Structure, Planes, and Value

Up til now in drawing class, we covered contour lines, proportions, and negative space. The focus has been on forming outlines of shapes and observing angles.

Capturing an object's true form and three-dimensional shape requires the study of its structure as well. This was the focus of our fourth class.

To physically demonstrate the discovery of planes and structure, our instructor pulled out an apple and a knife. He carefully cut off the 'curves' of the apple to form a very mechanical looking structure. The surface of the apple could now be explained by multiple geometric planes that could easily be drawn using straight lines.

Next, he demonstrated a standard beginner exercise: drawing a pear. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures, but this awesome art blog has a detailed post on this exact exercise. Basically, once the general outline is on paper, the artist must search for geometric planes and changes in planes. This is done by looking at the way light hits an object and pinpointing the 'meeting' of two or more planes coming from different angles. Sounds very technical...because it is.

For my attempt at this exercise, I chose a very old dried up old fruit, which someone later identified as a pomegranate:

A very old pomegranate

I quickly found that it is very easy to find too many geometric shapes and get lost in the resulting lines. If you look closely at my drawing below, you will see many lightly drawn lines. For this exercise, its actually easier to focus on the larger shapes. You can see that I went back and darkened outlines for some of the larger planes. This helped give the drawing dimension.

I had some time left over after this exercise, so my instructor suggested thinking about the drawing as a 'color by number' picture to capture the reflection of light. I mentally assigned each individual geometric shape an estimated value: dark, kinda dark, light, very light, etc and shaded in accordingly.

Finding surface planes

I think all the students were mentally taxed after looking at dried up fruit for over an hour, so our teacher demonstrated a more fun beginner drawing exercise. Again, this is a standard drawing exercise, and if you search for 'crumpled brown paper bag drawing' on Google, you will find many examples.

A crumpled brown paper bag

For this exercise, we used soft vine charcoal held flat against the paper to make broad swipes, pressing harder to increase value for the darker areas.

Charcoal is a more forgiving medium than pencil, and we found that it was simple to blend in lines and smudge the black to create shadows.