One of the biggest problems for most artists is that they generally try to record too many facts. This dilemma not only applies to those who work from photographs but also for those who are plein air artists. The following exercise is designed to encourage the artist to develop a composition in a creative and unrestricted manner rather than drawing only what they see. This exercise will force the artist to expand his or her imagination and to place more emphasis on the elements and principles of design.
Before I introduce this exercise, I should mention a few rules of thought. First of all, one must remember that exercises are strictly exercises. It will take a lot of trial and error before you can fully gain a true appreciation and understanding for this very unique instructional exercise. It should also be pointed out that similar to a runner who is training for a marathon, it only makes good sense to remove the training weights before the race begins. In other words, this exercise does not illustrate how an artist should develop a painting but rather a means of improving the artist’s ability to think creatively. In the same manner of speaking, speed drawing, continuous contour line drawing, gesture drawing, value studies, and many other types of exercise assignments are designed to improve your drawing and painting skills.
The general objectives for this exercise are:
- To unify and develop the composition as a whole.
- To develop and expand your imagination.
- To understand how to apply the elements and principles of design.
- To gain a stronger appreciation for abstract design and how it can be incorporated into realism.
- To appreciate the design elements of a vignette.
- To understand how to utilize the concepts of “lost and found”
This exercise can be applicable to any given subject matter however it is highly suggested that you utilize the same or closely related type of subject matter throughout the entire exercise. In other words, don’t start with architectural structures and then change to figures or still life subjects halfway through the exercise. However, starting with building structures and eventually moving to similarly designed structures such as boats or chairs can be a workable situation. The entire assignment is a little complex so let’s just try to keep things as simple as possible. In order to get started, you can draw from life or utilize a photo reference.
It is recommended that you use a black ballpoint pen and a medium sized sketchbook that is approximately 9 x 14 or larger. Too small of a drawing surface will interfere with the creative process. The reason for using a ballpoint pen is to make certain that you do not erase any of the so-called mistakes. Believe it or not, mistakes are what will enable you to find success with this exercise. After you have gained more experience with this exercise you will eventually be able to utilize felt tip pens or even a paintbrush.
ASSIGNMENT (Step 1)
Using a limited line drawing, block in the basic shapes of your composition very lightly. Simplify your drawing by avoiding unnecessary detail and do not create any value patterns. Think about the overall space and balance of the composition. Intentionally let the drawing remain unfinished, especially on the outside perimeter. Instead of using lines that are consistently heavy, allow the lines to become implied lines. Let the viewer’s imagination finish the line (refer to the examples).
ASSIGNMENT (Step 2)
Upon completing the first assignment, rotate your drawing 1/4 turn and lightly block in another compositional sketch on top of the existing drawing. Your new preliminary drawing does not have to conform to the preceding subject matter but for your first couple of attempts, it is suggested that you use a similar theme. In other words, if you are drawing buildings, stick with buildings. As you develop your composition, try to take advantage of some of the existing shapes and let them influence your imagination. Keep the drawing as simple as possible and again try to conform to the same guidelines that were outlined for “Step 1”. Let the foreign lines and abstract shapes play an integral part within your composition whether or not they actually make sense.
Often times, artists become too preoccupied with structural details rather than developing the composition as a whole. A similar scenario would be if an artist began drawing the model’s nose, then drawing her necklace and so on rather than lightly blocking in the basic shapes of the model and eventually building up the detail gradually as the drawing progresses. It should also be pointed out that an accomplished figure-painting artist has the ability of ignoring incorrect preliminary guidelines that are no longer needed.
Naturally, as the drawing evolves, you may want to make a few reference lines a little stronger to help further define the subject matter. However, make certain that you keep the darker lines near the center of interest rather than on the outside perimeter of the picture plane.
ASSIGNMENT (Step 3) and (Step 4)
Continue to rotate your drawing 1/4 turn in the same direction and lightly block in another compositional sketch on top of the existing drawing. Repeat this rotational procedure until you have completed all four compositional studies. At this point in time, your drawing will begin to look a little confusing. Generally speaking, the last drawing you complete will probably appear to be the most obvious. Nonetheless, you should be able to rotate the drawing and recognize all four attempts.
ASSIGNMENT (Step 5)
Select one of the four compositional arrangements and further develop it by establishing stronger lines and contrasting value patterns. Think about placing emphasis on your focal point by eliminating the amount of detail on the outside perimeter of the drawing. Try to incorporate some of the natural abstract designs that occur from the other overlapping drawings into your final drawing.
- MEDIA OPTIONS: Any medium can be used to pursue this final assignment (Step 5). However, to help insure a better chance of success, it is recommended that you further develop the drawing with grey markers.
Please make note that this exercise is designed for developing only one finished drawing. Hopefully, the additional finished drawings that I have completed do not confuse the issue, as it is impossible to fully complete all four rotational views on one sheet of paper. In order to illustrate how all four views could be developed as a finished drawing, it was necessary for me to scan the last stage of Step 4 before beginning the next assignment. Scanning the image enabled me to recreate and illustrate how I could further develop each view.