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Mike Sibley

Comment posted Dec.17th, 2012, viewed 19 times

You've produced a really good result and you dense solid blacks have helped you considerably. Your strands visibly weave in and out, although if you'd exaggerated by using a broader range of contrasts the three-dimensional depth would have increased. See below - I've had a go at it :o) I haven't done all the junctions, just enough to show you that using strong cast shadows increases both the three-dimensionality and the degree of instant understanding by the viewer.

However, I do get the feeling that you were experiencing this in three-dimensions as you worked - one of the clues is the way you've realistically shown how each lower strand is coming up out of the shade of the one above - with smooth shading that lightens into the bright highlights. You just needed to boost the contrast.

You can use this method to create many subjects from a foreground bird's nest to background straw and hay - and with adaptations it can be used for foliage too. It breaks the subject down into two manageable stages, and the spontaneity involved adds naturalism.

A very good attempt. I can't tell if you created the midground leaves purely by drawing the dark background around them instead of outlining them - that's what I had hoped to see, although it's not easy until you're used to it. Outlining them is not wrong, but I think a better organic balance and sense of reality is often created by drawing them spontaneously. You've achieved a good sense of depth in this and I can easily understand the spatial relationships between all the leaves.

This works remarkably well. It contains depth and interest, and I like the way the bases of some of the foreground leaves lose clarity and merge into the shade. The positively drawn tops to the midground grasses send the right messages and are undeniably the tips of blades of grass or seed heads. And I like the way that some of your positive lines cut across the negatively drawn ones, presenting even more depth.

In general use this technique is very effective - and quick :o) As long as you pay due attention to the foreground leaves, the midground and background just require suggestions with the addition of depth.

This is... not as good as I know you can achieve. It has interest and is three-dimensional in parts, but it lacks definition in many places.

The black background is certainly not as solid as it might have been. That background represents the very deepest shade, many layers back, and the darker and more solid it is, the more you can do with the midground.

I don't dislike the midground, but I think it could have been even deeper. With a good solid background, I think you might be surprised just how far back you can push those leaf shapes into the shade and for them to still be visible. Also, everything in the midground is shaded as though its vertical and at the same depth. Try shading some shapes as though they are on an inclined plane - one end sharp and semi-visible and the other disappearing into the background. Those shapes can add more depth and a sense of reality, as not everything in Nature is fully understandable all of the time. Peer deeply into a clump of grass or a thick bush and you'll see what I mean. It's that lack of understanding that actually adds the reality.

It's that lack of understanding that this technique creates - and that lack is the visual clue that gives it a natural appearance. That's why over-detailed drawings often fail to convey reality. Think like a camera. The human mind has become conditioned to accept the complete loss of detail in bright highlights and deep shade. As humans we can see detail in both because our eyes change to accept the different levels of light as we move our gaze over something, but a camera can only expose for an overall average value - hence shade is black and highlights are burned out, both possessing little or no detail. This technique reproduces that appearance in the shade and avoids over-detailing.

Below is a part of one of my drawings that might help you to understand what I'm attempting to explain. I didn't use random shapes in the background but partial leaf shapes instead. Top centre is a leaf on an inclined plane - you can see the front edge but not the back. The background is as black as I could possibly make it and all foreground elements have very sharp edges. Consequently the white flower glows and it is obviously the most foreground element. Elsewhere are other leaf shapes and tendrils - some fairly far forwards, others (just beneath the flower) are pushed so far back into the shade they are barely visible.

Incidentally... YES there are white holes in my shading :o) I had to use Strathmore 300 series smooth for this and its "smooth" surface is definitely textured... never again!!!!

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Dec.17th, 2012