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Mike Sibley


Comment posted Jan.27th, 2013, viewed 29 times

EXERCISE 5
A good attempt, but one thing spoils this for me - that all of your background darks are the same value and none are black. I think you'll find that just a few well-chosen black holes in this will add a lot to the depth. 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. Keep your edges sharp too, especially in the foreground elements. They won't spring forwards if they have soft or badly defined edges - and yours are soft throughout the drawing.

In order for this technique to work, your background blacks really do need to intensely black. I do that by using a lot of pressure as I scribble around the random white shapes. In fact my whole attention is on those white shapes and not the blacks I'm drawing. As a technique, it's quick and effective once you get used to it. And, by using more recognisable shapes, it can be used for other backgrounds such as foliage - simply replace the random shapes with partial "leaf" shapes, or tendrils, seed pods... whatever best suits the situation.

Next time you're outdoors, take a very close look into a clump of grass or a dense bush. You'll find you can understand the foreground leaves, and that those leaves tell you what the leaves behind them are. As you go deeper, very little, and finally nothing, makes any sense and yet you will accept it all being a part of the same plant. It's that lack of understanding this technique creates - and that lack is the visual clue that gives it a natural appearance. Everything in Nature is not immediately understandable, and often not at all. That's why over-detailed drawings often fail to convey reality.

Also, think like a camera. The human mind is now conditioned to accept the complete loss of detail in a 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 exposure value - hence shade is black and highlights are burned out, both possessing little or no detail. This technique reproduces that appearance and avoids over-detailing.

I don't dislike your 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 enigmatic 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.

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... like yours, 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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Jan.27th, 2013
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