Thursday, February 12, 2015

On Drawing Freehand Ellipses

By Chris Brizzard
Level One Student

At Studio Incamminati, one of the things we learn is to reduce objects to straight lines and basic geometric shapes, which can then be refined at later stages as needed. This fits into a core idea here, namely working from big to small, and it applies equally well to that form we all love to hate - the ellipse.

The ellipse is a form that one encounters frequently, especially in working with the still life. The tops and bottoms of vases, jars, cups, etc. are all elliptical forms and so having a method to deal with them is an important tool in the artist’s skill set.

In our first semester still life classes, we learned to reduce the ellipse to a basic hexagonal shape.

This is extremely useful and will suffice in many situations, but what if one wishes to refine the ellipse a bit more? The following steps show one approach to doing this.

First, let’s deal with accurately drawing the hexagonal shape used to represent the ellipse. Establish the long and short axes of the ellipse, remembering that they will always be at right angles to one another.

Next, add a rectangle to show the boundaries of the ellipse.

Add a grid to accurately divide the rectangle into thirds.

Now you are ready to draw the hexagonal shape used to represent the ellipse.

The question now becomes, how can one refine this abstraction into a more ellipse-like shape? Now the process of subdividing begins. The hexagon has six sides and we will now add points to divide each side into two.

By connecting the new points, we can create a 12-sided form which starts to look more elliptical.

This may be all the refining one needs, but it is possible to keep adjusting the shape. One idea is to add straight lines where two lines meet, thereby subdividing the shape even more.

We can now erase the grid to better show the elliptical form.

This form can be further subdivided using the same process, and it is up to the artist to decide how refined a shape s/he needs for the task at hand. The basic hexagonal shape will suffice in some situations where the overall forms are very general in nature (the block-in phase, for example), but there are also times when a more refined shape is needed. This is one approach to achieving that end.

Ultimately, the artist must wrestle with each concept and come up with something that works best for him or her. As instructor Natalie Italiano keeps telling us, there is no one “right” answer, and ultimately, that is what makes a piece work or not, for each piece that we work on is a record of choices (both conscious and subconscious) that we have made along the way. Learning to make informed choices is one of the benefits of studying at Studio Incamminati.

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