September 30th, 2000
YouCanDraw.com's Insiders Communique
In this issue -
1) The Picture Plane
2) A fantastic little drawing aid
3) Making a permenant record of your "Vis-a-vis" marker drawing
1) The Picture Plane
Today I'd like to introduce you to one of the funnest little tools I've ever
seen used for both demonstrating the "picture plane" and for collapsing the
three-dimensional world into two. But before we get to this great little
tool, let's answer the first question that pops up: What's a picture plane?
Before we do that, I'll do a super quick review...
Let's do a super mini review of how the human eye perceives any image.
Light is the basis of all vision. No light, no picture. Sunlight,
incandescent light, any light source casts off light. The light travels in
relatively straight lines from the source into space until it hits an
object. The object reflects back some portion of the light. Lets say the
light hits a yellow canary. A yellow canary absorbs all the color of the
spectrum except the yellow light. The canary bounces this light back into
space. This reflected yellow light passes back through space until it hits
something - like your eye. The reflected yellow light passes through the
eye's pupil until it strikes the retina. The retina encodes the light
information, converts it to nerve impulses and the scene is reconstructed
in the visual cortex of the brain (actually in the occipital cerebrum - at
the very back of the brain).
The picture plane
The simple explanation of a picture plane (because there's a more
complicated explanation), is a place where light rays both converge and
pass through a given, arbitrary distance from your eye.
I know, that sure doesn't explain much.
Your picture window is a picture plane
Let me give you a really simple example that'll demonstrate: your picture
window. Your picture window is perfect "picture plane". Look out your
picture window or any window in your house. Imagine the scene you see as
made up of light bouncing off those all outside objects (other houses,
trees, hills, in the distance the curb in the road, animals, anything that's
within your range of view). Light is pure energy, it's not passive, it's
zinging around out there in front of your house at 186,000 miles per
second. So when it come through your window, it isn't waltzing along. It's
barraging your house, it's wailing through your picture window.
Move closer or farther from your picture window and the scene changes some
but the window is still acting as the "filtering plane" - it remains fairly
constant. Your picture window is a picture plane.
When you draw a picture, your drawing paper acts as the "hard copy" version
of your picture window. Your paper is opaque - the window's transparent but
both can be used to collapse the three dimensional outside world into two dimensions.
Now, picture this. There's a beach ball sitting in your front yard. You're
looking at it through your picture window. Imagine you have a magic marker.
I want you to draw the beach ball as you see it through the window - and I
mean draw it RIGHT ON THE WINDOW! Yes, you're going to draw on your window.
(OK, you can pretend.) Close one eye and with your finger (or if you're
truly gutsy, a magic marker), outline the beach ball on the window.
Including the little square colored shapes.
Here's what you're really doing: you're recording the reflected light rays
from the beach ball as they pass through your picture window, aka the
"picture plane". And when an artist views or "sights" an object he makes
reckonings often with the familiar "thumbs up" gesture - with arm fully
extended. He's forming his own picture plane. It's as if he's standing in
front of the picture window at a distance of one arm's length. Is this
starting to make sense?
2) A great little tool
So what's this great little tool? It's a piece of Plexiglass and a Vis-a-vis marker. These two together are the best tool I've ever seen for making sense out of the link between the two dimensions of drawing, the three-dimensional world and the picture plane - because the plexiglass is a picture plane itself!
Assignment: we're going to draw your hand
Ingredient number one: buy an 8 and 1/2 inch by 11 inch sheet of clear, stiff
plastic. Plexiglas is fine, even a small piece of plain old glass is fine
(I'd just be very careful with the glass if you use it). But any strong,
transparent material will do. Most hardware stores have something that'll
The second ingredient: a black Vis-a-vis marker. (Vis-a-vis markers are
water soluble and wipe off any glassy or hard plastic surface with nothing
more than a tissue or plain water. They're made by Sanford.) Any art store
or business supply store will have these.
Support the Plexiglas with your non-drawing hand. Support it from underneath
so that all five of your fingers are touching the underside of the
Plexiglas. You're essentially balancing the Plexiglas on your fingertips
with the Plexiglas parallel to the floor. Hold it so you're looking down on
it and you're viewing the palm of your hand through it.
(See the attached picture and it'll all become clear - I drew this picture
literally in about 30 seconds - they're that easy to do. Well yes, I've done
them before :-))
With the Vis-a-vis marker do a contour drawing of your hand. Go into all the
nooks and crannies and skin creases. Wipe the Plexiglas clean. Do a second
drawing with your hand in a different position. Then, if you're feeling
adventurous, draw any one of the caricatures, or last communiqué's "shadows
of the nose" illustration.
3) Want to make a permanent record of your drawing?
Once you've drawn a picture on your make-shift picture plane, lay it down on
a table. Go soak a handi-wipe with water. Very gently wring the excess water
off the handi-wipe. Now very carefully lay the moist handi-wipe over your
marker drawing (it needs to be a water-soluble marker for this to work.)
Carefully press the handi-wipe over the Plexiglas drawing until it's smooth.
You could even put a book over it for an added printing press effect. Give
it ten or 15 seconds. Now lift the handi-wipe (more like peel the
handi-wipe), from the Plexiglas and Voila! You now have a permanent two
dimensional record of your three-dimensional hand. And this is at the core
of what drawing does: collapsing the 3-d world on to 2-d paper.
Pretty cool, eh? :-)
Until next time, keep on drawing!
Kasbohm & Company's
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