Today's post is by Lori Woodward, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. She has been a member of the Putney Painters since 2004, a small invitational group of painters who are mentored by Richard Schmid and Nancy Guzik. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
At the age of ten, I taught myself how to draw using a Walter Foster instructional book, How to Draw Dogs. The pages of this book are a compilation of step by step drawings by Walter T. Foster. Each illustration begins with an outline of the dog's head and features - drawn with straight lines. I copied most of the drawings in the book repeatedly, and ultimately learned to draw most anything beginning with straight lines of various angles and lengths.
When I began studying with Richard Schmid, he advised that if we draw each of our objects using straight lines instead of curved, our final painting would feel more accurate than if we had tried to draw the actual curve that we see. Perhaps that's why the beginning stages of a painting is often called a block-in. Many artists and illustrators begin their paintings by blocking in with angular shapes, whether the object is a building or an apple or a human head.
Most everyone uses straight lines when drawing buildings and boxed like shapes, but it almost seems ironic that one should use bone-straight lines to draw figures, rounded fruits, hills, and tree foliage. Here, I'll share some examples of how artists (Daniel Keys and Richard Schmid) use straight lined drawings when blocking in their painting compositions.
Above: a painting block in - by Richard Schmid. Notice how the hat consists of angular lines with varying lengths. He even used angular lines for the facial features. Richard doesn't always begin with a line drawing - sometimes he paints patches of color, but even the patches are angular, not curved.
Below are a few examples of block in stages for paintings by Daniel J. Keys. He, like Schmid, teaches his students to use angular lines to designate the shapes of fruit and even teacup ellipses. If you look closely at the final stages of Daniel's paintings, you'll see that the orignal "blocky" shapes and angled lines are still apparent. Yet, our minds read the final result as round/curved. Try drawing your rounded objects with angular straight lines... I think you'll find that it makes drawing a lot easier. It takes a little practice using this method, so don't give up if you don't get the hang of it right away.
Above: A still life painting block-in by Daniel J. Keys. Here, Keys uses the same principle that Schmid used above. Drawing angular lines is especially helpful when drawing the ellipses of bowls and teacups. Notice how the plate and bowl shapes are not perfect circles.
Above: The same painting by Daniel Keys a little further along. The 2nd image with the blue bowl shows how the green fruit retains its straight, angular lines along the edge. In other words, while this apple is finished, it retains the original angles of the block-in drawing. What's amazing is that we don't notice that the edges are angular unless we look for that aspect.
Above: I watched Daniel Keys paint this still life during a workshop he gave last year. The first image shows just how angular he draws the initial shapes. However, the 2nd image shows how those straight lines eventually made an accurate ellipse of the teacup. The orange peel is also "angularized". These straight angles and lines give the objects strength and character in their final rendering.
Above: Here is a detail of the same painting further along in progress.
These images are used with permission by Daniel Keys. You can see more of his work at his website: http://danielkeysfineart.com
This post is Part I - on drawing with straight lines. Part II will contain my own drawings and examples using landscapes as subject matter. Don't hesitate to comment or ask questions on this blog post. I hope this approach has been helpful in understanding how masterful artists make their block in process a bit simpler.