Cones, cylinders and cubes

The Big Draw, Coxley Live, Saturday, 7th October, 2006

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still life
Conté crayon boxes and herb jar

still life
Conté crayon drawing by one of the adults at the workshop

still lifeAlthough we can't use the Indian ink and glue today, I'm glad I'd brought them as the bottles serve as subjects for an impromptu still life session with children and adults.

All the basic problems - no that sounds too negative; all the basic challenges - of drawing are there in a simple set-up. I give them a few tips.

Clock face

angleFor example; the angle between the glue bottle in the background and the box; I often find myself picturing a clock face. If you take the vertical line of the bottle as the minute hand, pointing to 12, then you can estimate the angle by imagining where the little hand would be. From my point of view this angle was roughly equivalent to 10 o'clock on the clock face.

You'll notice that in the student drawing (above, right) some of the verticals on the right of the drawing have titled over sideways, as if the diagonal of the box has influenced them.

In a book on Drawing Animals Victor Ambrus advises that you should never start by drawing the eye, then the nose and continuing as if you were doing a jigsaw, piece by piece. You should go for the basic outline and add detail when you get the opportunity. I think that's true for animals but when I'm drawing a still life I always find myself observing shapes and negative shapes, very much as you'd construct a jigsaw.

For instance, look at the shape between the two bottles in the foreground. It's just as important as the shape of the bottles themselves if the group is going to sit together as it should.

Cone and Shoulders

bottle topA girl sitting next to me has just drawn the top of the glue bottle; a cone and with a shoulder on either side.

bottle topDrawing them separately like that, it's easy to get them very slightly out of alignment and lose the sense that the two 'shoulders' are part of one form; a cylinder.

I don't say that you should take a construction line right across behind the cone, as if you had x-ray eyes and could see the whole cylinder, but you need to have a sense of that shape.

Still Life Cityscape

When I'm drawing natural objects, like tree stumps and rocks, I often have a sense that I'm drawing a landscape and that my pen is doing the walking. With this still life I try to draw with as much care as I would if I was drawing a cityscape; as if this was an architect's sketch of a spire or the top of a skyscraper.

If you were drawing a factory chimney one way to get the sense of it being three-dimensional would be to continue the line of the ellipse just a fraction behind the top of the cylinder.

chimneyI don't think I'd deliberately do that; it could end up looking rather mannered, I think that it's your conviction that you're drawing a three-dimensional object that counts.

stirrerBut you can see the difference between the two sketches; the second looks much flatter, like a lollipop stick or one of the wooden stirrers that you're sometimes given when you buy a cup of coffee on a train. You wouldn't mistake the first sketch for a flat object like this. next


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