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Mike Sibley


Comment posted Nov.27th, 2012, viewed 27 times

<< Sorry it's late Mike, don't know where the week went :) >>

Sorry for the late critique - I don't know where mine went either :o)

You've given yourself a couple of problems, Sue.

First, your blacks are really quite pale, although they appear to be relatively solid. As soon as you established the values of the holes you determined every other tonal value in the drawing. Pale darks result in a very restricted palette of greys; three-dimensional information becomes more difficult to create, depth is severely restricted, and highlights lose their impact.

Because your dark holes are quite light in value they don't suggest holes leading through to a barn with an absence of light. It's far easier to imagine those darks as being boards tacked onto the back of the planks, so you lose the sense of depth that truly black holes would have created. When I'm composing a drawing such as this one, which has little visual depth, I try to create as much depth as I can within the constraints of the subject matter. So those black holes are very important.

When we draw, and not having colour as a tool, we need to create visual clues that conform to the viewers expectations. They're easy to work out - just ask yourself what you would expect to see. Try verbally describing it as if to someone else. That often works for me as I'm drawing. If we take the black holes as an example, I might tell myself that a hole by it's very nature is empty. It has no detail, no light, no texture or form. It's a void through which we can peer. And if it leads to a barn that has no windows, that hole will display nothing of the interior. It will totally black and featureless.

Your wood is nicely judged - it has a suggestion of grain without being dominant, which is ideal for a secondary element. I'm less happy about the splits and the edges, which are not sharp or tapered. A split is simply grain parting and then coming together again, so each end will have an infinitely tight taper. And the rot around the edges of the planks, which might be square, as wet rot sometimes is, needs to be sharply defined - if only to tell the eye "this is an edge".

When you're drawing something like a split (I like your top right one), describe it to yourself three-dimensionally, and give visual clues so others can understand your intention. For example, to tell us the split is deep and not just a line on the surface, include a barrow highlight along the edge facing the light. That will only occur if it's a fissure and will never be seen on a surface mark.

Overall, I think your wood is too light. It's a difficult value to judge without experience, but darker wood would have given you much more flexibility when you drew the leaves - and any highlights in the leaves will have glowed.

I think your leaves would have worked better for if your initial darks hadn't restricted the range of greys available. The bases have become rather lost, but the mid to top sections have form, relatively sharp edges (so important!), and I can easily understand their spatial relationships to each other. What's missing are cast shadows. If each leaf had cast its shadow on any that it crossed over, those shadows would have pushed those leaves forwards, helped us to better understand the distance between them, and the shadow itself would have described the edge of the leaf.

Your leaves are also rather similar in value - even within a single leaf itself. This is your drawing - your world - and you make the rules. I'd draw that grass using the tonal values required for the drawing, not those in real life. I would have drawn them a lot lighter, a lot smoother, much sharper edged, and I would have known the direction of my light.

See the example below. It looks like grass; all the visual clues tell you it's grass, the single cast shadow tells you it has depth, and subtle shading within each leaf tells you how it twists or bends. I have rust as a background instead of wood, but the method of drawing that section was exactly what you have just been doing - background first and then one leaf at a time. The fact that all the leaves are much lighter than you'd expect in real life doesn't bother me at all - they do their job and that's what counts.

Drawing just one leaf at a time means I can concentrate on it as though was real. I can feel the texture under my pencil, see the way it bends and here the light will hit it, understand that it has a thickness that might itself pick up a highlight... Also, note there is only one cast shadow - more would have caused confusion (the eye will fill in the rest). That one tells us the main leaf it bending away from the rust and adds depth. Keep things simple and clear.

This way of working (background to foreground) offers you fine control over the foreground elements. At any point you can make any leaf stand out from the wood or blend into it - because the wood already exists.

The secret is to concentrate on JUST ONE LEAF and try to understand exactly what you think it should look like. Once you have that understanding, you'll have a three-dimensional picture of it in your mind. Now you'll understand where the shadows and highlights appear, how it twists or curves, Your three-dimensional mental picture will tell you how to draw it because you'll be drawing a LIVING object and not just a collection of lines and tones. And, because its living and not just "drawing", you will instinctively pull it forwards, push it back into the shade, or engineer the highlights to emphasise its three-dimensionality.

In response to image:

Nov.27th, 2012
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SueRowbotham
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