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Figure 6.17 The picture shows some unorganized shapes.


Monotony is the repetition of shapes that closely match each other in size and spacing. A good example of monotony is back in Figure 6.12, in which all of the shapes are roughly the same size and are spaced statically across the drawing. The best way to avoid monotony is to vary the size and spacing of the pictorial shapes in your drawings.


Sometimes the placement of objects can cause problems. For example, tangents can cause visual confusion. In Figure 6.19, the seal is supposed to be in the foreground. However, the placement of the seal's nose on the line of the barn gives the impression that the seal is balancing the barn on his nose.

When placing items in a picture, you should always watch out for potential problems with tangents that cause confusion in the placement of the visual elements in three-dimensional spaces.

Tangents can also be painful. In Figure 6.20, the diamond shape is placed next to the edge of the picture. This causes two problems. First, the placement is uncomfortable because it is poking the side of the picture frame. It is almost like the frame is getting hurt! Second, sharp corners can often act as arrows, directing viewers' attention away from the picture.

Figure 6.19 The seal looks like he is balancing the barn on his nose.

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Figure 6.20 Some tangents can be painful.

Figure 6.19 The seal looks like he is balancing the barn on his nose.

Unwanted Inclusion

Sometimes a shape might be behind another shape, causing the two shapes to run together and blend. This is particularly true when the two shapes are of similar value. Figure 6.21 shows a simple example of this problem. The square shape is overlapping the cross shape, but they are so close in value that they seem to be one shape rather than two.

Sometimes you might want the shapes of your drawing to run together, so this is only a problem when the blending is unwanted yet still present. It is always a good idea to create a value sketch of your drawing first to see whether there is any potential for unwanted inclusion.

Figure 6.21 The cross and square blend together because they are similar in value.


In nature there really aren't any lines. Lines are what artists use to interpret nature. Lines are often used by artists to define edges or suggest contours, but there is another aspect of composition that brings pictorial elements into three-dimensional representations; it is called form. Form is the depiction of objects based on the effects of light on that object. It brings the element of shading into drawings. In Figure 6.22 there are two circles. The one on the left shows only the shape of the circle, whereas the one on the right shows the form of the circle as a sphere.

Figure 6.22 The circle on the right indicates the form of the circular shape.

Form is important in composition because it shows solidity and dimension. In figure drawing, often the artist will want to represent the figure as a three-dimensional element of the picture. Compositionally, this means that the drawing will take into account the effects of lighting on it.

Lighting creates tonal differences on figures. These tonal differences create patterns and shapes of their own. In Figure 6.23, you can see a posed figure in tonal grays. There are shapes that make up the light side of the figure and others that make up the dark side.

Tonal qualities of a figure are visually very powerful—sometimes more powerful than the silhouette of the figure itself, depending on the harshness of the light. In Figure 6.24, I increased the contrast to emphasize the dark and light shapes of the figure.

Figure 6.23 Light and shadow create shapes on the figure.

Figure 6.24 The contrast is increased in the figure to show clearly the shapes of the light side and the dark side.

Figure 6.23 Light and shadow create shapes on the figure.

Figure 6.24 The contrast is increased in the figure to show clearly the shapes of the light side and the dark side.

As an artist, you have to see the shapes of the light and dark on your figures. Often shadows— particularly cast shadows—obscure the dimensional qualities of the figure. For example, look at Figure 6.25. Notice how the lighting shows the form of the arm extended toward us very clearly, whereas the one pointing away is almost entirely in shadow, giving it almost no sense of form at all. In addition, the cast shadow on the figure's knee destroys any sense of form in that area.

Before you start to draw a figure, take a close look at the lighting to determine whether it enhances or obscures the form of the figure.

Figure 6.25 Shadows can obscure the form of the figure.


Obscuring the form of a figure might not always be a bad thing. The shapes in the picture do not always have to be completely drawn. The concept of blending some parts of the form with other forms in the picture is an old practice. For example, look at the Mona

Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci in Figure 6.26.

In this famous painting, da Vinci purposefully arranges the values around the figure so that they blend into each other. Rather than putting a hard line around the figure, da Vinci leaves it up to us to fill in the gaps. This concept in art of blending edges is called closer. Visually, this gives the viewer's eyes pathways to and from the figure. Looking at the picture in black and white, the blending of the values becomes more evident, as shown in Figure 6.27.

Figure 6.27 Leonardo da Vinci uses closer in the Mona Lisa. Réunion des Musées Nationaux/Art Resource, NY.
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Figure 6.26 Leonardo da Vinci blends the values of the figure with the background in the Mona Lisa. Réunion des Musées Nationaux/Art Resource, NY.

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