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Peter¶s Basilica, so he sent a courtier out into the country to interview artists and collect samples of their work that he could judge. The courtier approached the painter Giotto and asked for a drawing to demonstrate his skill. Instead of a study of angels and saints, which the courtier expected, Giotto took a brush loaded with red paint and drew a perfect circle. The courtier was furious, thinking he had been made a fool of; nonetheless, he took the drawing back to Boniface. The Pope understood the significance of the red circle, and Giotto got the job. This is often told as the story of the ultimate test of drawing, and I don¶t dispute that it is very hard to draw a perfect circle. However, I would argue that it is much more useful to be able to draw a circle existing in space, a circle seen turned at various angles as we usually encounter it in the world. We need to be able to draw an ellipse.
James McMullan The ellipse is the Frisbee of art, the circle freed from its flatness that sails out into imagined space tilting this way and that and ending up on the top of the soup bowl and silver cup in JeanBaptiste Chardin¶s still life or, imagine this, on the wheels of the speeding Batmobile.
Jean-Baptiste ChardinThe Silver Goblet
Just look at the Picasso ³Mother and Child. . you will tend to worry the line out in slow incremental steps. Keep the movement of your hand fluid and relatively fast. The challenge of drawing an ellipse is that it must be done with enough speed to engage the natural ³roundingness´ of your reflexes. So the ellipse is important because it exists in so many places as an actual shape. encouraging you to see and to draw with a volumetric rather than a flat perception of what you are observing. so that the hand moves to do your bidding without a ´controlling´ space between deciding to make a particular line and the hand moving to do it. helps you to understand the basic roundness of those limbs.´ Highlighting the ellipses. The ellipse is also implicit in every cylindrical form whether or not we see its end exposed (as it would be in a can or a cup or a length of pipe). like golf or tennis. On a page of your drawing pad. In essence. make various kinds of ellipses as a warmup for the exercise below. you will begin to see them everywhere: in art. as I have done. or in life. Much of what you are practicing in learning to draw is engaging your fine motor skills in this way. in your morning coffee cup or the table top on which the cup sits. and because it is ³buried´ in so many round forms that we are likely to draw. In this hand-eye coordination. as in the Chardin painting. you are deciding to make a particular shaped ellipse and then letting your hand and wrist move autonomously to accomplish the job. New York Mother and Child Once you tune into ellipses.© 2010 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS). Before this kind of almost simultaneous cooperation between your brain and your hand occurs. drawing is an athletic activity that benefits from practice.
A few words on perspective are in order before we start. These lines will guide you as you make the two ellipses that describe the cylindrical shape of the pot. James McMullan Start your drawing by looking at the top of the pot and making an ellipse as close as you can to the shape you see. draw connecting curves between the two ellipses. Make the bottom ellipse rounder still. Now add two horizontal lines. like shoulders. Give it a couple of tries if you need to. Add a center line all the way down to where you think the bottom of the pot is. If it¶s easier to observe this in a straight-sided drinking glass then use that as an example.Let¶s begin by drawing a pot. looking at the outside edges at the bottom of the pot. . illustrated by the diagram below. one at the bulge point and one a little above the bottom of the pot. Think of looking at a can of soda on a table in front of you: the implied ellipse at the bottom of the can where it sits on the table is rounder that the ellipse at the top of the can because you are looking down on it more. trying to capture the nature of the shapes in the way that the bulge is more pronounced at the top. Make the ellipse at the bulge point a little rounder than the top ellipse. This describes the basic idea. and then curves inward. Now bring down two outside-edge lines to where the pot bulges out. that as you look down on an ellipse you see more of it than if the ellipse is higher up relative to your eye level. Now.
I have photographed a group of household objects to suggest some of the things that you might consider. .James McMullan Congratulations! You have now made a basic linear drawing of a pot. This series will appear on Fridays. Because you will be studying an object in three dimensions rather than in a photograph it may be easier to see the ellipses. You¶ll have an opportunity to practice the logic and art of shading. James McMullan In the next column I¶ll show the same pot we¶ve just drawn in a more dramatic light to make it easier to understand its volumes. choose a basically cylindrical object from your surroundings and draw it using ellipses in the same way I have just demonstrated. so you can see how the direction the light comes from affects the shadows. I encourage you to strengthen your understanding of analyzing round forms by doing an additional exercise.
we will not only describe the shadow but. follow along with these steps to delineate the shadows on the pot.Reproduction. James McMullan These are what I think of as ³cat stroking´ lines ² curves that start gently. In using these curved lines to shade the pot. In my example of cross-hatching I show that. is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS). we can study how that light falls on the object. using curving lines that are like segments of the ellipse. the angles that the shadows make and how to use lines to shade the drawing. rolling. Either using the outline drawing you did last week or. fairly fast movement of the hand. I have drawn my examples in pen and ink to make the images clearer. reach a crescendo of pressure and then fade out at the end. I discussed ellipses and how drawing them involves the fluid. because the lines curve around the pot. the lines are made at different angles. we will be accentuating its actual form. In the last column. letting your reflexes carry out the kind of rounded shape you intend to make. including downloading of ARS works. Now we¶ll move on to shading the pot that we previously described in simple outline. . James McMullan Now that the pot has been illuminated with a strong directional light. drawing the pot again. They enclose lines sensuously and are enormously useful in describing all kinds of bulging. New York. in order to avoid a ³clotted´ effect. bumpy subjects. but you might want to draw in a 2B or 4B pencil. An earlier version of this post misidentified Boniface VIII as Boniface VII.
and the ³core´ shadow it creates. . is a frequent phenomenon in round subjects. lines that go against the direction of my first lines. but that still consider the form of the pot. I also note how the light ground on which the pot sits. but the shadow on the inside of the pot is on the right. where you might expect it. creating a ³core´ shadow that is darker not at the back edge. James McMullan Next. but slightly in from the edge. I begin to use crosshatching. I notice where light catches on the shoulder of the pot. This reflected light.James McMullan In the first stage of the drawing. I show that the light is coming from the right and slightly in front of the pot. This means that the basic pattern of shadow on the outside of the pot falls on the left. creating a little arc of illumination that ³pushes´ the shadow further to the left. I also show how the shadow arcs under the bottom of the pot. in order to show more of the complexity of the light and shadow. reflects light back onto the pot. describing the way the shape rolls under towards the base.
they line up. Its pouring lip and handle add two elements that will expand your analytic and drawing skills. . accentuating the flatness of the ground by using straighter parallel lines. Note that the axis of the pouring lip and the handle are the same. I encourage you to do this: to internalize the feeling of roundness as you make the stroke. Either use the pitcher in the photo as a subject or find a similar object to observe in three dimensions and draw. in other words. I use very pale lines in the light part of the pot on the right to dramatize the very lightest part of the pot on the ³shoulder.James McMullan In the last stage of the drawing. Also note that in my drawing I am using several ³feeling out´ strokes to get to the bulging sides of the pitcher. I finish the drawing by shading the shadow on the ground behind the pot. I am saving paper white for the one dramatically lit part of the pot. so as to move beyond the more neutral feeling of simply reproducing the curve. delineating both its basic structure and the effect of light falling on it. I have made a basic drawing of the pitcher that may help you as a guide in getting started. In order to move on to a slightly more complicated subject that still involves ellipses I have photographed a pitcher.´ In other words.
James McMullan James McMullan .
but when your idea of what you want to do in your drawing is strong enough. How confusing! The Morandi etching depends for much of its contemplative beauty on the game the artist plays between the implied depth in which the objects exist and the texture of the lines that bring the drawing back to the surface. This series appears on Fridays. which is that the examples I give will expand the ideas of the lesson. As you can see. And now I show you a Morandi still life where he uses straight lines to describe round forms. This dichotomy illustrates an issue pertinent to every example I use from the history of fine art. When you are learning to draw. New York / SIAE. texture or implement can achieve your vision. any line. one of my favorite artists.© 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS). it is useful to understand the most obvious methods of achieving form and proportion. Rome Giorgio Morandi¶s ³Still Life with Five Objects´ This etching is by Giorgio Morandi. For instance. rather than simply reinforcing the lesson. his style of drawing rounded shapes is not consistent with my demonstration. I have demonstrated how to use curved lines in making the drawing of the pot because those kinds of lines help you to feel out the pot¶s roundness and because the subtlety of making those lines is a way for you to engage the sensuousness of your reflexes. .
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