The Best Realists Deal with Shapes as Abstractions.

In over 30 years of teaching I have noticed the people who are interested in drawing and painting realistically, make the worst realists.  Why?  Because they are so ardent in their desire to recreate the thing they are drawing that they are blind to it’s abstract aspects. Any good realist will tell you, the secret to realism is the ability to objectively identify and relate the myriad of abstract shapes and lines to one another.

When observational drawing it helps to abstract shapes, rather than naming them as the feature they appear to be.  When I draw or paint a nose, I don’t see a nose; I see a variety of shapes and relationships.  I sometimes name these shapes, Nevada, or Florida or pear or leaf, things that have nothing to do with “nose.”  Shapes are not subjective or open to negotiation or interpretation.  They need to be identified and distilled to their essences.

I use a number of methods to do this.  Using the negative shape, the shapes behind the shape you are trying to see, is very helpful.  These methods of seeing help in objectifying the subject and seeing the way a realist sees.

One of my “secrets” is to first place a shape as a simple gesture of the shape and then place it into an envelope.  An envelope is a series of straight lines around the entire shape.  There are no two envelopes which are alike in the entire universe, which is a profoundly awesome thought, if you care to go there.  Being precise about the angles of these lines is a learned skill and must be practiced.  Below is what I call the “Three in One,” a demonstration of how objects can be objectified using a gesture and envelope:

Gesture is the essence of the shapes of the objectsenvelope - a series of straight lines around the objectsOnce the envelope is in place the each objects gesture and envelope can be addedUnderstanding this all important concept will completely change the way you approach your observational drawing.

Robert offers class, workshops and private lessons in drawing and painting.

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