Seeing Shapes in our Painting or Drawing Subjects.
As an artist it is really useful to be able to ‘see ‘our subject in terms of shapes. But just what does this mean?
Some visual artists can see the world as a series of intermingled or separate shapes, like a circle, square, rectangle, a free form puppy in the clouds, you get the picture. This is an inherent skill, it’s natural to them and makes the painting process quicker and simpler.
Most of us are struggling to grasp this concept let alone see shapes in our world. We have to learn to see shapes, learn to identify a shape of ‘something’ tangible. For instance, learn to see that the distant hills are all one shape, maybe a long rectangle, unified by a colour/tone.
The ability to break down what we see into shapes helps with the painting process. When we can identify the distant hills as a separate shape then we can assign the painting tools of tone, colour, temperature, edges, design and composition to them.
If we explore the idea that every object has a tone and colour, then every object has a shape. A single tree in the landscape is one shape. It might be as a child sees it, a lollipop, a stick with a circle or triangle on it. Then develop this idea further in a group of like trees with the same or very similar tone and colour, can be looped together to form a new shape. I refer to this as ‘lassoing’ a like group of objects, together, into a free form shape.
Imagine how this shape mapping would help with drawing up a subject! Have you ever seen a cartoon drawn up ready for tone and colour to be added? Not a Mickey Mouse caricature cartoon type, but a regular drawing up done for a painting. (It is called a cartoon.)
‘Cartoon' first designated “a design, drawing, or painting made by an artist as a model for the finished work.” https://www.merriam-webster.com
There are two painless ways of shape mapping that I encourage you to explore.
1. First is by squinting. Close one eye and half shut the other while looking at the subject. Note how parts of the subject, are distinguished only by tone. These parts can become a shape identified for the painting. Give the shape a name or a number, either way it is one recognisable part of the overall puzzle of shapes that make up a subject.
2. Second is an easy way to get to grips on this concept. Take a black and white paper print of a landscape that has some elements in it. Elements like a distant hill, middle hill trees, rocks etc. A reference photo that has some depth that would make a good painting. Then with charcoal or a biro even, have a go at linking, or ‘lassoing’ ‘like areas’ together into a shape. Remember these 'like areas' are similar in tone and colour. See what you could call that shape, say long rectangle, triangle on a stick….
Once you start to see how this works doors open, lights go on and ahh ha moments happen. A whole new world of painting just got simpler. I am one for asking why and ‘let’s see what happens if’, giving myself permission to go and be curios. I believe that curiosity fuels creativity. Ask yourself why and how and see what happens!! Use this concept of shape mapping in your planning for a painting or drawing. Use it to sort out tones and colours for your painting. Or simply to draw up from. Tell me how it works for you!
Want to learn more about shape mapping? www.theonlineartsociety.com/ scroll down to the bottom of the front page to view our course about Thumbnails Sketches. Shape mapping is explained and demonstrated as a part of this course.
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The Curious Artist Blog-
talks about everything and anything to do with painting.
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