Define Realistic Drawing

1. To draw realistically, you must first learn to see realistically. Be aware of what is really there. "What you see when you look" is visual reality. Being real, everything has three dimensions: height, width, and depth. Visual reality is anything which exists that you see. Examples are trees, rocks, clouds, air effects, and light. Your mind becomes so accustomed to daily surroundings that you overlook what is actually there. When you draw these subjects, you suddenly realize you are not sure of what is there or how to draw the subject accurately. Motivation, time, and observation skills will help to overcome this "visual pacifism." Once overcome, you will be on the road to visual accuracy (fig 2-1).

There are three principles of drawing: visual accuracy, a systematic approach, and practice. Given enough desire, time, and guidance, one can easily learn and master these principles. Knowledge and use of these principles will help you to create accurate images of subjects around you.

2. Visual accuracy is correctly transferring visual reality to the drawing surface (fig 2-1). Together, they are a drawing. Visual accuracy deals with only two dimensions: height and width. Adding depth to an illustration is creating an illusion, which you can master with much desire and practice. To achieve visual accuracy you must use self-analysis, a systematic approach, and practice.

a. Self-analysis is a continuous comparison exercise. Analyze what you see in visual reality (shapes, sizes, locations, edges, textures, colors, or tones), then compare it to your drawing. Adjust the illustration as needed. Make studies (sketches) of the subject and compare them to what is there. Stay away from symbols.

(1) A symbol is a generalized representation of an object or being (fig 2-2). When a child wants to draw, he finds paper and pencil, chooses a subject, and creates his own masterpiece. He does it without training or guidance, using trial, error, and guesswork because he has no formula to follow. Mom or Dad admires the handiwork and put it on the refrigerator for all the world to see. They gave no instruction or guidance, only sincere words of approval and encouragement. This gives the child important feelings of pride and accomplishment. This positive parental trait motivates the child to continue even though he doesn't know what to do.

Realistic Drawing Child
Figure 2-2. Examples of symbols

His drawing did not look the way he intended. It was a symbol, a simplified version of the subject he chose to draw. This is a logical way for anyone to start drawing. Unfortunately, symbols don't show what the world really looks like. Using the principles of drawing, you will learn to draw realistically, and the importance of avoiding symbols.

(2) Symbols interfere with your progress through drawing. They tell your mind that a subject looks a certain way in spite of how it really looks. These symbolic drawings take away the subjects' subtleties that make them appear real. These subtleties could be a line quality, tone, form, or a texture. Self-analysis will help you to avoid drawing symbols.

b. Seeing abstractly is viewing a subject as a series of unrecognizable shapes, and it can help you to avoid symbols. For example, if you turn a photo upside down to copy it that way, you will see the image differently. From this point of view, you will avoid symbols. You can be quickly on your way to visual accuracy. You should practice this as an exercise.

3. The second principle of drawing is a systematic approach to drawing. The systematic approach consists of four steps: determining the subjects' forms, determining their proportions, representing them with contours, and shading them to emphasize the illusion of depth. Following this four-step formula of form, proportion, contour, and shading will help you to draw any and everything. Separate learning events explain each step in depth. You must understand and do each step correctly and in sequence to achieve visual accuracy.

a. You can use the systematic approach not only as a method for drawing but also as a method of analysis. You can determine how realistic your drawing is by using each step as a checklist. This analysis should be done at each step. Make visual comparisons between the drawing and the subject. It will help keep your work accurate and on track. The systematic approach works together with the next characteristic - practice.

b. The systematic approach is the most efficient method for learning to draw. Practice each step in order and do them accurately.

4. Practice is the process of improving on a task through repetition. As you complete a drawing, you can compare it to the subject for accuracy. If it is not correct, you can determine why by going through the steps of the systematic approach. You must do every step correctly and in sequence (form, proportion, contour and shading) to make the drawing as accurate as possible.

When you discover what went wrong, you can correct the mistake and concentrate on that step of the systematic approach. A good suggestion is: always carry a small sketch pad with you, and set a goal of 4, 8, then 12 pages of practice per day. Practice can be any time, any place, and on any subject.

NOTE: We stress realism and accuracy because of graphic artistic, and printing applications. Illustrations are used in event documentations, training publications, manuals, historic art, references, and representative visualizations. Individual styles will develop over time.

Learning Event 2: DEFINE FORM

1. Form is three-dimensional shape. Everything perceived in visual reality has the three dimensions: height, width, and depth. When preparing to draw, look at the subject and simplify its forms. Visual accuracy is the representation of three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional surface.

You must be able to recognize form easily to draw what you see. Of the three dimensions, height and width are the simplest to check and adjust in an illustration. Depth, however, is the most difficult and takes the most practice to master on a two-dimensional surface. Read about depth more thoroughly in other areas of this course.

2. You must initially ignore your subjects' details and break them into their basic forms. The basic forms are the cube, cone, cylinder, and sphere (fig 2-3) and everything in visual reality can be part of one or more than one of these. Anything in a drawing can be made from any combination of the basic forms. Modifications and subtleties may be added as your drawing is ready.

Draw Basic Forms


Figure 2-3. Examples of the basic forms


Figure 2-3. Examples of the basic forms

3. Recognizing and using forms.

a. Pause and look around you and/or outside a window. Break all of these objects into their basic forms. The building you are in is most likely a series of cubes. A fire hydrant may be a cylinder with half spheres attached. Note books, furniture, vehicles, people, anything you may see. Recognizing these basic forms helps develop understanding of your surroundings.

b. An incomplete form is part of one of the basic forms (fig 2-4).

Figure 2-4. Examples of incomplete forms

c. A complex form consists of two or more of the basic forms (fig 2-5). Bypass the many details (small basic forms) of a subject to see the larger, simpler, basic forms and avoid getting lost in the concentration on details. Draw simple to complex. Start with large basic forms and go to smaller forms last. When adding details, remember they are not always necessary.

d. There are two other kinds of forms, rectilinear and curvilinear. You must draw each based on what you see.

(1) Curvilinear forms are soft, irregular edged, and are usually found in nature. A tree, a cloud, mountains, or even a person are examples. You may have to draw a curvilinear form with imperfect lines to soften its edges.

(2) A rectilinear form has hard edges, is geometrically perfect, and is usually man-made. Some examples are a house, airplane, fire hydrant, and a tank. Therefore, rectilinear forms are almost always complex.

Rectilinear Shape Drawing
Figure 2-5. Examples of complex forms

4. Form is adaptable. Draw basic forms based on visual reality rather than four specific shapes. For example, draw a rectangle rather than a cube, to represent the trailer head in the figure drawing (fig 2-6). Modify basic forms to fit the subject. Let your mind's eye accept the image for its actual shape and draw exactly what you see. This helps to avoid symbols.

Airplane Perspective Drawings
Figure 2-6. Adaptability of form

5. Depth and structure are the two qualities (visible traits or characteristics) of form. Capture these two qualities in your illustrations while avoiding details. Draw details as the need arises.

a. Depth is the most difficult of the three dimensions to capture and is an illusion in a drawing. The use of perspective drawing is one way to help create this illusion. The illusion created is distance. No one step of the systematic approach creates depth. It is achieved through the entire process (fig 2-7). The following paragraphs give a brief introduction to perspective constructions.

Realistic Illusion Drawings
Figure 2-7. An example showing depth

(1) Perspective drawing creates the illusion of distance through the fact that all lines going away from the observer appear to come together at some distant points. For example, to a person looking down a long stretch of railroad tracks, the tracks will appear to merge or disappear (an illusion) at a single point in the distance. This point is called a vanishing point. It is one of the three most important factors in perspective drawing.

(2) The second most important factor in perspective drawing is the station point. The station point is the position of one of the observer's eyes (fig 2-8). The location of the station point determines the perspective. For instance, a house is perceived differently at ground level from the top of an adjacent three-story building.

(3) You should think of the object to be drawn as resting on a horizontal ground plane perpendicular to the picture plane. The boundaries of the ground plane are two separate lines, the ground line and the horizon line (fig 2-8).

Perspective Nomenclature
Figure 2-8. Perspective nomenclature

The horizon line is the third most important factor in perspective drawing. Objects may appear differently, relative to their position above or below the horizon line (fig 2-9). Notice how circles of an angle appear as ellipses. The angle at which they are seen will determine their narrowness.

Draw Shapes Below Horizon Line

Figure 2-9. Changes in shapes due to their position above or below the horizon line

Pencil Drawing Beginners Guide

Pencil Drawing Beginners Guide

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  • Tobias
    How to determine the horizon line of basic shapes?
    4 years ago
  • Kidane
    What is realistic drawing and examples?
    25 days ago

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