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Beginning to Draw: The Foundation of Art

2007. For individual and classroom use only. Duplication or any form of electronic or digital copying is expressly forbidden under the laws of the United States of America, Canada, Europe and all other countries bound by International Agreement.

2007. All rights reserved.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction About Perception The Arabesque
Proportion Shape

4 5 9 19 31 36 37 40 46 51 60

Modelling Form Constructing your Black Box The Egg The Singular Bottle Perspective An Introduction The Still Life The Cast: Introduction to Portrait Drawing

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SUPPLY LIST
Paper: Fabriano or Canson Ingres, Ivory or Buff colored (10 sheets) 1 pad of newsprint (50 or 100 sheets) 14x18 Drawing Board: 14x18 or 16x20 2 Clips and Masking Tape Pencils: Mars Lumograph 8B (6 minimum) 3 sticks Vine charcoal medium thickness & grade 4 sticks Black conte and 1 holder Kneaded Eraser Knitting needle Plumb bob (available at any hardware store. A fishing sinker or large washer or bolt will suffice) and 16 length of string or heavy black thread 8x10 plexiglass or glass 1 watersoluble black marker (China marker) 1 small jar of Gesso (student grade) and a 1 brush Safety razor blades and medium grade sandpaper with a sanding block (piece of wood or small, flat object that can be held in your hand) Mahl Stick (optional) Easel (Many different types of easels are available. Choose one that is sturdy and easy to use. I do not recommend using table top easels) 1 small clip on light (10 watts or thereabouts) Blackbox (you need to build this yourself using inexpensive wood, glue and black construction paper. You can also use a heavy cardboard box lined with the black construction paper).
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rawing is the most direct conduit of visual expression and intention. A drawing can be either a work of art in itself or a preliminary structure to a more ambitious medium such as painting, sculpture, film, or any other endeavor. As an artist and teacher I firmly believe that a solid tri-partite foundation of craft is essential to art-making. Drawing, composition and color form this foundation. Of course, craft is only one of the components in the practice of art. The other two are expression and the construct - which is the syntax, or language, of visual art making. The primary agenda of the Beginning to Draw DVD workshop is to train you in the principles of drawing and to sufficiently develop your eye and hand so that you acquire the skill sets to pursue your own expression and the development of your unique voice unencumbered by faulty technique and perception. My name is Michael Britton and I will be your guide to your initial development as an artist.

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hen we look at a photograph we experience its immediate fact - its frozen moment. Looking at a photograph engages the limbic, or emotional right-side, of our hemispheric brain. However, when we look at a realist drawing we first quickly analyze it with our brains left hemisphere to assure ourselves that it meets a standard of plausibility before becoming emotionally engaged. The problem of drawing for the artist is the conflict between the concrete fact of the object we are looking at and our emotional disengagement and analysis of it when we attempt to draw it. The result of this conflict is a drawn symbolic preconception. Symbolic preconceptions are a subconscious visual language - a cuneiform syntax that assigns generic symbols to known objects. This language of symbols evolved as a defense mechanism to ensure early humanitys survival - namely, the recognition of food sources and avoidance of predators.

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When we look at an unfamiliar, unknown object our subconscious mind struggles to form a symbol. Quite often the beginning artist will draw an unfamiliar object more accurately than they would a familiar object. However, when the same beginning artist attempts to draw this previously unfamiliar object again - it is more likely than not that a symbol of the object will be drawn. This is the nature of language - an object is discovered and given a name. The named object is then assigned a symbol by our subconscious thus establishing an association between a name and an object. Consider, for example, the word RED. Immediately an image which is the color red comes to mind which is a symbol for the word RED. But if I say YELLOW and show you a blue image what you see now conflicts with the expected image. We are momentarily disoriented until our mind reassociates the blue image with the word BLUE. For example, This is blue. This visual language process works at a higher level too. Consider these two similar illustrations:

On the left is a drawn cube in space. We know that all of these lines are on the same flat 2-dimensional plane but we perceive it as 3-dimensional. Placing the letters a on the perceived front corners of the cube reinforces our perception of this cube. However, place these letters a onto the other, unexpected, corners of the cube and we experience visual conflict - the expected back panel of this cube struggles to come forward. Our preconceived symbol of a cube is disrupted until our analytical left-brain determines that a now represents the back panel. It is this visual conflict that artists constantly struggle with. The resolution of this conflict of what we see and what we perceive requires training, skill set of tools.
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One overview of the historical development of drawing is an appreciation of the discoveries and refinements of perception. The art of Classical Greece remains the touchstone of Western Civilization. What is generally not known is that by the late 13th Century very few original Classical Greek statues remained intact. Even fragments of the original sculptures are rare. All that was left to be re-discovered by the 13th Century, the early beginnings of the Renaissance, were Roman copies of copies of the original Classical Greek statues. From the 5th Century AD to the fall of Constantinople in 1453 the humanist ethic of Greek Art was superceded by the Byzantine whose ethic ideal was the glorification of God and Jesus. Replacing the nude, humanist figures of Greek art were the Virgin Mary and the Saints. Perhaps the lowest point of Western Civilization was the Iconoclastic Period beginning in 730AD when the Emperor Leo III, also known as the Syrian, banned all Christian Images and ordered them destroyed. For 112 years all depictions of the human form were decreed blasphemous, sought out and destroyed as an act in the service of God. This was a time of economic decline and political upheaval in the Mediterranean world. For almost one thousand years the Classical Ideals of art languished and were nearly extinguished. Except for a small number of about 50 Monks pushed to the edge of Europe onto the Isle of Man around 550 AD the Classical Ideals would have been irrevocably lost. In sum, Western Civilization survived only by the skin of its teeth.

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Although the origins of the Italian Renaissance are vague, it is believed to have taken its first form in the late 14th Century. The first major artist of the Renaissance was Giotto di Bondone (1267 - 1337). The achievements of Giotto are stunning. Although to our contemporary eye his work can look crude and amateurish it should be remembered that after almost 1,000 years of Byzantine stylism the knowledge and skills required for realist drawing were lost and had to be re-invented. The early Renaissance artists struggled with the same issues as the beginning artist today - except that they had very little guidance. Only the ruins and fragments of the earlier Greek and Roman empires were their references. It took almost 200 years of struggle and re-invention before drawing, and the expression of the human figure, attained its apotheosis in the High Renaissance at the turn of the 16th Century with Raphael, Da Vinci and Michelangelo. Realist drawing is an invention whose practice requires a skill-set - a skill-set that you are now about to acquire.

Giotto de Bondone

Raphael
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Proportion
The first skill to be acquired is the ability to adjudge and strike the root proportion of objects. To achieve this skill the following six exercises should be enacted in the order presented. Affix a sheet of newsprint onto your drawing board and over this attach your plexiglass. You will be drawing only with your water-soluble black marker. You will need to clean off your plexiglass before proceeding with the subsequent exercise. Hence, a wet rag will be quite handy. The following pages contain the objects to be used. Print out these sheets (the exercises) and affix them at your eye level onto a wall that is approximately 6 or 8 feet distance. If you dont have a printer draw and paint in your own shapes (use gray colored poster or acrylic paint) using the dimensions of the exercises on a sheet of white paper Set up your easel to that you can easily see both your drawing surface and the exercise with minimal movement of your head. The agenda is to train your eye to accurately adjudge proportion. Therefore DO NOT PRE-MEASURE! We always strike first (our best guess) and then check it. The DVD demonstration explains the process of checking and correcting with much greater clarity than can be explained with text.

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We begin with the Square (which is the litmus test to assure us that we are proceeding correctly). First, look at the square from your station point and then draw it on your paper as accurately as you are able (as demonstrated in the DVD) with your black marker. Next, we use the square to ascertain that we are sighting correctly. Hold your knitting needle at arms length, keep you elbox locked, and place the point of the knitting needle on one side of the square and adjust your thumb on the knitting needle so that it corresponds with the square that is taped onto the wall. Now turn the knitting needle perpendicular so that your fixed thumb is now at the base of the square. If you are sighting correctly the tip of the knitting needle will be touching the top of the square. Now correlate those proportions to your drawing of the square on the plexiglass. The width of your square should equal the height. If it doesnt, that will tell you what your general weakness is. Repeat this exercise until you can strike the square with a reasonable accuracy. Finally, hold your plexiglass drawing up to the square that is affixed to the wall and adjust your plexiglass (like a camera lens) until the square fits. This is how we ascertain correct shape. Correct as necessary.

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Next is the Double Square. Again, draw the double square on the plexiglass taking your best guess. Now sight the width and as you turn your knitting needle perpendicularly you need to take note of where the tip is on the double square. This is called a check point. (You are allowed to make a little mark on the exercise sheet if you find that it helps you. Training wheels are allowed. For now.) Move your fixed thumb up to the checkpoint and note the placement of the knitting needles tip. As you may have guessed, the height of the double square is twice that of the width. Your drawing on the plexiglass should correlate this. If not, correct as necessary. But do not premeasure the correction, do it free-hand. This is how we train our eye. Finally, hold up your plexiglass drawing to the exercise to check its shape. Correct as needed.

checkpoint

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Exercise 3, The Root 2 Rectangle, introduces a new element.

Checkpoint 2
Adjudge the smallest distance.

Draw the Root 2 Rectangle on the plexiglass taking your best guess. (If you are making your own rectangle exercises the dimensions of this Root 2 Rectangle are 9 x 6 3/8. Now sight the width and as you turn your knitting needle perpendicularly note the checkpoint. Move your fixed thumb up to the checkpoint and note the placement of the knitting needles tip.

Checkpoint 1

The tip of the knitting needle now establishes the second checkpoint which is above the Root 2 Rectangle. A critical moment has now presented itself. We need to learn to accurately judge distances. And a small distance is more accurately adjudged than is a larger distance. Hence, we now need to take our best guess and make a mark on our plexiglass where we best feel this second checkpoint is. As you gain experience, your ability to accurately place this checkpoint will improve significantly.

The Root 2 Rectangle is one of the dynamic rectangles that correspond to natural design law. The other dynamic rectangles are the Golden rectangle, Root 3, the square, the double square, Root 5, and the square root of the Golden Rectangle. This is fully explained and taught in my Symphonic Composition DVD Workshop.

Now check the proportions of your drawing. The width should equal twice the measure from the base of the Root 2 Rectangle to the uppermost checkpoint. If necessary, correct your drawing to correspond to the uppermost checkpoint. Finally, hold up your plexiglass drawing to the exercise to check its proportion and shape. Correct as needed. However, be aware that your checkpoint may be off. You will get better at this.

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Exercise 1: The Square

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Exercise 2: The Double Square

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Exercise 3: The Root 2 Rectangle

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Exercise 4: The Root 3 Rectangle

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Exercise 5: The Root 5 Rectangle

Three checkpoints will be required for this exercise.

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Exercise 6: The Golden Rectangle

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Shape
In addition to acquiring the skill of adjudging proportion we also need to adjudge shape. Striking the arabesque, which is the outside shape of an object, encapsulates both proportion and shape simultaneously. We now know how to use the plexiglass to verify the accuracy of our drawings proportion. Now we shall put the plexiglass to much greater use. Again, enact the exercises in the order that they are presented. We are still working with the black marker on plexiglass. Three of the exercises are demonstrated on the DVD beginning with Exercise 1: The Peach. If helpful, you can draw a rectangle on the Exercise page to fit the peach. That way you can first establish the proportion and then the shape. Soon, though, you will need to establish proportion and shape in one approach.

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Shape: Exercise 1: The Peach

Peach shape
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Shape: Exercise 2: The Foreshortened Cucumber

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Foreshortened Cucumber shape

Shape: Exercise 3: Watermelon Slice

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Watermelon Slice shape

Shape: Exercise 4: The Lemon

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Lemon shape

Shape: Exercise 5: The Pepper

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Pepper shape
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Shape: Exercise 6: The Egg in a Cup

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Egg in Cup Shape

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Shape: Exercise 7: The Flower Pot

Flowerpot Shape
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Shape: Exercise 8: Bananas

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Banana Bunch shape

Shape: Exercise 9: The Roman Vase

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Roman Pitcher shape

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Shape: Exercise 10: The Strawberry

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Strawberry shape

Shape: Exercise 11: The Apple Core

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Apple Core shape

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orm is the 3-dimensional shape of an object. A more accurate term, though, is plastic form. Plasticity is the illusion of 3-dimensionality rendered on a flat plane (the 2-dimensional pictorial surface, i.e., your paper). There are numerous approaches to rendering plastic form: Value (the relative lightness and darkness of one area to another); color; line (perspective, for example); and tone (or shading) are some of these. At present tone shall be the considered approach. Tone can be applied by direct application of drawing material (such as charcoal) and then smeared, or stumped, to describe the form of an object or by manipulation of the sharpened pencil. The historical approach to rendering plastic form with the sharpened pencil is by cross-hatching. Cross-hatching is the marking of a series of parallel lines within a given area. To further darken, or tone down, that area another series of parallel lines are laid down over the previous series. And so on and so on. Cross-hatching is a learned skill. It looks easy to do until you actually attempt it. Quite often, uncontrolled cross-hatching reads as flat and unconvincing. The following four exercises will develop your cross-hatching skills to a competent level. But you do have to diligently practice.

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Cross-Hatching: Exercise 1
Using a small piece of Ingres ivory or buff colored paper sketch out a square that is approximately 4 x 4 inches. Within this square using super sharp 8B pencils (any type of pencil will suffice. In fact, you should gain experience with many different types) tone the square evenly with cross-hatching as demonstrated on DVD 1. The objective is to develop your skill so that you can lay down an even tone. Be prepared to do this exercise about six or eight times before you really get the hang of it.

Cross-Hatching: Exercise 2: The 9-Tone Bar

Utilizing the cross-hatching skills you have just acquired it is now time to push those skills further by developing controlled gradations of tone. Dont be impatient or cheat by using different hardness of pencils, the objective here is to begin developing the touch. This touch cannot be explained or demonstrated, really, it is a somatic epiphany that you will know you have when you finally get it it is a feeling. Diligently practice your cross-hatching and enjoy the meditative process. Using a 13 x 3 piece of Ingres ivory or buff colored paper sketch out a rectangle measuring 1114 x 2. Divide the length into 9 smaller rectangles of 114 wide.
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The objective here is to apply an even tone to each small rectangle, beginning with the darkest possible tone you can achieve on the right-most rectangle, so that each rectangle is part of an even tonal progression from dark to light.

The fifth (middle) rectangle is now toned so that it is precisely half-way between the darkest tone and the first (lightest) rectangle. This is a judgment call and as you struggle with it your capacity to adjudge tonal values will increase dramatically. Do the best you can keeping in mind that you will most likely have to return to this rectangle several times before its proper value is achieved.

The seventh bar is toned so that it is precisely halfway between the darkest bar and the middle tone (the fifth bar).

The third bar is toned so that it is precisely halfway between the middle tone (the fifth bar) and the first bar (the lightest tone). What we are doing here is dividing tone by two. This is much more controllable method of constructing plastic from than by gradating step by step. We are toning from the general to the specific.
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The eighth bar is toned so that it is precisely halfway between the darkest tone and the seventh tone.

The sixth bar is toned so that it is precisely halfway between the seventh and middle (fifth) tone.

The fourth bar is toned so that it is precisely halfway between the middle (fifth) and third tone.

To conclude the 9-tone bar the second tone is precisely halfway between the lightest light and the third tone. As your eye scans the 9 tones you will see that the dark tones are closer together than the light tones. As objects recede into dark they present significantly less information than what is seen in the lighter tones. Except in the lightest tones where the information is actually bleached out by the light. The bulk of an objects information (i.e., detail and such) is found in the middle light tones.
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Cross-Hatching: Exercise 3
Using a small piece of Ingres ivory or buff colored paper sketch out a square that is approximately 4 x 4 inches. The objective here is to develop the skill of gradated tone using cross-hatching. This skill is essential for rendering plastic form. The example shown here is a gradation from dark to light radiating from the upper right corner. Once you have gained a competency with this, try a variety of patterns, such as dark to light radiating from the center and viceversa.

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Constructing your Black Box


The purpose of the black box (also called a shadow box) is to isolate a single light source upon an object so that its form can be studied without contamination from myriad other light sources. To construct the black box you will need 6 pieces of 14 wood, black cartridge paper, glue and some screws and small corner brackets. Good workable dimensions are: Wood 2 pieces 18 x 22 2 pieces 17 x 14 1 piece 14 x 2112 (if your wood is 14 thick or 21 if your wood is 12 thick) 14 small corner brackes and wood screws Black cartridge paper trimmed to fit inside. Paper glue. You can also use a sturdy cardboard box lined with black cartridge paper.

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the egg

A white egg provides the ideal conditions for understanding plastic form. Set up your egg in your black box so that it is at your eye level. Very likely you will have to use books or cans to build up the platform on which your egg will set. Cover this platform with a piece of black cartridge paper and beneath the egg place a sheet of white paper. Using a 5 x 7 piece of ivory or buff Ingres paper for the drawing set up your station so that you can see the egg and your drawing with minimal movement of your head. We will be drawing the egg life-size and to that end indicate either the height or the length (your choice) of the egg. Let your eyes fall into soft focus and strike the arabesque of the egg as best you can using a sharp 8B pencil and then sight and check its height/width proportions. Correct if necessary. You can also trace your arabesque onto your plexiglass to check the shape.
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Squint down so that your eyes see just one big dark and one big light on the egg and block in that light/dark pattern by crosshatching with your 8B pencil. Do not get caught up in details. We always work from general to specific.

Stumping down with your finger observing the plastic form of the egg will unify the drawing. In painting practice this is would be considered the underpainting.

Cross-hatching with a sharp 8B pencil begin developing the plastic form by carefully observing the internal proportion and shape of the larger darks. Everything should relate to the egg as a whole.

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Stumping down at intervals will help maintain a unified look to your drawing.

Drawing is an additive/subtractive process. You add something, you take something away, all the while proceeding toward a final resolution. Using a kneaded eraser paint out the lights. I have also indicated the reflected light at the base of the egg. Reflected light is light that bounces off of the surface that an object is sitting on and reflects (weakly) into the object. In this case, the egg.

Keeping your 8B pencils sharp carefully observe the form and develop the egg as far as you can by cross-hatching, stumping and painting out as you feel necessary. Dont think of this as a step-by-step process. Instead thing of this as a procedure of play. Have fun with it.

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the

singular bottle

This exercise will present a radically different approach to drawing than what has been presented so far. Instead of first striking the linear arabesque and then blocking it in we will be developing the drawing with tone only. The purpose is to train you to draw in a fluid, more painterly manner. First, you need to prepare a selection of bottles, 3 minimum, whose shapes and proportions differ significantly from each other. Second, to continue our studies of plastic form and light each bottle needs to be painted with white gesso. A small jar of student grade gesso can be purchased from any art store. Alternatively, you can also use white latex (non-gloss) house paint. As with the egg exercise the bottle needs to be set-up in the black box and lit in a pleasing light, dark pattern. In this exercise you will draw your bottles a little less than life-size. This is so that your final drawing can be checked with the plexiglass. The pictorial surface of your drawing will be the Golden Rectangle. The construction of the Golden Rectangle is quite easy. We begin with a square whose dimensions are to be equal to the width of your drawings pictorial surface. Six inches will, in most cases, suffice. Draw and locate the center point on the side of the square. From that center point draw a diagonal to the upper left corner of your square.

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That diagonal is now the radius of a circle. Using a compass draw an arc as illustrated here.

Extend the right side of the square upwards until it intersects with the arc and then complete the rectangle. This is the Golden Rectangle whose proportions are 1.618. The proportion is also known as Phi, which is the 21st letter of the Greek alphabet. Plato referred to Phi as the number of the worlds soul.

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This classical, dynamic pictorial surface was a favorite of Picasso, amongst others. Assuming that your pictorial width is 6 wide the height then will be 9.71 or slightly less than 934.

9.71 inches

6 inches

Using a small, approximately 1, piece of medium grade and size vine charcoal I have marked the top and bottom of my bottle within the Golden Rectangle. You are not going to strike the arabesque proper as we have been doing. Instead the bottle is going to be developed primarily with tone constructing the figure/ground relationship as one unified whole. The figure is the object (i.e., the bottle), the ground is the background. The figure and ground must relate to each other. To wit, the whole must be greater than the sum of its parts. To that end squint down your eyes until you see only the big light and big dark. Using the broad side of the vine charcoal and holding it in your finger tips strike the arabesque of the light shape of the bottle.
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Vine charcoal is a fluid drawing medium. By that I mean it is messy and malleable. I have blocked in the dark of my entire composition with the broad side of the vine charcoal this is both the ground (background) and dark pattern of the object (the bottle). The light area is the light shape on the bottle. The thinking process here is quite different than that of drawing the egg.

Stump down the vine charcoal with your finger while considering the basic plastic form of the bottle. You will need a clean tissue at the ready to wipe the excess charcoal off of our fingers. Otherwise it will smear uncontrollably.

Using a kneaded eraser pull out the primary light. You can also take your best guess at indicating the reflected light on the dark side of the bottle. If your best guess is significantly off, as Ive shown in the following illustration, no need to fret. It is easily corrected.

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You will find it quite the challenge to accurately draw your bottle using just the vine charcoal. Sight and verify the proportions of your bottle. If, like I have shown, you are significantly off correct the arabesque of your entire figure (the bottle) with a sharp 8B pencil.

Here I have returned with the vine charcoal and further developed the plastic form of my figure and deepened the ground. Drawing bottles symmetrically can be a vexing endeavor. By inverting your drawing you can more easily see what needs to be corrected. Inversion abstracts the shapes of the object and allows you to see past the object as, well, the object. Even bottles have their symbolic preconceptions.

And it is back to pulling out the plastic forms of the light with the kneaded eraser. As Ive mentioned previously, and will so so again and again, drawing is an additive/subtractive process.

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You can choose to work up your drawing using only the vine charcoal which I would recommend for at least one of your bottle drawings. For this demonstration I have further developed the forms by cross-hatching with my 8B pencil. The red stick, partially shown in the upper right corner, is a Mahl stick. Mahl sticks are particularly useful for steadying your hand and keeping it off of your drawing so that you do not smear it. There is no particular method to using the Mahl stick. It depends on what you find comfortable. Mahl sticks can be found at most art stores or you can make one yourself using a 12 dowel obtainable from any hardware store.

When you have taken your bottle as far as you can verify its shape with the plexiglass. Place the plexiglass over your drawing and trace the shape of your bottle onto the plexiglass with your black marker. Now hold it up to your gessoed bottle and adjust as youve been trained to previously. My bottle does not fit. This is due in part to distortion by the camera lens and by me having to draw while seated to the far left of the drawing so that you can have an unobstructed view of the drawings development

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PERSPECTIVE an introduction

he understanding of perspective is actually quite recent given the long, convoluted history of Western Art. The idea of illusional 3-dimensional space on a flat wall or canvas was an alien concept for most of our history. An example is Egyptian mural painting. Their idea of spatial illusion was to simply put one object in front of another. For a millennia every figure, human and animal, was rendered in profile, except for the all-seeing eye that was always looking out frontally. Although every age invents its own forms and art, the illusion of space was not one of them. Perspective-wise, things didnt improve much in Medieval Europe. Although a few artists attempted the illusion of spatial depth with some very curious results. A question one might ask is Why couldnt at least someone see or recognize basic perspective? Well, there is a very interesting historical example of why we do not see what is obviously there. When Columbus ships arrived in the New World at the island of Hispaniola his ships were clearly visible on the horizon. Columbus could see the New World with his own eyes. However, the indigenous people of Hispaniola could not see the ships. The ships were invisible to them even though they were sitting there in plain view on the horizon. What the natives could see, though, was a change in the pattern of the oceans current and from that they suspected something was out there. But still, they could not see it. The patterns of waves and currents were well understood. Generations of experience and dependence upon fishing taught them to read the water. Large, sailing ships were completely alien to them and, apparently, we do not see what we are not taught to see.

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It was not until the early Italian Renaissance that perspective as we know it was discovered and subsequently developed. The perspective in della Franciscas Baptism of Christ is fairly simple. Later, as the science of perspective was developed, artists such as Raphael really went to town with works such as School of Athens. In this brief preamble I will discuss 1 and 2 point perspective. Lets begin with 1 point perspective.

1-Point Perspective
First, we require a horizon line which is at our eye-level looking straight ahead. Consider a road in a desert, the two sides of the road will gradually join together on the horizon at a point that is called the Vanishing Point. As a fixed rule: All parallel lines converge at the same Vanishing Point. The most commonly used example of 1-point perspective is Leonardo Da Vincis fresco The Last Supper. Note that the primary Vanishing Point is at Christs head.

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2-Point Perspective
Two point perspective creates an illusion of concrete 3-dimensionality and weight. Two point perspective requires two vanishing points. Remember, all corresponding parallel lines converge at the same vanishing point. Hence one side of our box will meet at one vanishing point, the other at the 2nd vanishing point. The box is now a 3-dimensional cube.

This is a good time to mention an important thing about objects and perspective. When an object is below the horizon line you will see its top plane. Conversely, when an object is above the horizon line, suspended in space for example, you will see its bottom plane. Placing the vanishing points takes practice. Put these vanishing points too close together and your object becomes distorted and squashed. The best way to place your vanishing points is by eye. And that is by first accurately striking the shape of your arabesque. And youve already been trained in that!

Depth of field problems arise when the vanishing points are placed too close together and also when placed too far apart.

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When it comes to perspective, it is generally best to visually objects as simple cubes. Each cube, unless all of your cubes are lined up like little soldiers, will be situated differently than all of the other cubes. Therefore, each cube will have its very own set of vanishing points.

The grey cube has its own set of vanishing points. One vanishing point is off the page! This could be a tragedy, except that horizon lines go on forever. Your paper does not. In this case we need to visually extend our constructing lines and take a reasonable guess. Also, note that the bottom of the grey cube is below the horizon line and the top of the grey cube is above the horizon. There are methods to accurately ascertain the far vanishing point. One could run out lengths of black thread or even calculate it mathematically if you are so inclined. But for our purposes assessing the angles of the arabesque will suffice.

The violet cube also has its own set of vanishing points that, incidentally, fit onto the page. And since the violet cube is below the horizon line we see its top plane.

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The oblong blue cube is a curious fellow. One vanishing point comes pretty close to being a one-point perspective situation, but not quite. Again, the other vanishing point is way off the page. This is an example of how you would tackle a foreshortening problem - that is, when an object is coming straight out at you. To sum up, then, perspective is a science and art all on its own. What I have intended here is to give you the basics so that when you are drawing and finding an object a bit tricky then just knowing these basics of perspective will help you get out of a jam. Well, now were ready to start putting all these things together -- Proportion, shape, tone and perspective. Lets proceed to our first still life.

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the still life


The genre of still-life drawing and painting has been the primary focus of many generations of artists. The possibilities are infinite. For your first still life choose three objects that are matte white, relatively simple in shape and that address each other in some manner of correspondence. Antique, floral, even dollar stores, offer many interesting objects that can be quite challenging to draw. Half the fun is discovering the objects for your still life collection. My chosen objects are two plaster-cast sea-shells and a pint-size creamer. Set-up and light your objects in your black box in a manner that you find pleasing and interesting. You will discover that there are innumerable possibilities with even this limited number of objects. Using a viewfinder, which is two pieces of stiff card stock cut at right-angles, is an excellent tool of determining your pictorial surface. Again, play with the possibilities and choose a pictorial surface that you find interesting and pleasing. The pictorial surface that I have chosen is a 2/3 ratio which incidentally is a classic octoval rectangle known as Diapente (and also as Sesquialtera). Therefore, I decided upon a pictorial surface that is 12 x 8.
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It is, however, extremely poor practice to draw while looking through the viewfinder. Use it only to decide upon your pictorial field (the terms pictorial field and surface are interchangeable) and to gain a general idea of your proposed composition. To place, or compose, the grouped objects of your still-life within your pictorial surface envision the group

An exquisite drawing medium is black cont which is what we will now use for the still-life. Experiencing a range of drawing mediums is part and parcel of discovering art. To sharpen your cont place and hold the stick vertically on a firm surface such as a table top and with a safety-razor blade carve out a rough point using downward strokes. Be careful not to break it. The cont can then be further sharpened with sandpaper. Cont sticks are quite small and a holder is quite useful. They can be readily purchased in any art store. The one that I use is a French antique from the 19th Century. As you have been trained determine the top and base and width of the grouped objects. You need to consider your group as being one singular object. Do not draw one object, then another, then another. Strike the arabesque of the singular group and then lightly sketch in the objects as individual entities.

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When you are striking the arabesque of a group of objects it is of immense benefit to also gauge what is called the negative space (or better still, the interspace). The interspace are the shapes outside of the positive shapes of the objects. I have highlighted the interspace shapes in Yellow. There is no set rule as to what constitutes the shape of a negative space. It is only a tool that is useful for determining accuracy by working one against the other.

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For this still-life sight the height of the singular grouping, i.e., from the base of the larger sea-shell to the top of the creamer, and use that measure to gauge the width of the singular objects. The first measure reaches from the left side of the smaller, triangular sea-shell to a point on the larger sea-shell that is to be considered the first landmark. Fix this landmark into your memory. The second measure reaches from the first landmark to the second landmark (a checkpoint) on the tail of the larger sea-shell. Fix this checkpoint to memory and assess that small distance to the end of the larger sea-shells tail. As you now know these measures must correlate to your arabesque.

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Using a small piece of medium grade, medium thickness vine charcoal held broad-side in my finger tips I squint down my eyes and block in the primary overall pattern of light and dark.

The roughed in vine charcoal is then stumped down using my fingers while constantly wiping off the excess charcoal onto a piece of tissue.

With a kneaded eraser I paint out the primary lights.

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Using the sharpened cont the arabesques of the objects are refined. It is good practice to begin constructing the plastic form of the furthest object (the creamer). The plastic forms of the creamer are modelled by cross-hatching, stumping and painting out with the kneaded eraser. Do not render the creamer to full plastic resolution before proceeding to the next object. Instead, develop the creamer to about 50% completion. The smaller, triangular sea-shell followed by the larger sea-shell are modelled to about 50% completion.

The rule of thumb is: Always leave yourself room to manoeuvre.

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The ground (background) needs to be developed in conjunction with the figure (objects). The figure/ground relationship must have a harmonious correspondence. Using the broad side of a smallish piece of cont I blocked in the ground. Feeling the need to darken and push down the ground I stumped in the cont pressing hard with my fingers. Working up the stumped cont ground with a kneaded eraser is quite similar to painting you are manipulating the material (the stumped cont ) by pushing, pulling, lifting out. As I have mentioned before drawing (and painting) is an additive/subtractive process. The emphasis is on the word process.

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Feeling that I have exhausted the limits of cont regarding this drawing I decided to switch to my 8B pencil which will give me greater definition in resolving the forms. First, the arabesques is refined further refined. Curiously, as a drawing progresses toward resolution one becomes more aware of little, troublesome issues.

Significantly deepening the ground by cross-hatching with the 8B pencil increases the value range of the composition. The objects now appear whiter.

Working up the cast shadows in the ground, still by crosshatching with the 8B pencil and stumping down, creates a stronger illusion of 3-dimensional space.

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It is also good practice to step back from your drawing and gauge its overall effect. Stepping back from my drawing I noticed that the base of the creamer is too low. Such an error is very easy to correct, even at this late stage. Simply re-draw it, erase the offencing marks as best you can and remodel the corrected form.

The push towards the final resolution of your drawing is the striving of pushing down the darks and pulling out the lights to effect the full value stretch of tones. The decision where to conclude the drawing depends upon the individual artist. Some prefer an unfinished look, others a highly polished effect. The difference in appearance of the finished drawing to the previous developmental drawings is the difference between video lighting and still-camera lighting. It is a technical issue only. There are also the differences between what the video camera sees and what my eye sees to be considered when I compare the drawing to the camera image. Bear in mind that I am, like you, drawing from life not from a photograph.

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the cast: an introduction to


portrait drawing

ortrait drawing has historically been considered amongst the highest endeavors of realist artists. The very real problem of portrait drawing is the psychological and perceptual blocks of symbolic preconceptions. The human face is a powerful metaphor and, as such, is easily given over to symbolic signifiers and codifications. For the realist artist whose ambition is to render a true likeness these symbols must be overcome. Drawing from the cast is an excellent, historically proven, vehicle for understanding the forms and surface structures of the head. Considering the cast head as a still life object, rather than as a human being, in large part obviates the insidious creeping in of symbolic preconceptions. It is not as easy as it once was to find good plaster casts. Unfortunately most art schools and colleges discarded their once fine collections of casts in the 1950s and 60s. Some schools as early as the 1920s. Plaster casts suitable for study can be found in floral and garden shops, antique stores and even found in flea markets and garage sales. There are also companies that sell plaster casts on the internet. These companies can be found by using this search parameter: Roman Greek plaster statues busts casts. There is a wide range of casts available for all budgets.

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Set up your cast in your black box at eye level. Shown here is the classic portrait lighting where light forms a triangular shape on the far cheek. There are many lighting possibilities and this is a good one to begin with. It is highly unadvisable to vertically light the cast 50/50.

Use your viewfinder to determine a satisfying pictorial surface. Ideally, for study purposes, the drawing of your cast head should be life-size approximately 12 to 14 from the top of the head to the base of the neck. In portrait drawing the measure from the base of the chin to the top of the head is the beginning measure. With your black cont lightly indicate the top of the head and the base of the chin where the flesh meets the neck proper. With your eyes in soft-focus strike the arabesque to the best of your ability. Strive to keep these initial lines as light as possible. Ideally only you should be able to see your initial arabesque. Once again, do not pre-measure; that will defeat your acquiring the necessary skills. Also, avoid extraneous detail. The primary objective is to establish the proportion and shape of the cast.

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Sight the width of the head at about the level of the brow-ridge (where the eyebrows are located). This is the primary measure.

The primary measure (width of the head) turned perpendicularly measures from the base of the chin to just slightly below the hair line. Sketch in the hair taking your best, trained guess. If you can strike the arabesque with reasonable accuracy the placement of the hairline is no great feat. I have also very lightly indicated the jaw line. The distance from the hairline to the top of the head is a small distance, therefore there is no need to add a further checkpoint. Correct your arabesque as needed.

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At this juncture, the untrained beginner will attempt to place the eyes. This is a fundamental error. Instead, the brow-ridge needs to be fixed. The brow-ridge is the heavy, bony protuberance upon which the eyebrows are located. With your eyes in soft-focus take your best guess at where you think the brow-ridge is. Beware, however, that our symbolic preconceptions give significantly greater weight to the face. Hence, we tend to think of the face as being larger than it actually is and consequently we tend to place the brow-ridge too high. Ascertain the accuracy of the brow-ridges placement by sighting on the cast the measure from the chin to the brow-ridge. Move up that measure to the brow-ridge and accurately gauge the distance from the top of the head to the point of your knitting needle this is a critical checkpoint. Mark where that checkpoint is on your drawing. This measure, if your brow-ridge and checkpoint are placed correctly, should directly correspond to your drawing as shown.

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Quite often, but not always, the measure from the chin to the brow-ridge equals the width of the face from cheek-bone to cheek-bone. This is another reason why the brow-ridge is fixed first and not the eyes.

As with the brow-ridge, place the base of the nose with your best guess and then sight and check it. Generally, the base of the nose is half-way between the chin and the brow-ridge. But consider that some people have long noses and others short noses. Always sight and verify. I have also indicated the facial angle. This is the imaginary vertical line running through the center of the features of the face. The head of my cast is at a slight tilt and my facial angle corresponds to that. To accurately gauge the tilt of the head hold your knitting needle up to your cast as if you were sighting and angle your knitting needle. Keeping your elbow locked directly transpose your knitting needle to your drawing and check the tilt of your facial angle. Be careful not to alter the angle of the knitting needle.

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Using a small piece of medium grade and size vine charcoal held broadside in your fingertips block in the primary dark. Remember to squint your eyes down to simplify the form.

Using your fingers (not a paper stump as it will deaden the vine charcoal) stump in the vine charcoal while simultaneously considering the plastic form. The form can be further resolved using a kneaded eraser to carve out the lights. With much more information known about the cast the arabesque is now further refined and corrected using sharp black cont. The width of the nose is now established and the primary forms of the hair have also been indicated.

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The width of the nose cannot be accurately measured. One can compare the noses width (the wings) to the width of the face, but the incidence of error is quite high. But at this point there is enough information to accurately fix the wings of the nose. The base of the nose has been established earlier. The eyes can now be placed. A plumb bob is an essential tool for checking vertical alignments. Plumb bobs can be purchased from any hardware store or can also be home-made using anything that has some weight, i.e., fishing sinkers, bolts, heavy washers, etc. attached to a string or heavy black thread. First to be placed is the inside corner of the eye. Holding your plumb bob up to your cast align it with the inside corner of an eye and see how it relates to the wing of the nose. In this case they are both aligned. I now place my plumb bob to my drawing, align it with the wing of the nose and place a small mark to indicate the vertical placement of the eyes inside corner.

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The same procedure is enacted for placing the inside corner of the other eye. However, the alignment is not to the corresponding wing of the nose, but to the inside of it.

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To ascertain the width of the eye, compare it to the width of the nose. You will also have to take note of the angle of the eye here the outside corner is a little lower than the inner corner. The horizontal depth of the eye cannot be measured, it must be felt. From the brow-ridge model the form of the eye socket until you come to the crease of the upper eyelid. Strike its arabesque and follow suit with the upper opening of the eye. All of your training to date now comes to fruition. With one eye established, the other eye can be horizontally placed using your plumb bob like a carpenters level. With my cast the left eye is significantly higher than the right eye. Symbolic preconceptions will insist that the eyes are level ignore those symbolic pleadings.

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The left eye is now sketched in with consideration to the other eye and also the overall tilt of the head. Now, and only now, should the mouth be placed. At this point I have roughly indicated the mouth with tone. Using my plumb bob I determine the alignment of the left corner of the mouth vis-a-vis the eye and the nose. I place a small mark where the left corner of the mouth should be.

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The same procedure is used to place the right corner of the mouth. Again, consider the tilt of the head. The corners of the mouth are not align straight across.

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As was done with placing the horizontal alignment of the eye, with feeling the modelled form, the same is done with place the opening of the mouth (the Interstice). Carefully observe the form and strike the arabesque of the Interstice of the mouth. The upper lip is comprised of three forms: the middle portion of the lip which is fatter and the long, narrow outer portions. My rendering of the upper portion of the lower lip incorporates the cast shadow, hence its seemingly odd appearance.

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Once the features are placed and proportioned within the facial arena the plastic forms of the entire head can now be developed. Cross-hatching with sharp black cont the forms are developed with a sculptural sensibility: Extra-mileage can be achieved by cross-hatching with the planes of the form. Constructing plastic form is an additive/ subtractive process cross-hatching, stumping, and painting out with the kneaded eraser. If you find that you need to flatten down the form you can pull down the darks with a flattened kneaded eraser. Pulling down is just that, you pull down the cont work with the kneaded eraser is straight vertical strokes across the entire drawing. If you desire a finer resolution than the black cont can render switch to an 8B pencil. Deciding at what point to conclude your drawing is a matter of personal timbre. Some artists prefer an unfinished look while others will spend up to a year on a single drawing. It was common practice for art students in the 19th and early 20th Centuries to spend up to 6 months, and more, on their cast drawings. The pedagogical efficacy of a student spending this amount of time on

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This concludes the Beginning to Drawing DVD Workshop. A great distance has been traveled; from your initial training with the rectangles in gauging proportion and shape and accurately striking the arabesque to the understanding of contructing plastic form. This critical matrix of drawing skills can be applied to all genres of realist drawing still life, landscape, portraiture, etc. For those who desire to work in the realist portrait genre the successive workshop to Beginning to Draw is my Mastering Portrait Drawing 1 DVD Workshop which focuses on the frontal portrait. What is now required for serious portrait drawing is an understanding and knowledge of the underlying discourse of anatomical form. My Portrait Drawing Mastery Collection is a comprehensive education in portrait drawing.

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