copious amounts of gesture drawing, thumbnail sketches, still-life block-ins and value studies, all in charcoal.

   Last week, I had the opportunity to talk with school co-founder Leona Shanks about another essential skill set akin to musical scales, namely drawing the sphere in space. In the front of almost every drawing book is an image of a sphere sitting on a surface with light shining on it. It is largely forgotten as other topics are dealt with. 


Planar Sphere


   So why is this idea so important? In any kind of realistic art, the artist must be able to control light as it falls on form.  With time and ample practice, the artist should start to be able to see how spheres, cones and cylinders appear in different parts of the figure AND understand how to show the effect of light on those forms accordingly. Leona recommended practicing drawing spheres for 30 minutes a day for at least 1 to 2 months to help make this skill become second nature to the artist. 

Leona Shanks' demo


Other tips from Leona:

It is important to develop a beveled tip on the charcoal and hatch in large areas smoothly. 




Charcoal with beveled tip


Edges should be organic, meaning no linear outlines (there are no lines in nature). When working with charcoal, this means working against the direction of the outline. 




Wiping across the form to create organic edges


In figure drawing, it is very important to make shapes clear. Leona recommended looking at the drawings of Prud’hon for good examples of this.

 



Don’t be deceived by what seems like an elementary concept. As Henry Yan has said, “Stick to the basics - any brilliant styles or fancy techniques come from skillfully controlled basics.”



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