TRAINING THE EYE FOR PROPORTION Set down two points to indicate height of the object. Measure ihe width and compare with the height (point W). Indicate the width at half-point of the height (AB). This gives the mid-point of the rectangle which surrounds the object (--). Divide the height and width into fourths
(--). Make a mental note of how such dividing lines would appear in front of the object. Now note how the contours would appear in this "mental graph." Try to set down the general shapes in block form within the over-all rectangle. Now look for important points or features that oppose one another on both the horizontal and the vertical planes and note their relationships. Then fill in the contours between these points.
In simple terms you are training your eye to see the rectangle into which the objcct you are drawing fits. Is it longer, or is it shorter, than a square? Is the height greater or less than the width, and how much? Where is the middle line—up and down or crossways? Where are the quarter-points? What points are opposite? How do they fall beneath each other?
I with mass alone and then look for form within the fc contour. In painting there is always the danger of being so much concerned with outline and con-r tour that we do not take in the quality of the form I. and character of the edges. We arc afraid to let go of them as limits of the form, and fail to see that the form merges with other forms.
To return for a moment to the dillercnces between drawing and painting (discussed in an - earlier chapter), in drawing we usually see things singly, in outline, while in making a painting we concentrate more on groups of objects and colors, noting what each thing does in the whole eilect of the picture. Are there shadows? Do some parts of an object stand out in contrast to the environment? Docs a part of the surface form melt into and become closely associated with the shadow? Does part of it seem to disappear altogether? These things arc of great concern to us when we paint.
In drawing on a white surface we are naturally concerned with the outlines as they must appear on white, but we cannot transpose these edges to a painting. We must consider what other elements in the painting would affect the object and how. We must be sure of the lighting and its direction, and consider the possibility of the object's giving off or receiving reflected light. Of great importance are the values, which must be consistent with other values, and color, which must be consistent with other color.
When material for a picturc is gathered from several different sources and objects are arranged without consideration of basic relationships, there is an obvious lack of unity. We see this often in commercial art. Every student should make a practice of painting subjects which he can set up as a whole, and ol' studying nature outdoors, where he can see what oneness means and learn how to reproduce it.
In commercial work this is not always possible; nevertheless the man who has experience in painting from life will be equipped to do a much better job of integration. He will be able to paint a properly unified picture instead of making a graphic catalogue of objects within a given area.
In considering proportion in abstract art we face quite a different situation. Here the artist is attempting to do something which cannot be done with realistic proportion.
Suppose he comes upon a scene which he wishes to interpret in an abstract design. Design then is his motif, and he is not interested in proportion, perspective, or the third dimension, but only in form as it contributes to design, and in values without regard to space or their relationship to one another. By eliminating so many of the elements of beauty, he actually gives himself a tougher job than the realistic artist has to face. He is likely to be guided by the things he feels rather than the things he sees.
Van Gogh, whose work is only semi-realistic, must have approached his subjects in this way. It is certain that this Dutch artist sacrificed much to the thing that seemed to enthrall him most— vibrating color. And, like all artists, Van Gogh was much more successful at some times than at others. He maintained enough proportion and drawing to make his subjects recognizable, and his manner of reducing form to images painted in bold, flat strokes results in paintings with a strong decorative quality. It will ever remain a question whether better drawing and proportion would have contributed anything more to his canvases —or, indeed, to the popularity of his work. My own opinion is that with accurate draftsmanship much of his individualism would have been lost.
Accurate proportions alone do not make art; they must be associated with fine value, color, and design. Similarly, inaccurate proportions do not necessarily make bad art. We find paintings in which the drawing is distorted and unacademic and yet the work still qualifies as art. The point is that art is not entirely dependent on drawing.
Some of the great draftsmen were great only as draftsmen, and their paintings added little or nothing to their stature. Dürer was essentially a
THE GRAPH Nothing has ever excelled the graph as a means of locating contours and points. It is really a two-dimensional procedure superimposed upon a flat image. It can be applied as a mental or actual means of stating graphically the relationship of parts.
Through the invention of a graph that would cover a sphere, man has been enabled to define all the areas of the earth, as well as any spot in an area, by maps.
It becomes a most valuable asset to the artist and draftsman wherever accurate drawing is needed.
The eye can be trained to see a mental graph in front of any object or scene. There is always a middle line and also proportionate divisions that can be used as a guide to accurate rendering.
Almost anyone could draw the accompanying objects by first laying out the proportionate graphs. He could enlarge or reduce the drawing by choice, by simply holding the proportions of the over-all rectangle.
Since it is easy to sec any square, all rectangles can be mentally compared to a square and the variation noted. The rectangle can then be divided as needed.
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