Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Benefits of Starting Block-ins Loosely

     My instructor, Jeremy Deck, has recently shown me the benefits to a process of blocking in that is made easier by easing into specificity with a loose start.  I was able to benefit from watching my instructor demonstrate this process many times and discussed the reasonings behind the decisions he was making.  This post is an explanation of the benefits that result from a process of starting a block-in loosely.  Footnotes are included in this post to indicate which sentences in this post are summarizations of ideas that the instructors at The Cambridge Street Studios have explained to me.

     I used to make sure to start my block-ins with lines that were as straight as possible in order to ensure that I was not making my lines curve to the point where I would have difficulty obtaining the character of a shape.  According to Jeremy Deck, once one grasps the idea of the usefulness that straight lines allow for in the clarity of  seeing the character of shapes, a different method can be applied to the start of block-ins that will allow for more accuracy.¹  By beginning a block-in with more attention paid to the character of shapes than the appearance of one's lines one gains greater facility in drawing the shapes that one sees while those shapes are vivid in one's visual memory.  This facility is of great importance because one can only draw from their visual memory.  Since this drawing method requires for one to face their picture while drawing, one can only draw what they remember from what what they have just observed.  Therefore, in order to create the most accurate representation of what one sees requires for one to transcribe that information while it is most vivid in one's visual memory.  Due to the fleeting nature of the visual memory one has to draw as quickly as possible in order to represent what is vivid in one's visual memory.
     It is for this reason that it is very beneficial to start a block-in with a looser manner where more attention is paid to quickly transcribing the character of the shapes that one sees rather than the clean straight appearance of one's lines.  In order to gain the most facility in starting a block-in loosely one must loosely hold their pencil from the very back and draw from the distance of an arms length away from the drawing surface.¹   The same principles of  the block-in process previously described on this blog still apply to this method of starting a block-in.  Meaning that the lines are to be applied with the intent of being straight but if the lines become slightly curved in the process of quickly drawing shapes that is not an issue.¹  The purpose of starting block-ins loosely is  the facility of  putting down the shapes that one sees while they are vivid in one's visual memory.
     Although this method of starting a block-in is useful for any drawing, it is especially useful when drawing the figure because the figure moves.¹  Therefore, the more immediately that one can put down the shapes that one sees on the figure the more accurate the drawing will be.¹  My portrait block-in was started in a loose manner similar to what is shown in the picture below.

     In order to  draw shapes quickly I often don't sharpen my pencil or roll the drawing out with a kneaded eraser because taking the time to do so disrupts my thought process of quickly drawing shapes.¹  If my first attempt is close enough I usually just refine the shapes in another pass right on top of the lighter lines.¹  Or I will quickly strike an eraser through a line and draw right on top of that.  Using a soft pencil such as an HB allows me to draw on top of old lines without fear of scratching the paper.¹  When the lines become too vague due to the use of a dull pencil I must sharpen my pencil in order to gain clarity in the shapes.¹  It is the awareness of the clarity of the shapes learned from practicing block-ins the normal way that allows for one to know whether or not the lines are too vague or not.¹  Before I measure a block-in that has been started loosely I make sure to generally clean out the interior of the shape so that I have a clearer indication of where a shape begins and ends.¹ After a general height to width has been established with the loose lines from the start of the block-in, the drawing  progresses with more attention paid to the straightness of the lines.

This is a portrait block-in that was started loosely and was taken to a conceptual pass.  I could not get as close to the model as I would get to a cast, so I took Tony Ranalli's advice, to use binoculars during the conceptual pass to more clearly see details that were not distinct to me from where I was drawing.²  Another new process that I have been learning about is to not only lighten the shapes that are less distinct but also to make them sketchier in appearence, so to give myself a broader range of the quality and edges of shapes in my block-ins.  This makes it easier to compare the shapes in my block-ins to the vast range of edges that I see in life.¹

¹ Jeremy Deck, personal communication, 2013.
² Anthony Ranalli, personal communication, 2013.

Ear Cast Drawing Process, Part 2

Click image for higher resolution image
The drawing is 9.25" x 6" inches
     I have learned much about modelling form during the process of drawing the ear cast.  This post is a summary of the important aspects of modeling form that I gained insight into from my instructor, Jeremy Deck, at The Cambridge Street Studios.  Footnotes are included in this post to indicate which sentences in this post are summarizations of ideas that Jeremy Deck has explained to me.

     One of the most important things that I have learned is the importance of being deliberate about the decisions that I make while drawing.  Although graphite allows for endless reworking with no loss of a smooth surface quality it is important to be deliberate in the decisions one makes while drawing.  The practice of deliberate drawing allows for the facilitation of the transition from graphite to paint.¹  Because the opaque quality of paint in direct form painting causes the loss of a smooth surface with the addition of multiple layers of paint it is important to be deliberate about one's decisions when painting.  The goal of practicing deliberate decisions in graphite is to develop one's ability to make deliberate decisions while painting.¹  This practice is very important if a smooth finish in the surface of a painting is desired.  And that quality should be desired if the highest resolution of accuracy in a painting is the goal because the final surface of a painting describes the forms depicted within it.  Deliberate decisions in paint not only produce a surface with a high resolution of form but more importantly, deliberate decisions allow for more of a tactile evaluation and realization of form both in graphite and paint.  Towards this end, I try to be as deliberate as possible about making sure that each micro-plane I draw is accurate so that I will have little reworking to do.  Of course I still  have to rework a lot but I have found that the more I practice deliberate drawing the less reworking I have to do when I start a new strip of form.
     Also while drawing the ear cast I learned the importance of the planarization stage of modelling. By skipping the gradation stage of modelling a strip and going straight to the planarization stage one can gain a more accurate representation of the forms that one sees.¹  It was important for me to practice the gradation step at the beginning of my cast drawing so that I could develop the skill of seeing past the values of shapes and see that the values of the shapes are rolling towards and away from a light source.  But once I understood that concept it became more beneficial to start modelling a strip of form with planarization.¹  I noticed that by focusing on the planes at first I was able to more accurately resolve the shape of the planes and their position in relation to a light source.¹  I realized that the more accurately that I draw the planes of a form before marbling the less reworking I had to do.¹  The same process of laying in a strip with lines that run at a perpendicular angle to the most amount of change of light on form that was used during the gradation stage is also used in the planarization stage with this process.¹
     I was surprised by how much I learned about modelling while drawing the wall.  Although the wall seemed flat at first I realized that it contained many subtle rolls.  And I developed greater specificity in marbling form by modelling the wall.  One process that really helped with modelling the large planes of the wall that were barely turning was to include the details soon after I started to marble a form.¹  Below are photos of my drawing of the wall before and after I included the details.

 I found it much easier to marble between smaller areas of details than to try to marble large planes of form.  Rolling in and out of the small details allowed me to get a more tactile sense of the form.  Once that tactile believability was created it was much easier to connect the larger form to what I had already marbled.
     Another effect that I had to deal with while drawing the wall was penumbra.   The diagram below is a visual example of the concept of penumbra.

Light comes from all directions in the light source but only certain light rays travel at an angle to touch the sides of an object.  Umbra is caused by the light rays that extend to touch the object and create an area of shadow that is completely occluded from the light source.  Penumbra is caused by the light rays that extend to touch the object and create an area that is partially occluded from the light source.  The less an area of penumbra is occluded from the light source the lighter it is.  My instructor, Jeremy Deck, showed me how to make a diagram that represents the effect of penumbra.

 This 3-D diagram of penumbra that has been divided into quarters may provide an easier way to see the concept of the penumbra becoming lighter as it is more exposed to the light source.  The area of penumbra closest to the umbra is quite dark because it is very much occluded from the light source by the cube above it, while the furthest out area of penumbra is very light in value because it is exposed to much of the light source.
Having an understanding of the concepts that create shadows allowed for me to have a clearer understanding of what I was drawing while I was drawing  the area of penumbra and shadow on the wall.  Although the penumbra looks soft in life it is actually composed of many specific areas of shadow. So I approached the drawing of the penumbra by conceptually organizing my gradations in the penumbra to their respective values.  With this type of specification in thought I was able to more accurately evaluate the subtle gradations within the penumbra.

     Also, the wall offered me my first opportunity to deal with fall off in value.  Although the ear cast is small there was a slight amount of fall of in value on the wall in relation to the ear because the wall was far enough away from light that was focused on the center of the ear.

By placing a flat piece of paper next to my cast I was able to discern just how much the fall off in value was.¹  Due to this effect I had to be careful to only compare the planes on the wall to itself and not anything inside of the ear.
     The only other new phenomenon that I learned about while drawing the ear cast was inter-diffuse reflection.  It was amazing to see that because the hollow spot in the ear is placed directly behind a form that is facing the light the diffuse reflection bounces back and forth between the two surfaces to reflect so many photons of light that the hollow spot in the ear cast becomes brighter than any highlight on the ear cast.
     I definitely learned a lot from this cast drawing and am excited work on my next cast drawing.  

¹ Jeremy Deck, personal communication, 2013.