TIPS & INFO for drawers
QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS: DRAWING
A convincing drawing is really the culmination of a set of answers to a series of questions. Whether your drawing style is gestural (done loosely and by eye) or formal (controlled and exacting), it can improve by asking yourself the following questions.
how big or small is it?
Are two objects in front of you about the same height, or does one appear to be taller than the other? If they are office buildings, and one is taller than the other, how much taller is it? A tiny bit, as with the second structure in the illustration below? Twice as much, like the third building? Or several times higher, such as the tower at right?
To help in your evaluation, imagine duplicates of an object stacked on top of itself until the mound reaches the height of another item that it is being compared to. In the illustration below, the height of the cabinet is equal to a pile of four toasters.
The same questions can be applied to parts of a single object. For example, how do the widths of the two visible sides of a barn compare? (Remember, issues of foreshortening come into play.) Are they equal? Is one more narrow, and by how much? In the view below, the front of the barn appears to be about 3 times as wide as the side of the barn (due to the effects of foreshortening).
how much space is there?
In the same way as the height and width of objects can be compared, so too can the spaces between them. Below is an illustration of a figure standing near a table. How far is the figure from the table: is the space between the figure and table equal to, more than, or less than the width of the figure? Once the proportion of a space is well established, it can be used as a reference to weigh other things against.
what about the negative?
Negative spaces – the spaces around and between things – are often overlooked as a tool for determining the proportions, positions, and shapes of objects. Ask yourself whether a negative space in your drawing closely resembles the shape and size of the equivalent negative space you see in the scene. If it’s not, then the drawing needs to be adjusted until they are similar. Often, the use of negative space is helpful in determining the relative sizes of objects. In the picture below, for example, the space between the figure's legs and the thickness of the legs themselves are all about equal.
where does it come to?
If you were to imagine a horizontal line crossing a scene from one object to another, at what level would the line intersect the second object? In the diagram, a line extended from the top of the table hits the man at about the level of his hips. If you have already drawn the table, it is now easy to figure out where to place the man’s hips.
When one object overlaps another, we don’t have to make up a line in our heads since we can easily see how the two things relate. This is shown in the next diagram.
what's the angle?
Some edges are clearly vertical, others obviously horizontal. This is true whenever we view an object head-on. Most of what we see in the world, however, is seldom so straightforward, since we usually are confronted by objects set an angle to our point of view.
To figure out the angle of a window frame, the tilt of a leaning shovel, or of the relationship between the feet of two table legs, equate them to a clock hand. All three of these examples are shown below. The shovel-handle leans at about 5:15 o’clock. One edge of the table lines up with a few minutes past 7:00. The top of the window frame angles away at 8:30.
how about foreshortening?
Foreshortening is the effect that occurs when we see a surface or object at an angle, rather than head-on. The more a surface is turned to project toward you (it comes to the fore), the more shortened it appears. Observe the series of doors that follows.
Moving from left to right, the apparent width of the door decreases as the angle it is turned toward us increases. The last door, which is fully opened, has no visible width at all. You can see only the thickness of its edge.
I draw mostly on
newsprint paper, but I heard that is not a good idea. How come? Should I use something else, or is newsprint okay?
----- Jean Davis
Newsprint is made from inexpensive wood pulp, as are some white drawing papers. Paper made with wood pulp darkens, embrittles, and deteriorates relatively rapidly even when specially treated. Such papers should not be used for permanent work, drawings that you expect to last for many years.
Newsprint paper is an economical option for the student who produces many practice drawings. It is lightweight and fragile though, and is easy to crease and tear. The sketch shown is by Régis (Reggie) Camargo.
For the beginning student, newsprint and other wood pulp papers are extremely economical, making them appropriate for “throw-aways” or practice drawings. Students make many such drawings and use a lot of paper. Most of those drawings will eventually be discarded. It makes no sense, therefore, to invest in more expensive archival quality paper until one is ready for it or unless the drawing demands it.
For instance, if it is to be an elaborate or highly developed drawing in which you expect to invest considerable time and effort, you may want a better quality paper. For drawings done in charcoal, newsprint is usually just fine, but newsprint does not respond well to a sharp pencil, making it difficult to execute exacting pencil drawings. Another drawback of newsprint paper is that it is somewhat fragile and is easily damaged by heavy or rough erasing, so a more rugged paper should be chosen for such situations.
The more advanced student, one who has attained a reasonable degree of proficiency, should use good quality papers. For permanent work, seek out 100% cotton or linen rag paper made in archival quality for artistic use. This can be paper manufactured specifically for drawing on, or it may be a watercolor or printmaking paper – both of which make excellent drawing surfaces.
High quality drawing and watercolor papers are available in a variety of weights and surfaces. Heavier or thicker papers should be selected if you do a lot of vigorous erasing, scraping, or abrading. For delicate and precise drawings, particularly with pencil or pen, a smooth surface is preferred. When working with charcoal, conté, or similar media, either a smooth or toothy surface is appropriate, depending upon the character of your drawings.