Complex Forms in Light

To the layman the rendering of form with light on it seems little short of miraculous. He is likely to talk about your great talent and how lucky you arc to have been born with it. The truth is that lie is unable to distinguish talent from plain observation and knowledge, ile has never really analyzed the way light works on form, though he has learned to recognize and accept the proper effect. When we point out that an indentation causes halftone and shadow, he may shake his head, but let there be the slightest dent in a fender after Junior has used the car, and he will see it as a dent as far as he can see. Any disturbance of a smooth tone is either a smudge of foreign material or a change of some sort in the character of the surface. How quickly a spot on the wall or a fabric is evident! The same sort of thing happens in a drawing.

If we put in a tone of dark where it should not be, the cffcct is that of a smudge, A light where it does not belong is just as evident- It seems strange to me that some art students will not draw objccts as they really look, for ihey can see the difference between lights and darks as well as anyone else can. The chances are that they are not even looking for the cfleets of lights, grays, and tlarks; they must simply feel that they have to fill the space inside the outlines with strokes of some sort. They have seen that drawings arc full of strokes, so strokes are their veal concern, without much thought of what the strokes are supposed to be accomplishing or representing, The whites on the subjects have no strokes, since we are really leaving the whites as white. The grays have delicate strokes to leave a gray where we see it as gray, and then the darks are put in with gusto and pressure to set off the grays and whites.

The darks and acccnts really make the drawing, because they are most easily seen. They carry the punch. Any drawing can be reduced to a rendering of halftones and darks only, since the whites are already present in the white of the paper. So the practice of good drawing, beyond outline construction or contour, is first looking for the areas of light, then seeing the halftones and darks which surround them.

Drawing is really difficult only to those who do not know what to look for. The placement of contour is measurement and nothing else. To find the planes of an object is to watch the angle of the surface form as it changes, and then to record tile tone or value caused by that change or angle. The drawings on page 90 show how easily the effect of form and surface and even of the material itself is defined by simply putting down the grays and darks as they appear. In these drawings we are hardly conscious of pcncil strokes or mannerisms, only of the use of a pencil to render the effect as seen.

After awhile you learn to recognize characteristic effects, and they become much easier to set down. The student should start by setting up a subject in a good light and studying the effects. Pcgin with things that are simple in form and not too complex in texture. Take a piece of broken stone and try to draw it. Take some dishes or pottery, a ball, or a 1km, or any simple object, and draw for the effects of lights, grays, and darks. Later, try something that has drapery — even the youngsters doll Or drape a piccc of material over something and try to draw the folds. Crumpled paper is the best example of planes in light, halftone, and shadow.

Outlines should not be dark and heavy all around, but light where the inside tone is light and dark where the darks are. In fact, in some of the best drawings we arc hardly conscious of Outlines at all, the stress being laid on the tones and shapes inside the outlines. Almost every light area has a definite shape, then the halftones have shapes, and finally the darks have shapes. They must be fitted together. Some shapes have defined edges, others have soft edges.

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