Start with the mechanical measurement and work your way down to the details.
All illustrations are by Carol L. Douglas (left) and Sandy P. Quang (right)
By now, the long slog to decorate for the Christmas holidays is in full swing. If you haven’t got your tree up, you’ve at least located the boxes and asked your family to help you carry them down from the attic. (Good luck with that, by the way.) Find a simple, round, reflective ornament. That’s your subject for today.
Those of you who don’t believe in Santa Claus or haven't found the ornaments yet can find a spherical object to substitute. A ball or a snow-globe will work just fine.
The ornaments in question.
Some of you might know Sandy Quang; she was my painting student in Rochester. She went on to get a BFA from Pratt and an MFA from Hunter and now works at Maine Media Workshops and Camden Falls Gallery. And, she just enrolled in an MBA program at University of Maine. The girl never sleeps.
I asked her if she wanted to draw with me. As my students do, she had her sketchbook tucked in her backpack. “Which one do you want?” I asked her. She chose the spider ornament.
Noting the axes.
Recently, I wrote about drawing a glass dish, which is a series of ellipses on a central axis. A circle is easier to draw than an ellipse; it’s an ellipse that is symmetrical on all sides. A sphere appears to be a circle when it’s viewed in two dimensions. This is an unbreakable rule.
We both added details. Mine were the ellipses on the collar of the ornament; Sandy's were the beaded legs of the spider and her first markings for reflections.
Both of us started with the axis of our drawing. For me, that was the vertical axis; for Sandy it was the axis holding her circles together. I mention this because when people say “I can’t draw!” they seldom realize how much of drawing is mechanical, simple measurement. It's best to learn this from life, since the measurement has already been done for you when you work from a photo. You can easily work back from life drawing to working with pictures, but it's harder to go the other way.
Next, we both put the appendages on our spheres. For me, that meant measuring the ellipses in the collar, as I demonstrated in detail in an earlier post. For Sandy, it was the beaded spider legs. Sandy was starting to note the overall areas of reflection in her spheres.
Marking out the outlines of our reflected shapes.
We both worked on shading next. I finished my shading with an eraser, Sandy couldn't do that because her paper was too rough.
Sandy has a shadow under her final drawing because the ornament was sitting directly on my coffee table. I put the reflection of myself drawing in my ornament.
All drawing rests on accurate observation and measurement. Get that right and the shading and mark-making is simple.
This post originally ran in December, 2017. It’s been edited.