Article Six - Techniques to Help you "See"


Original article posted on Studio 602 - www.pencils.com

Drawing Lessons: Techniques to Help you “See”

Every artist has felt the frustration of getting “stuck” trying to draw the shape of an object.  By abstracting the object, you can disengage the thinking (left side of the brain) and tune into what you are actually seeing (the visual or right side of the brain).  In this section, we are going to practice techniques that can help you “draw” what you “see” and not what you think you see.

Contour Line  

There are a variety of contour line techniques.  Use one or any combination of these to help you see.
  • Blind Contour – draw the object without looking at your paper.
  • Pure Contour – draw the very outline of the object, drawing nothing on the inside.
  • Modified Contour – draw the outline and interior parts without shading.
  • Variable Contour – Vary the width of the contour line to give emphasis and weight to the line.  This creates an “expressive line” and provides depth to the object.
  • Cross Contour – draw lines that would follow across the form, like a topographical map.  This offers clues to identify 3-d form.  The brain needs very few clues to “think” its  3-d.

Gesture Drawing

Use quickly-applied marks to capture the energy and movement of the subject matter or capture the essence of a pose.   While gesture drawing is typically used in figure drawing, it can be used in still-life and landscapes as well.







Value Drawing 

Use only values to identify the shapes of the object, no lines please.


Negative Drawing

Focus your attention and draw the space around the object rather that the object itself (the gray space in the reference image)
  • Use a contour line draw only the area between the objects. (focus your attention on the space between the object.)
  • Use tonal drawing to identify the areas around the object.  Frequently used when rendering a light object against a dark background such as grass or trees.
Abstracting the object – The goal is to force your brain to see lines, shapes and spaces instead of the object as a whole. 
Two simple techniques:
  • Turn the image upside down
  • Look at the image in the mirror
Teach yourself to abstract the object and you can more accurately render the shape.  Disengaging the mind and focusing on the visual representation is your goal.  Ultimately….by abstracting, you can achieve realism.

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