Shape is easy to define. A ball is round, a playing card is flat and square, and a cup has a more complex curved shape. In particular, shapes make up bigger pictures. One of the ideas that we will explore is how small abstract shapes, when fitted together, will produce a realistic whole. Much of our process will be to identify abstract shapes in the subject matter, and duplicate those in our drawing. It will serve you well to learn how to disconnect these shapes from the surrounding context because our mind tends to make us draw the wrong thing if we are too conscious of the overall picture when defining individual shapes. The best way to illustrate this is to find a very large poster-photo, then mask off all but a 1cm square. You will probably not be able to find a line or a recognisable object by looking only at 1cm at a time. You will, however, see abstract shapes, and smooth graduations from light to dark. The trained artist will see these shapes without the aid of a mask. The grid method of transfer is good training for reproducing abstract shapes.
Shape is a two-dimensional (2D) notion. Form is the 3D equivalent. When light plays on a two dimensional object, the reflected light is a simple graduation in tone or a simple flat tone throughout. But a 3D object reflects incident light through many angles. Your view point only collects the rays of light from one angle. This means that to represent form, you need to vary the tonal transitions accordingly. To do this, think about where the light comes from, the angle that it hits the object, and the angle that it leaves the object. Remember that the ray of light will leave the object at exactly the same angle that it hit. This is most obvious for a shiny surface. On a rough surface the texture causes fewer rays to reflect exactly to your viewpoint because the rough surface scatters the light in more directions. Consequently, smooth shiny surfaces have sharp well defined transitions, while rougher surfaces have less defined transitions.
(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.