When you draw something that should be sticking out of the page, like a nose, if it looks like the paper is no longer flat, and the nose could really be sticking out of the paper, then it has POP. This is achieved by careful rendering of light and shadow.
A piece of paper only has horizontal and vertical coordinates. It therefore only has two dimensions, but we can use shading, highlights, focus and blur to create the illusion of a third dimension perpendicular to the page. This really is an illusion. The paper is flat, but the mind is accustomed to seeing certain shadows and highlights in certain arrangements on a real three dimensional surface. When we successfully emulate this in a drawing, the effect is to trick the mind into appreciating this third dimension. Part of this is simply because the sun is above, and shadows are underneath objects.
1.2.36 Punching up
When you complete a drawing, all the general values have been established. The mid tones should be right and all the shadows in the right place. But sometimes you need more impact. A process called punching up can improve the drawing. This is where you look for the deep shadows and try to make them blacker. It increases drama and contrast.
This is a term which can be used to describe several things about a drawing. Good contrast might give depth, but so might the subject matter in an emotional sense. Control of focus and all the other elements might contribute to depth. It might be easier to describe this by imagining a person who is shallow, and then one who has great depth. It's hard to put these concepts into words, but if you can imagine the person who has depth, and then apply the feeling to a drawing, then this is what we are trying to understand. Depth can also be part of the history of the drawing, and of the conditions and life of the artist. It is for this reason that some reasonably ordinary works get sold for a lot of money: the artwork is inextricably linked to a time, place, world-view, political environment and the trials and tribulations of the artist. Do not overlook this important and intangible concept.
I think the world has gone mad. There is a local mag' that's handed out daily to commuters on the train. An article in today's edition explaining how a German school teacher is suing one of the students for drawing a rabbit on the blackboard.
It's absurd! Without reading on, one could be excused for never forming a valid theory that would explain such a bizarre act. But it turns out, this teacher is deathly scared of rabbits. Upon seeing the image, she burst into tears and fled the classroom. The evil bunny-drawer claims she didn't draw the image, she only told other pupils about the teacher's irrational response to rabbits.
I can scarcely believe this stupidity on several counts. Firstly, it's irresponsible for the teacher to simply assume someone is guilty without seeking some simple facts. Secondly, these are kids, and kids are playful. Someone in a teaching position needs to be fully capable of coping with acts far more difficult than an image of a bunny rabbit on a blackboard. Third, this is the teacher's problem. It's an irrational response to a non-threatening commonly encountered every-day image, and she should get psychiatric help. It's stupid, wrong and absurd to sue a child for her ridiculous problem.
I am not however trying to diminish the impact to a phobia sufferer, but to encourage it to be recognised as an internal problem and deal with it appropriately. We as a society have rapidly become a group who like to blame other people even when it's nobody's fault. Unfortunately this is not the first instance of stupid legal action, nor will it be the last.
But, until further notice, all my arty friends will have to refrain from drawing bunny rabbits for fear of legal reprisal; and where will this end? Bambi? Cotton-wool balls? Large open spaces (no more rolling landscapes for you!).
You will be able to obtain a whole book dedicated to the topic of composition, so I'll mention that it is very important, and advise that you find some extra literature on the subject. The purpose now is to define the term. Composition obviously comes from the verb to compose which means to put parts together into a new whole. In a picture, the parts that are available include at least the following:
A good composition will hold the viewer's attention, and let the eye explore the drawing and rest on the desired subject matter. All the elements should compliment and enhance the subject, and there should not be two or more equally competing objects in the drawing... unless of course you want and can control this effect. It is also a good idea to arrange the objects so the viewer's eye is held within the frame. A drawing which contains an arrangement that causes the eye to leave the frame is unlikely to hold interest. Some, or perhaps most people can feel a good composition when they see it even without being able to explain the theory behind it. If you can do this, then take advantage of it by playing with the elements until they feel right. This is a good reason to draw several sketches.
Lines which are drawn or implied which are not either horizontal or vertical create a dramatic effect. Diagonal and angled lines help to accentuate a subject or lead the eye to a specific place in the drawing. Sometimes, the diagonal lines are made from parts of the subject. Sometimes the lines will be part of the background. As with any tool, don't over use the idea. Ideas that are over used become boring.
It might seem strange to talk about feeling in connection with drawing, but one of the goals of art is to induce some kind of emotion in the viewer. You can use expression on a person's face to convey a feeling. This might be sadness, shock, tiredness and so on. Also, the background, texture, composition and the way that objects are presented will have an influence on the feeling of a picture. Colour invokes emotion but in our graphite portraits, we have only shades of grey. Although this might seem a disadvantage, it can by very dramatic and deep. It is interesting that black and white photography used to be the cheap and easy method, while colour photography was considered expensive and elite. But today, we find that the processes for colour photography has become mass produced, cheap and common. Black and white photography is now considered dramatic, arty and elite. At the time of writing (2008), graphite art is slowly making progress in the art world. Hopefully, this is because great graphite works are so capable of showing feeling. The absence of colour should be treated as an advantage to bring out the drama of a subject.
Pencils are marked with a grading system. There are two measures: B and H. Each letter could be preceded by a number which indicates a weighting for the letter. B represents the amount of graphite and H represents the amount of clay. Graphite is soft and shiny, while the clay is hard an matte. On a scale from soft to hard, we get:
On any given paper, each of these will give a very dark (8B) to very light (6H) value. For any given pencil grade, it will give a different value depending on the paper used. Some papers take darks better then others. HB is sort of the middle and is a general purpose pencil that we use in schools. Softer pencil marks, when used lightly are easy to erase while harder pencil marks can damage the tooth of the paper and leave an impression. Therefore, very light pressure in many layers will often produce superior results when compared to heavy-handed marks.
This is an exercise. Like contour drawing or shading an egg. The scribble drawing frees you of detail leaving you to concentrate on proportion and average value. The value is the amount of light that a portion of a painting or drawing reflects. In the scribble drawing, the values are linked to the density of marks made on the page. There is very little detail.
You need to do it quickly, and without reference. In the image below, this was only a two minute scribble. Squint while you do it. This makes the values appear to your eye-brain system. As you make a mark, it will add to the value-system, and to proportion. If the proportion needs adjusting, then move towards the corrected area. If it looks right, then concentrate on that a little more. Keep in mind, where is the light source. In this drawing, the light is directly overhead which is why the upper cheekbones are lightest.
It's not meant to be a finished artwork. Let your hand move rapidly, with movement coming from the shoulder and elbow. Let your mind be free of fear of failure. If you like what you see, then later, it is possible to re-draw this into a full rendering.
(C) Jeremy Lee 2010, all rights reserved.
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spOOk's art is owned by Jeremy. He has practiced drawing and painting for about 40 years, and might get good at it one day. spOOk's art is focused on graphite portraits.