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Thread: sketchbook

  1. #1
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    According to Tolstoy the purpose of art and the reason people look at art is because they are seeking communion. They are
    reaching out to one another from their solitude. Using art we can communicate more effectively, in a way more primal than
    is possible by using words. That's because thoughts aren't words, our natural form of thinking is pictures(representations
    of experiences). We can understand each other via pictures, because our primal experience is similar, theoretically we are
    all individuals with a body living in a world.

    Going to be working from the Natural way to draw, and whatever else I feel like, and giving my thoughts as I go. I won't
    be following the schedule exactly but I will do all the exercises, I did them a long time ago in the same fashion but
    didn't understand the exercises back then.

    Contour Drawing

    First exercise is Contour Drawing.
    Two questions: 1. What is drawing? 2. What is contour drawing?

    1. Drawing is thinking. Drawing is rendered thought. Drawing is the communication of this thinking by way of
    primal-symbols. The style that any artist draws in is essentially their way of looking at things, a selection(abstraction)
    from their totality of experience that is then composed into an expressive unity by way of a "magical synthesis" effected by
    the imagination. This composition is rendered on a surface by manipulating that surface, primarily by graphic: shapes,
    colors, gradations... the graphics are all that gets transferred in mass production, or on a screen.

    2. When we draw we draw something. It is the conviction, the belief in this something that gives the drawing power, a belief
    that the drawing is the thing.
    The idea being expressed in contour drawing, for the most part, is the relationship of contact between the surfaces of two
    things, or you could say that the extremities of the forms define the forms(but form doesn't take into account substance.
    The line is two extremities touching each other over a span of time.
    This is a great exercise to start with because the act of touching the surface of the pencil to the surface of the paper
    and leaving a mark is in exact correspondence with the observation of surfaces contacting each other in nature. Solid things
    that don't touch each other touch the air, or water, or the sense of surface in our imagination.
    Another important point is that it is an introduction to geometry, you're feeling out the geometry of the page and dividing it up or proportioning it with you're line. I believe this aspect is underplayed in the book, but a counter argument is that beginner's don't really need to be told about it.

    Surfaces in contact reveal the proportions of the forms they contain. I looked at the page when I felt like it here, I take
    his advice to not look at all as an exaggeration to make a point.
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    What's interesting to me is that the very first exercise puts an emphasis on the time factor in drawing, trying
    to leave out time tends to fuck with peoples heads and kills drawings, it leads to dead lifeless forms since
    life is change/motion.
    The major flaw in The Natural Way to Draw, and I'm going by a 7 or 8 year old memory here, is that so little
    emphasis is placed on the surface of the paper, which is where the marks and graphics take place, simple fact:
    no graphics - no graphic art. Also to say something like "Students should think only of the experience and not
    of making pictures" is stupid because to experience anything is to at least begin to make a picture of it,
    but I suppose it could be interpreted to mean "don't get side tracked by technicalities".
    Another big flaw is that these exercises, which are arbitrary in many ways, can seem to be the basis of good drawing, when in fact they were chosen only for their convenience of communicating some idea Niccolaides thought was important.

    The next exercise is Gesture drawing.

    Gesture drawing is essentially a case of "work from the general to the specific". The gesture is the feeling or sensation
    caused by the relationship of all the things you are observing. Imagine a cop with a gun in their holster, now imagine a
    mugger with a gun pointed at you, different relationships different sensations. A gesture drawing is the communication
    of that sensation by drawing the relationships of the things. All drawing is gesture drawing since it all deals with
    feelings and relationships, details in a finished drawing could be called micro gestures or something.
    The other meaning of gesture is sign, basically the symbols that we compose.
    In a sentence: "gesture is the index of the action", R. G. Hatton.
    This leads to the consideration of the dramatic value of the action, why the character does what they do and what they're trying to gain by it, basically cause and effect, change. This is another issue the book doesn't really handle too well.

    Sketches that accompany post, not necessarily natural way to draw exercises:

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    Last edited by armando; September 9th, 2014 at 05:10 PM.

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  3. #2
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    I really like the movement in these sketches and the looseness of the lines as well. =] from what I've noticed on your previous sketchbook you've improved a lot your linework! well done, keep it up

    Hello! I really want to be a good artist... Being a girl who can draw some mediocre things just won't do anymore.
    Can you help me? I want MOARRRR!!

    -* Fer

  4. #3
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    zerosete: Thanks.

    I thought an introduction to naturalistic and impressionistic drawing for the absolute beginner
    would be useful. Naturalism is the recording of the facts of appearances. Impressionism is the expression
    of the sensations caused by the effects of light. I wrote this several years ago, it's been edited down a

    This is a method of drawing that involves organizing light and dark shapes, and then more or less
    blending those shapes into each other in order to achieve an illusion of the appearance of reality.

    Here's a crop of a picture I took from Notice that the image is composed of surface
    areas of different value. Look at the image as a flat surface. The image consists of indeterminate
    fluctuations in value(lightness or darkness), however some fluctuations are close enough together that they
    can be considered the same value. It would be possible to do this image in just black and white, on a scale
    where 1 is white and black is 10, consider everything from values 5.4999 and lower as white, and values 5.5
    and higher as black.

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    So I traced over the orignal picture, and started grouping value areas into shapes as I saw best. There
    is no right way to do this, since all shape boundaries are indefinite to various degrees, so you choose the
    value shapes based on your preference, going by what looks right. I was basically thinking "well this area
    is just mostly light gray, this area is mostly dark gray, this area is mostly darker gray." Also notice that
    the boundary lines I used are just approximations, I didn't get the boundary perfect because I wasn't interested
    in that, look at how I made the jaw-neck-trap-shouder-forearm basically just a curved line. I ignore the wobbles
    in the line, like I ignore the wobbles/fluctuations in the values.

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    Then I filled in the shapes with an approximate flat value. The shapes have definite boundaries all
    around, like pieces of a puzzle. To put it another way: all the "edges" are "hard".

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    Then I look at picture and find the places where the boundaries of shapes are less definite, I look for
    "soft" "edges". The way the various shapes blend into one another is what gives the visual effect of form,
    little fluctuations of value is what gives the effect of real complex form. The more minute you make the
    fluctuations in value, the more you lose your shapes, you give up the design element of shape and so you
    give up that element's expressiveness.

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    The main reason to turn "areas of value fluctuation" into shape is in order to be able to use them as
    pictorial elements, we can adjust those shapes into ones that give more of the impression of what we feel.
    We can make a shape more angular, more curved, we can make them droop, we can move them around, and it's
    the relationship of these various shapes that strike the viewer subconsciously. This is just one style of
    A lot of beginner's think that if you can draw/render naturalistically then you can do anything else, but
    that's false because naturalistic rendering only looks at minute fluctuations in value which is only one aspect
    of visual phenomena. In order to draw in any style you have to be aware of the visual cues that style uses,
    whether it strikes the sense of space, sense of shape, sense of movement, sense of balance, sense of pattern
    and rhythm, etc., and the subtle impressions those things evoke in the mind.

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  6. #4
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    We need light to see. Light is the key factor in making something look real. Light reveals
    and darkness conceals, therefore if we look at a white page it looks empty because it's filled
    with light, we reason that if something is there then it should be lit up. If we look at a dark
    area any number of things could be there that we can't see, hidden in the darkness, therefore
    darkness is more suggestive than light.
    What we see looks like colorful substances revealed by light or covered by darkness, this is why
    it's surprising when we learn as kids that an apple looks red because it is not red - it reflects
    back the light it doesn't absorb. Your ability to describe form in your drawings rests entirely
    on your ability to imagine it, because you can't light up what isn't there.

    Beginners tend not to look at the whole image, tend to ignore complementary shapes ("negative
    shapes"), and tend to see the page as flat and not filled with spatial potentiality. The cause of
    the last one has a lot to do with the whiteness of the page, like I said darkness is more suggestive
    than light.I think this situation can be remedied by doing some silhouettes on black paper.


    Three facts to note. The picture plane has, and all shape have: a surface, sides (extremities,
    boundaries...), and corners. Every mark made within the picture plane is related to the sides
    and corners.

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    Here I made a squiggle and related one of it's corners to the corners of the picture plane. It makes
    a triangle.

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    If I go all the way around the picture plane I get four triangles. You can think of your pencil as
    tied to strings tied to all the corners. Relating marks to these corners increases accuracy, but most
    importantly relates the marks to the picture plane and therefore every other mark in the picture plane.

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    The sides/boundaries of these shapes should also be related to the plane. A side can be thought of
    as turned in relation to the sides of the picture plane.

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    A picture from quickposes.

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    Relating the corners.

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    Relating the sides.

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    Some more random sketches.

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  8. #5
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    Good to see you drawing.

    1. Drawing is thinking. Drawing is rendered thought. Drawing is the communication of this thinking by way of primal-symbols.
    Your understanding is coming along. But remember that not drawing a line is also a key part of drawing. And what it means to not draw a line is to make a decision to not draw it for a reason.

    Thus, drawing is graphic decision-making, (and is not necessarily to do with rendering as it is commonly understood, as making indicative marks.) The graphic decisions made give evidence of the predicating thoughts.

    Decisiveness is a key issue in learning to make art. Everything must be decided. The more one appreciates the degree to which good art is suffused with decision, the less room there is to hide one's weaknesses. And one gives up all hope of such things as "lucky brushstrokes" or smears. Belief, indeed, is the watchword. Whatever it takes for the artist to believe is the proper method of making art.

    The geometric relationship between the elements of a composition and the frame should be a very low priority among your concerns, imo. There are million different varieties of composition and they all harmonize with or oppose/defy the frame in their own way and for their own compositional reasons.

    The relationships to be concerned with are the ones between the elements. If these relationships are telling, placing them in the frame is a simple matter easily done with a quick eyeballing.
    At least Icarus tried!

    My Process: Dead Rider Graphic Novel (Dark Horse Comics) plus oil paintings, pencils and other goodies:

    My "Smilechild" Music. Plus a medley of Commercial Music Cues and a Folksy Jingle!:

  9. #6
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    ]kev ferrara: Good stuff. My main motivation with that picture plane post was to give a way to get beginners
    looking at the all over pattern of shapes, a continuation of that naturalistic "painting" post. I think evocative abstract
    shapes, representing interesting ideas, are the number one cause of interesting drawings and paintings, without those shapes
    an artist might as well be a writer or filmmaker.
    edit: I think that all my favorite artists are making use of the total picture plane in a way that artists that I don't care
    about aren't. The way they have these story telling units arranged entering the page, moving around within it, and exiting
    is a lot different than the others. Their graphics are related to each other and the page in a way not found in the multitude
    of average fantasy artists who depend mostly on the excitement of the props and things of their scenes for their effect,
    mostly blood, battles and babes.

    __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ ______________________

    Mass and Modelled drawing

    I consider the mass drawing exercise to be the equivalent of the "bridge of asses"/"bridge of fools" in euclidean geometry.
    It's easy to fake contour drawing and just trace the appearance, it's easy to fake gesture drawing and produce meaningless
    scribbles or flowing lines. The mass exercise is a direct consequence of what is learned from the contour exercise, the
    contour excercise is actually a disguised and simplified version of the modelling exercise.

    What you were doing in contour drawing is essentially the same thing that a kid does when they draw a turkey by tracing
    their hand. The pencil is parallel against the surface it is touching. This resistence to a surface gives rise to the concept
    of a mass. This is an example of what could be called a synthetic experience: what you see + what you touch combine to give
    a new feeling which you can't get by just seeing or just touching. I believe this type of phenomenon is the crux of art.

    This exercise is an introduction to the idea of depth. Depth is something which is not seen, but rather it is alluded to by
    changing appearances, depth is allusion. In "Meditations on Quixote", and everyone should read Don Quixote, Ortega y Gassett
    uses the analogy of walking through a forest to describe depth. He say that you never actually see the forest, instead what
    happens is that you see the fronts of a bunch of trees, and as you go deeper into the forest you get this idea in your mind
    that there are trees behind you, and that there are trees yet to be seen in front... the trees that you see allude to the
    other trees which you have see and the others that you will see.

    A mass is revealed and made known by relating it against another mass. The primary masses are your body and the earth.
    EDIT: Mass is added to a drawing by rendering. The working of the page with the medium, as in the instructions, is rendering without the illusion of light.

    A mass drawing is a pure invention because it cannot be traced off of a visual appearance.
    In this exercise we have another case of the technique being in direct correspondence with the observation and idea that
    is being rendered. The color of the substance of the medium(crayon) corresponds with the color of the substance of the model
    which is red in the case of people, although this step is ignored in the early exercises it is introduced in the watercolor
    exercise. The resistence you feel from the drag of the crayon building up on the page corresponds with pushing through the
    density and heaviness of the substance of the model. The darkness that builds up on the page is the sign that illustrates
    the hidden(alluded) mass.

    This core of mass hidden beneath the appearance revealed by light is the "motivation of the form", it's what makes a wheel
    roll and a knife(inclined plane) cut. Without this conception of mass backing the renderings of form the drawing will be stiff.

    Modelled drawing. The contours drawn in a contour drawing are foreshortened surfaces, caused by imaginatively touching the
    side of the pencil against the surface of the model. In modelled drawing the crayon is turned on it's side and pressed against
    the more or less un-foreshortened surface. The correspondence here is between whether the crayon is held
    perpendicular to the surface of the paper or parallel, in relation to imaginatively touching the surface of the model.


    Weight is a relationship between masses, something is heavy only if it is heavier than something else. The fundamental
    expression of weight is between an object and the ground. Do drawings of things on the ground, hanging, being thrown into the
    air, falling, and suspended in that moment between rising and falling. Also get a bucket of water, move it around and get a
    feel for the momentum of the water, also make "contour" drawings of moving from the air through the water. Buy a set of
    geometric blocks, like this or whatever

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    Vertical and horizontal cross-contours are supposed to be placed grid like, the sensation of depth gets encoded by the pressure
    of the pen or whatever, and not by visual linear perspective. Eventually the verticals are used as the "moldings" that catch the
    light, and the horizontals relate the volumes of the forms to the ground plane. The idea with the pen exercise is that it's the
    first time you have to look at the page in order to make sure the ink is flowing. The idea is that you are loading up your pen
    with substance and transferring it to the paper, this corresponds with taking an observation and transferring it to the paper,
    this phenomenon is more obvious in the water color exercise, basically you are symbolically loading the brush with your observation
    and bringing it to the paper.
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    Details give meaning to the abstractions.
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    Last edited by armando; June 16th, 2014 at 11:14 PM.

  10. #7
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    That's about it for my natural way to draw commentary. The later chapters on anatomy, light, folds, and design
    are mediocre for the most part. There is no real emphasis on manipulating the surface in an abstract way. Almost
    all of it is done directly from life, there are no imaginatively adventurous exercises. It can be interpreted
    that he is denying the validity of painting based (almost)purely on visual sensations like impressionism, or on
    painting based on the emotional qualities of paint itself.
    The last really useful chapter is "the sustained study", which is the culmination of the early chapters. I think
    that it's here that the meaning of gesture as the combined effect of all the elements expressively related
    becomes clear. It could be called the general statement of the all over relationship of the elements, hell it
    could be called composition before all the details are added in.

    The gist of the book is: Believing in the substance and subject of the picture determines the design and composition.
    The picture should have an animistic quality.
    All the exercises, except for gesture, were dealing with simple sensations, and the resulting drawings were simple
    expressions: merely expressing something's physical qualities. The type of thinking that you do determines the form
    of the picture.
    All sensation is animistic because there is always some emotion that goes along with it. All physical forms have
    emotional qualities, whether occurring in art or nature it is physical emotion. The most obvious natural example of
    this, for straight men, is beautiful women. We don't say that her parts cause us to feel the sensation of beauty, we
    say that she is beautiful, that the quality of beauty is in her as opposed to just in our mind.

    __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ ______________________

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  11. #8
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    I think evocative abstract shapes, representing interesting ideas, are the number one cause of interesting drawings and paintings, without those shapes an artist might as well be a writer or filmmaker.
    There is this idea of form... the plastic quality of a medium. Each medium has its array of form qualities which can be manipulated. Visual art has a host of such graphic qualities which can be manipulated to become telling. Shape is one of these qualities of form available for plastic manipulation. Yet shape cannot exist without another form quality, value; a shape will only appear if its value differentiates itself from the ground value. (Yes, one can also make a shape appear by differentiating its hue or chroma from that of the ground while keeping value equivalent, but this method generally has less force of presentation.)

    Also, shape cannot exist without being placed, so location is a necessary quality of form any shape must possess along with a distinct value. And each side of the shape has a direction or orientation, so such vector qualities are also a necessary aspect of form. And the shape is of some size relative to the picture plane, so scale is another form issue to be taken into consideration. And each side of the shape, as well as its totality will have some gesture, melodic, curved, straight or otherwise, which must manifest at the same time.

    So you see, no quality of form can be manifested without also manifesting quite a few other qualities of form. So you cannot say shape is the "number one" cause of interesting visual art because it simply would not exist without other simultaneous causes. All form is synthesized with other form. All form arrives as a unity of disparate symbolic information. And this is just what makes it too complicated for the linearity of intellection to deal with. Which is why art requires of the artist the free play of soulful intuition; the integrative faculty of the imagination.

    P.S. You also seem unclear, as yet, on the aesthetic causes of mass and weight.
    At least Icarus tried!

    My Process: Dead Rider Graphic Novel (Dark Horse Comics) plus oil paintings, pencils and other goodies:

    My "Smilechild" Music. Plus a medley of Commercial Music Cues and a Folksy Jingle!:

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  13. #9
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    CHOW's from September 2013 to December 2013.

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    Last edited by armando; May 4th, 2014 at 07:00 PM.

  14. #10
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    I will have to refer back to this thread as I go through the book myself. Some good observations on the exercise that might help me understand it better.
    My full range of work:

    My weird sketchbook here (it`s best to just skip to the end haha):

  15. #11
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    Loving this sketchbook so far, feel like I should have some useful thing to say, but really I just want to thank you for being useful to me. Please post more?
    Art Blog | CA Sketchbook

    True progress means matching the world to the vision in our heads.
    But we always change the vision instead.

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