Drawing on the Brain

This is a modified repost of a comment on colonelwolf’s DA Journal.

My summer assignment for DigiPen, which was due the first day of class, was to draw 800 sketches. They didn’t have a theme thing like this, but instead wanted us to draw real objects.

Apparently drawing is a global skill. That is, much like riding a bicycle, once you learn to pump the pedals, turn the handlebars, use the brakes, and keep your balance, you’ve learned the global skill that emcompases all of these and is called, “riding a bicycle.”

The global skill of drawing is made up of the following skills:

-The perception of edges
-The perception of spaces
-The perception of relationships
-The perception of lights and shadows
-The perception of the gestalt

Edges is simple. Where two things meet, or where an object meets a “negative space,” you have an edeg.

Spaces are a little more complicated. Best way is probably to take a chair with curved armrests and look at it from the side. The armrests make a loop where there’s no chair — basically a hole in the chair. That hole is negative space. Rather than trying to draw the edge of the armrest, try drawing the edge of the negative space inside the hole. You can do the same thing for the outside of the chair itself. And you can do this for things like a face — the shape of an eye can be drawn by drawing the outer edge of the whites of the eye, or the outside edge.

Relationships are easy, but sometimes difficult for people to comprehend. Imagine you’re standing in a hallway, and you have a friend directly in front of you. Now imagine you have another friend at the end of the hall. What is the size of each of their heads? “About the same,” right? No, actually. The friend at the end of the hall is tiny. Depending on the length of the hall, the entirety of your distant friend could be smaller than your close friend’s head.

Relationships also deals with angles. There are two absolute angles: horizontal, and vertical. If you’re trying to draw an edge of a real object, hold up your pencil vertically or horizontally and see what kind of trianglish shape it makes against that edge. Remember the shape, and put it on your paper. You can also do that with sizes and distances, measuring how far up the pencil it goes compared to another part of what you’re looking at.

Lights and Shadows, in their simplest form, have four elements. You have “cast shadows”, which is when an object blocks a light source and casts a shadow onto another object or the ground. These are usually the darkest shadows. You also have “crest shadows”, which are the object blocking light from itself. (ie, the back of an egg is darker than the lit side) “Highlights” are where the light shines directly on an object and makes that part brighter. The last, “reflected light,” is most often seen in crest shadows. It’s where the light reflects off the ground or other objects and lights up the object again. If you shine a light at an angle on an egg and pay attention to the crest shadow, you’ll notice that it’s not all a smooth crest shadow, as the light reflects back onto it.

The last skill, gestalt, means “the whole picture.” I’ve mostly ignored it, because apparently it’s a “self-taught” skill that naturally occurs when all the other skills are learned.

Beyond these drawing skills that make up the global skill of drawing are two advanced skills:

-Drawing from memory
-Drawing from imagination

I find this order interesting, because most people start on “drawing from imagination,” which the author of the book I took all this from, Betty Edwards, says is the last and highest/hardest skill.

If you’re intersted in the book at all, it’s called The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. It’s a third edition book. You’ll want the third, as the first two apparently aren’t near as organized. And hopefully you can get past her condescending tone, her severe bias against both the English language and any “left brain” activity, such as math or basically anything involving sequential or linear activities, and her ramblings that seem completely disjointed and unnecessary. I’d recommend the book for what it teaches, not what it says.

Anyway, from DigiPen’s courses, memory and imagination aren’t even going to be handled the first year. We may start practicing it the second year. Then again, I could just be misreading or misremembering the class descriptions because it’s convenient to say such a thing.

One Response to Drawing on the Brain

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