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Monday, August 24, 2020

Monday Morning Art School: using angles for measurement

Measurement and angles are the basis of drawing. Learn how to use them, and you can draw anything.
Geraniums, by Carol L. Douglas, pastel. Available, but has to be collected in person as it's glazed in non-reflective glass.

Last week’s lesson on the pencil and thumb method was easy to teach in person, but difficult to write out in steps. Today’s lesson, on using angles, is easier to write, but will be a little trickier to master.

This has to do with how our brains are wired, not how ‘talented’ you may or may not be—that’s mostly, as Mr. Edison pointed out, a matter of persistence anyway. But the human mind simply doesn’t ‘read’ angles and negative space when it’s not focusing on them. This is why we use our pencil as a visual aid. It forces our brains to pay attention.

The good news is that you can rapidly teach your brain to notice angles and negative space.

Two pieces of silverware and a coffee cup: a surprisingly tricky thing to draw. But when you're done, you'll have the basic tools to draw anything.

Once again, close one eye and focus on the pencil, not the object you’re measuring. Hold the pencil along an imaginary plate glass window in front of you, and tilt it to match the angle you’re measuring. Then reproduce the line on your paper.

If at first you screw up, it’s probably that you’ve canted one end of the pencil away from you. Straighten it up and try again.

Once you’ve mastered measuring with the pencil and thumb method and learned to see and copy angles on to your paper, you can draw anything from portraits to animals to landscapes to figure.

Start by measuring the basic shapes using the pencil and thumb method we learned last week. Mark off the  heights and widths of all the basic shapes.

 

Use your pencil to determine the angles at which the silverware, the sides of the cup, and the handle are traveling. Draw them in as straight lines. This takes a little practice, so be patient and take your time looking at each one.

 

Use your measuring and angle hash marks to block in the major shapes.

 

Often, you can see distortions, objects that are too close together, etc. more easily in the negative space than you can in your drawing of the positive objects. It's best to check this before you go on to finish your drawing.

You can use angles to check your work. Here I checked the angle from the right tine of the fork to the handle of the cup, and the angle across the top of the two pieces of silverware.

Note: last week I wrote about the difficulty of decision-making in the age of coronavirus. My workshop in Pecos is now on, thanks to the Herculean efforts of Jane Chapin. The statewide 14-day-quarantine is expected to be lifted on September 1, but that doesn’t do travelers or hoteliers much good for trips immediately after that, which must be booked now. Jane figured out a great solution. We won’t be breaking quarantine, and we will be able to paint out in the field.

Jane cleaned her studio so we have a backup location in case of rain. Isn't that gorgeous?

San Miguel County, where the workshop will be held, remains one of the safest places in America, with zero deaths from coronavirus. We’re going, using all the safety methods we can employ—masks and hand sanitizer in the airport, frequent handwashing, etc. And we expect to have a lovely, lovely time, paint in some gorgeous spots, and learn lots.

Ironically, airfares are so low right now that the total cost of the workshop has plummeted, at least for me, coming from the northeast.

At this point, the limiting factor isn’t the number of people I can teach, but the number of beds I can rustle up. Jane still has a few up her sleeve. So if you’re bold* and love the western landscape, you’re welcome to join us. Email me to initiate a conversation.

On the road again. I can barely contain my excitement!

*Jane and I have a history, and it always seems to include adventure… and lots of laughter.


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