Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sculpting While Blocking-In

The block-in process is broken into a two-dimensional phase of copying shapes as they flatly appear on the picture plane and a three-dimensional phase of  evaluating how much each line segment is advancing or receding in space.  My instructor at The Cambridge Street Studios has recently been encouraging me to move on to the three-dimensional phase sooner in my process.  He explained through drawing demonstrations and discussions about the block-in process that the development of a block-in can be advanced closer to the final appearence without hindering the accuracy of the block-in after the placement of the large shapes are generally in place.¹  I have been experimenting with different ways to advance my block-ins after I place my large shapes and have found that combining the two-dimensional and three-dimensional phase at an earlier stage in the block-in process has allowed me to increase the pace that I proceed through a block-in.  An example and explanation of this process is below.

I quickly and lightly placed the shapes of the face while I constantly checked how the shapes were relating to each other through use of point to point measurement and comparative measurement.  It was useful to focus on a single shape that I could see most clearly, in this case the shadow under the nose, and built the shape relationships out from there.

 I strengthed the clarity and placement of the shapes in my drawing in the next pass. Then I lightened the lines of the nose that I would be drawing over during the next stage of three-dimensional thinking.

Combining Two-Dimensional Thinking With Three-Dimensional Thinking

If one were to represent the edge of a shadow shape on a sphere as being composed of many distinct line segments, as shown above, one could see how the line segments diminish in perspective as the edge of the shadow shape recedes in three-dimensional space.  The shapes that appear flatly on the picture plane, such as the shadow shape seen on the sphere, also exist in three-dimensional space and the position of the shape in space is make known by how much the line segments on the shape's edges advance or recede in perspective.  In the next three-dimensional phase I proceeded by sculpting how much each shape was advancing or receding in space by using line segments that advanced or receded in the perspective of my drawing.

I then just began to think as three-dimensionally as I could about the shapes on the face during the next stage.  Meaning that I was imagining my lines as advancing or receding in space while I was drawing a shape, with the intent of sculpturally representing the shapes of the forms that I saw.  For the form of the nose, I started at the ball of the nose and drew what is seen in the image above in one pass with some use of my eraser to try to clarify the shapes I was drawing.  I found that the more specific I could be about the many details along the edges of the shapes while I was drawing them gave me more to relate my next decisions to as I sculpted around the shape of the nose with line.
The main difference between this process and how I was drawing before is that I was not just focusing on how much a single line was advancing or receding in space, instead I was sculpting the entire mass of a shape by manipulating how much my line segments advanced or receded in the perspective of my drawing.  By doing this I was able to consider the two-dimensional appearance of the shapes while thinking three-dimensionally at the same time.

For the most part, this stage of the drawing proceeded by sculpting around a shape with line with little use of my eraser.  But, when I encountered issues with the placement of a shape during this process, as I did with the cheek, I had to lighten it with my eraser and return to more of  a two-dimensional way of placing the shape on my drawing.  Once I better placed a shape two-dimensionally on my drawing I could return to a mindset of sculpting the shape three-dimensionally with line.  Much point to point measurement was used to try to maintain the relationships of each shape to the other shapes in the portrait.  The images below show how I progressed through the drawing with the same process.   

This process made it apparent that by spending more effort to try to quickly and properly place the shapes in a drawing the block-in can much more quickly be approached three-dimensionally.¹  And if one retains clarity of the character of the shapes while they are sculpting the shapes three-dimensionally with line, one can begin to think three-dimensionally while developing the two dimensional shape at the same time.  The exclusion of the many intermediary stages between refining shapes two-dimensionally before thinking three-dimensionally about the shapes made this process much faster than how I had been drawing before.

¹ Jeremy Deck, personal communication, 2014.